Harvey Elliott was very much a pantomime villain as he played a starring role for England Under-21s against Northern Ireland at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.

It will have been a surreal experience for the Liverpool midfielder walking out as a home player at the home of the Reds’ local-rivals. But the Everton supporters present at least made sure to hand him the familiar welcome you would expect for a player crossing Stanley Park.

The 20-year-old’s name was booed on each occasion the young Lions side was read out ahead of kick-off at Goodison. Club-mates Jarell Quansah and Tyler Morton - who opened the scoring on his full Under-21s debut - still only starlets at Anfield themselves, were spared similar treatment.

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A sign of things to come, he would finish the night with a brace in a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Jeers were even louder when Elliott doubled England’s lead in the 52nd minute with a curling 25-yard free-kick. And then at their most prominent when he raced through on goal to score a delightful chip, set up by an exquisite through-ball from Morton, with 10 minutes left on the clock.

A boyhood Liverpool fan who has been a member of Jurgen Klopp’s first team squad for four years, such treatment, unsurprisingly, did not faze him one bit. He would even wave to the crowd after doubling his own account, and was unfortunate not to net a hat-trick as a late volley was kept out by goalkeeper Josh Clarke, as he clearly lapped up the attention his status warranted.

He’ll have been on the receiving end of worse at a far more hostile Goodison in Merseyside derbies, and expect to be again as he continues to learn his trade at Anfield. In truth, this was a rather tame crowd, filled with young supporters, with Merseyside rivalries only reserved for the Reds midfielder.

Beyond his free-kick, Elliott was involved in everything for Lee Carsley’s side as he was afforded something of a free-role. Stationed as a number 10 but roaming midfield, he made countless surging runs and threaded repeated killer passes. Meanwhile, that trademark press from Klopp’s Liverpool was also present on the rare occasions the young Lions found themselves out of possession.

He now has six goals and two assists from his last six starts for England Under-21s. But so he should star at this level. He is the most senior player in this young Lions squad, after all, boasting 129 career appearances, 82 outings for Liverpool, and 52 games in the Premier League.

He was a squad player as England won the European Championships in the summer, and has played an increasing role at this level since then, as well as in a squad at club-level that has won every major prize since he was first in talks to join the club.

“We maybe ask him to play a different role for us, maybe a little bit higher,” Carlsey told reporters on Monday ahead of facing Northern Ireland. “Harvey is a player with outstanding potential.

“We have to make sure that when he is on camp, we can’t guarantee him minutes at Liverpool but I can guarantee him minutes here and be an important part of what we do.

“All of the stats and data that come back on Harvey is that he is definitely our most creative player in terms of creating chances and scoring goals. That’s good for him but he knows he has to keep doing that. That’s going to be a big part of his game.”

But while Elliott might have found this most prominent role for the Under-21s, four years into his Liverpool career and he is yet to find ‘his position’ at Anfield.

Signed for a £4.3m compensation fee from Fulham back in the summer of 2019 when still only 19 and the Premier League’s then-youngest ever player, he was an exciting right-winger at the time, and proved to be as such when excelling on loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship in the 2020/21 season.

But since returning to Liverpool, he has been transformed into a midfielder. And while he still boasts creative licence and freedom under Klopp, he is not granted the same platform to roam and run riot as he is afforded at this international Under-21s level. There is no number 10 in the Reds’ set-up, after all.

Question marks persist over whether he is physical enough to be a long-term midfielder at Anfield, not aided by an £150m midfield revamp in the summer. He no longer has ageing stars blocking his path in the engine-room.

In contrast, Salah remains in his way on the right, with the playmaker perhaps not possessing the required pace for such a position at Anfield. He is yet to really deliver in front of goal too, with six goals and four assists for Liverpool, though his Under-21s record shows he is more than capable.

Meanwhile, while he continues to impress as an impact substitute when turned to by Klopp this season, he hasn’t had the desired effect when starting. Still a talented squad player, this was reiterated when he was named on the bench against Brentford before the November international break despite a midfield shortage.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Elliott not being the finished article yet. He is only 20, with his longevity as Liverpool first team player overshadowing his tender years. Time is very much still on his side to transform his international form into consistent club performances.

It is clear what he needs to do next though, with club-mate Curtis Jones, two years his senior, setting the perfect example. His fellow midfielder has grown in stature for the Reds in 2023, and also played a starring role when England Under-21s won the Euros this summer. Elliott would inevitably love to follow in such footsteps, while still ambitiously holding out hopes of a senior international call-up for next summer’s European Championships.

While Elliott’s position at Anfield might not be clear, perhaps the same cannot be said for Morton. On loan at Hull City, he impressed in a deeper midfield role, like he is stationed for the Tigers, as he lined up in a double pivot on what was his full debut at this level.

The 21-year-old was initially utilised as a lone number six when breaking into the Liverpool first team in 2021/22. But with Trent Alexander-Arnold now being used as an inverted right-back, his experience in this position could be most vital when he returns to Anfield next summer and make him a deeper midfield option, potentially partnering his fellow Academy graduate who continues to line up in a hybird role.

It was Morton’s well-taken goal from the edge of the area, bringing the ball down on his chest before rifling into the bottom corner, that opened the scoring on the half-hour. Young Steven Gerrard-esque if you will, from the Wirral-born midfielder.

Having turned down Everton to sign for Liverpool as a boy, the moment will have meant the world to him as he took a break from his loan with Hull City to return to Merseyside, in front of his watching friends and family at local Goodison Park. A perfectly-weighted through-ball to set up Elliott's second was then the icing on the cake, more than justifying an Under-21s call-up that Carsley has admitted the midfielder has had to wait for.

Elsewhere, it was a simple night for Quansah as he also made his first start for England Under-21s. Tasked with little to do defensively, what he did have to do, he made look effortlessly easy.

He came agonisingly close to completing the Liverpool hat-trick after marauding forward late on from after receiving the ball on the halfway line. Finding himself unopposed, he cut inside onto his left foot and tried his luck from the edge of the box, only for it to deflect kindly for the Northern Ireland goalkeeper.

With such a run very much out of Joel Matip's playbook, and his mesmeric passing reminiscent of Virgil van Dijk, it is clear the positive impact being a member of the Reds first team squad is having on him. Like the aforementioned pair, Quansah will be more than satisfied with a clean sheet on his full debut.

On a night where Everton hosted England, it won't be lost that it was actually Liverpool that stole the show.