Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers felt youngster Raheem Sterling responded with a “fantastic” performance after being thrown into the action against Manchester City.
New boss Rodgers had no qualms about handing the 17-year-old forward his first Barclays Premier League start as the champions visited Anfield and he repaid the faith with an eye-catching display.
The pacy Sterling gave the City defence, particularly Kolo Toure, plenty to think about as part of a three-man attack with Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini during a pulsating 2-2 draw.
Rodgers said: “It was an easy decision. I said when I first came in, I wouldn’t judge people on their status, on what they are or what they have done, but on what I see in front of me.
“He is a young player who has just improved every single day since I came in here.
“He was a player that played on his own in the one v ones.
“And you look at him fighting for the team, his tactical understanding playing a really experienced player – he was blocking the lines of the pass, he was pressing at the right time, he was coming back to block the lines inside.
“For a 17-year-old playing against the champions, I thought his performance was fantastic but he has a long way to go because you have got to be consistent and that is something I’ll have to keep a close eye on.”
Liverpool are still looking for their first win of the season but morale will be greatly enhanced after bouncing back from their opening day loss at West Brom with a fluid display.
The Reds deservedly twice led through Martin Skrtel and Suarez but defensive errors allowed Yaya Toure and, 10 minutes from time, Carlos Tevez to equalise.
Defender Jose Enrique, who came on as a second-half substitute, was also impressed by Sterling’s display, which came after the teenager was given 90 minutes in last Thursday’s Europa League qualifier against Hearts.
The Spaniard said: “I think he did well the last two games for us and he worked really hard in pre-season.
“I don’t have to tell you, everyone knows the qualities he has. He is amazing, one v one he is amazing.
“He has everything but we have to be quiet with him.
“He is still young, 17 years old. There are too many things to do yet but if he continues like this and listens to us, and of course to more from the manager, he can learn a lot, he has the qualities.”
Enrique felt the overall performance of the team offered great encouragement for the rest of the season.
He said: “I think we did well. I think we deserved to win but we had two mistakes – that can happen in football.
“But then we got a point against Manchester City and that is not a bad point, of course.
“They were the best last year, that is why they won the league.
“I think we did better than them and I think this is the way we have to play this year.”
Rodgers is trying to instil a new, quick pass-and-move style after earning many plaudits for deploying a similar system with Swansea last season.
Enrique likes the style but accepts it will take time for the team to become comfortable with it, especially as they are trying to emulate some of the best exponents of it in the world.
He said: “We are trying but there is still time – because there is a new manager we need time – but if we can play like this I think we will get many points.
“The best team in the world is the best example – Barcelona.
“You can see against Real Madrid a few days ago, how when they have the ball it is amazing and when they lose it, within three or four seconds they have it back. This the way we try to play.
“We can’t compare with Barcelona – they are different, but we are trying to play like this. We are starting to learn but we are learning well.”