Jürgen Klopp vowed to protect Ben Woodburn and allow him to fulfil his potential at Liverpool after the 17-year-old became the youngest goalscorer in the club’s history in the EFL Cup quarter-final defeat of Leeds United.
Woodburn, a Wales Under-19 international who was born in England, scored in the 81st minute at Anfield to seal a 2-0 win against Garry Monk’s impressive Championship side. At 17 years and 45 days old he beat Michael Owen’s record by 98 days in only his second substitute appearance for the club as Liverpool secured a semi-final spot for the fourth time in six seasons.
“It’s all good,” Klopp said. “We know what Ben is capable of and what he is already able to do. My first job is to help these boys to be the best, in this case Ben Woodburn. There is a lot to do, especially to keep the public away for as long as possible. That is quite a difficult thing to do but on the other side we only brought him on because we want to use him so that means when he is on the pitch he is absolutely allowed to score goals, to prepare situations and to make crosses like Trent [Alexander-Arnold] did, for example. It is all good.
“I am really happy for him. The only problem is that I am a little bit afraid of you all [in the media]. That is the thing why I am so quiet. Maybe you can just write ‘goalscorer: Ben Woodburn’, and nothing else. That is quite a challenge. I heard he made history, Milly [James Milner] was the youngest goalscorer for Leeds, so he can still have a decent career.”
Klopp again demonstrated his confidence in Liverpool’s academy prospects by starting Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria against Leeds, though he admitted Woodburn’s goal enriched the quarter‑final win. “I don’t think it makes sense that I say the obvious [about Woodburn’s potential],” the manager said. “First of all I said to him: ‘Well done, but it was not too difficult – I would have scored too.’ That is maybe the truth. Nothing we say here is important enough that it would help Ben Woodburn or myself.
“We know how to handle the situation. I know I can say to you whatever I want but, if he scores goals, it’s very difficult to stay cool from your side. Tonight it was very important that we could have him on the bench and bring him into the game because of our situation in the offensive department, so he was a very important player for us and he scored a goal which makes it much more enjoyable.”
Lucas Leiva, Liverpool’s captain for the night, said a place in the record books would give Woodburn the confidence to maintain his rapid development. “He is a brilliant young player,” Lucas said. “He did very well. He just needs to keep learning, keep improving. A goal will give him confidence to keep learning, to keep going.”
The Brazilian was visibly moved during a period of silence held before kick-off for the Chapecoense players and others who died in a plane crash in Colombia.
Lucas said: “It was a terrible accident. I have a few people that I played with, some young players. It’s very hard for me to play tonight because I know a lot of people there but we just hope the families have the support they need and the victims rest in peace.”
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