IT WAS an enduring image from an instantly forgettable contest.
Having reacted smartly to force the ball home from close range midway through the second half, ecstatic Liverpool youngster Adam Morgan charged around the Rogers Centre with a smile as wide as Lake Ontario.
The 18-year-old from Halewood will always cherish the first strike of his senior career and it ensured Brendan Rodgers’ Anfield reign didn’t start with defeat at the hands of Toronto FC.
“It was a really special moment,” said Morgan, who has been a prolific striker for the club at youth and reserve team level.
“It’s been my dream my whole life to get a goal for the first team. I know it’s only pre-season and it’s about getting fitness rather than results but it’s difficult to put into words what that means to me.
“That goal was for my dad. I didn’t even know he was coming out here to watch until I got a call from Robbie Fowler on Friday night in the team hotel to say he was downstairs.
“He has always gone everywhere to watch me play and it means a lot that he’s here.
“I’m only 18 and to be away with Liverpool – the club I’ve supported my whole life – is just amazing.
“From day one the new manager has been brilliant. I like the way he’s trying to get us to play and hopefully I’ve shown him what I can do.
“Brendan has shown a lot of faith to bring me on this tour and I want to repay him by showing him how much it means to me to be here. Hopefully I can get some more minutes in the other games.”
The efforts of his young guns provided Rodgers with plenty of cheer on a day when Liverpool dominated possession against the lowly MLS side but struggled to make it count.
As well as Morgan, there were eye-catching contributions from rookies Jordon Ibe, Suso and Raheem Sterling in front of a 33,087-strong crowd in Canada.
It was Sterling who created the equaliser in the 69th minute. After a bursting run into the box the winger dispatched a weak shot past Quillan Roberts and Morgan followed up to score.
“Adam did everything we talked about in terms of pressing and being aggressive and his movement was terrific,” Rodgers said.
“He looks like he has that instinct to score a goal. If he doesn’t make that run into the box then we don’t score because the defender would have cleared it. He was in the right place at the right time and it was a brilliant moment for him.
“I thought Raheem also did very well. He is very persistent, doesn’t get knocked over easily and shows great courage and bravery on the ball. His strength for our goal was impressive.”
What had been bizarrely promoted locally as ‘The World Football Challenge’ failed to live up to its lofty billing but as a fitness exercise the first match of the club’s North America tour ticked all the boxes.
Rodgers used no fewer than 23 players and there was the welcome sight of midfielder Lucas Leiva making his return to action late on after eight months out with a cruciate ligament injury.
The Northern Irishman may only have had a fortnight to work on the training ground but the signs of his influence were clear.
Playing 4-3-3, Liverpool always looked to knock it short and build from the back. However, it remains a work in progress and there was little spark in the final third until Sterling and Morgan combined to cancel out Quincy Amarikwa’s opener.
Rodgers fielded a different side in each half against Paul Mariner’s Toronto FC who prop up the MLS Eastern Conference.
From the start there was the sight of Alberto Aquilani back in a Liverpool shirt following his loan spell at AC Milan.
The Italian faces a battle to convince Rodgers he can belatedly become a Premier League success and this outing did little to advance his cause.
Jay Spearing was neat and tidy in the holding role but alongside him Aquilani and Charlie Adam were equally ineffective.
Brad Jones came to the Reds’ rescue early on to turn behind Ryan Johnson’s strike from the edge of the box.
Ibe, who was signed from Wycombe last year, is only 16 but he’s a hugely exciting talent and his power and pace on the right caused full-back Ashtone Morgan plenty of problems
On the other flank Dani Pacheco had his moments but after getting himself into some great areas the Spaniard was wasteful.
It was all change at the break and the Reds’ second half line up included Martin Skrtel and Joe Cole as the experienced heads with youthful enthusiasm around them.
Finally, the game came to life just before the hour mark when Sergio Camargo’s 20-yarder wasn’t held by Peter Gulacsi and Amarikwa followed up to slam home the rebound.
The thousands of Liverpool fans packed into the spectacular Rogers Centre demanded a response and Rodgers’ side delivered when Morgan pounced.
With the retractable roof closed for the final half hour, Suso delighted the crowd with some silky touches but the Reds rarely looked like finding a winner with Cole ballooning a free-kick high and wide late on.
“It was a good test for us,” Rodgers said.
“Toronto have some experienced players and their conditioning is ahead of ours at the moment.
“It’s always difficult when you’re playing a team well into their season already and physically strong so it was great credit to our players who have only been back for a few weeks that they could do well against a team like that.
“We’ve still got a long way to go. It’s very important that we dictate games, we control games and we dominate games.
“For large parts of the game we forced Toronto back. It’s just that penetration that will get better as time goes on because possession is no good on its own. Some of the movement patterns were very good and it’ll get better.”
Liverpool (first half): Jones; Wisdom, Sama, Carragher; Enrique; Spearing, Aquilani, Adam; Ibe, Pacheco, Eccleston
Liverpool (second half): Gulacsi, Flanagan, Skrtel, Wilson, Robinson; Adorjan (Lucas 74), Shelvey, Suso; Cole, Sterling, Morgan
Toronto (first half): Hall, Emory, Morgan (Pasher 28), Avila, Frings, Henry, Eckersley, Johnson, Lambe, Dunfield, Silva
Toronto (second half): Roberts; Galle, Lindsay, Stinson, Harden, Pasher; Wiedeman Eckersley, Camargo, Janniere; Amarikwa