Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed Jon Flanagan as his man of the match following the youngster’s return to the starting line-up against Stoke City for the first time in 626 long days.
It was the last day of the 2013/14 campaign when against Flanagan last started for Liverpool against Newcastle but an injury blow to defender Nathaniel Clyne gave him the opportunity to make a fairytale return to the first team during the second leg of Capital One Cup semi-final at Anfield. Despite losing the match 1-0 in 90 minutes, the Reds actually went on to clinch a Wembley spot for the final after winning the battle on penalties 6-5.
Flanagan has certainly lost none of his bite as he made early strong challenges on Pieters and Arnautovic and even actively took part in an attacking threat after the break in particular, sent a lovely ball across the Kop goal and almost reached the end of a stunning Moreno cross.
The 23-year-old defender was ultimately substituted midway through extra time; although after the match impressed the Reds boss admitted Flanagan could have continued playing.
When asked about Flanagan’s contribution in the victory, Jurgen Klopp said: “My man of the match. He was great.
“105 minutes after – you know it better than me – May 2014, right?
“So it’s unbelievable making this match. Usually of course we know it’s not the best thing (playing so long) but we had no other choice and we always were in contact with him, asking Flanno.
“Even when we took him out he was saying ‘I could go on’. That was really great and with all the problems you lose the feeling for the game, you can lose it in shorter times. You can do all your things with the ball, that’s what you don’t forget, but defending in the right spaces, we defend different maybe than when he played last time.
“He did really great, man of the match for me for sure.” The young defender’s confidence will be definitely boosted after making a return from such a long injury setback and watching such a great performance, his manager is ready to back him at any cost.
Before making it to the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final starting line-up, Flanagan had only played 40 minutes for the Liverpool first team in the FA Cup clash against Exeter along with several outings for the U21 team.