Liverpool 4-1 Shrewsbury Town: The visitors took a surprise lead at Anfield and stayed in the game until late on
The visitors took a shock lead at Anfield when Daniel Udoh turned in Nathanael Ogbeta’s dangerous cross at the front post, right in front of the travelling fans.
But an equaliser from 17-year-old Kaide Gordon and a Fabinho penalty shortly before half-time saw the Premier League side go into the break ahead.
Elijah Dixon-Bonner was denied from close range by Shrewsbury goalkeeper Marko Marosi as the League One side remained in the contest, and it wasn’t until Roberto Firmino scored a late back-heel that the tie was settled. Fabinho added his second late in stoppage time as he thrashed in a shot from close range following a free kick.
Here are five things we learned as the Reds progressed to the fourth round.
Disjointed Reds line-up a sign of what’s to come
A starting eleven that had a feel of mix and match to it, it’s a sign of what is to come for Liverpool over the coming weeks.
Jurgen Klopp returned to the touchline following his positive Covid-19 test and fielded a team that blended established first-team stars like Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Andy Robertson with youngsters such as Kaide Gordon, Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Max Woltman – the latter two who were making their first senior starts.
In an ideal world, Klopp would have probably fielded a team that was heavier on fringe team players in need of minutes, rather than starting the regulars and those from the Under-23s, but the Liverpool manager is having to deal with the absence of a number of his first-team squad due to Covid-19 and the Africa Cup of Nations.
Liverpool’s team here had the feel of a side that hadn’t played together before and would be unlikely to do so again. While a certain lack of cohesion was to be expected, they were sloppy and slow out of the gates and didn’t wake up until Shrewsbury took a shock lead midway through the first half.
With two legs of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal and Premier League fixtures against Brentford and Crystal Palace to come this month, Liverpool will be fielding plenty of experimental line-ups as they look to get through this challenging period. This was a good test, therefore, as they look to adjust to the absence of Salah and Mane over their next four fixtures.
Shrewsbury’s special moment
What a remarkable goal this was, the sort that makes the weekend of the FA Cup third round so special. Even though Udoh’s opener actually served to spark Liverpool into life, it’s a moment that those travelling fans behind the goal would not trade away.
The fact that Shrewsbury’s goal felt as if it had been coming would have made it all the sweeter too, as the celebrations were undoubtedly tinged with the belief that a famous FA Cup shock was on.
Udoh was credited with the finishing touch, after beating Ibrahima Konate at the front post, but Ogbeta created it with a teasing ball and had also threatened with a similar cross moments later.
The match turned in Liverpool’s favour from there, but it does not take away from the celebrations that made Shrewsbury’s trip to Anfield one to remember.
Kaide Gordon makes his impact
À 17 years and 96 days old, Kaide Gordon became Liverpool’s second-youngest goalscorer in the club’s history when he turned and swivelled a brilliant equaliser in front of the Kop.
It was a brilliant moment for the prospect, who joined the club from Derby County in last February having made his debut for the Championship side aged 15 and is a player described as having “fire in his boots” by Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders.
After making his debut in the Carabao Cup victory over Norwich earlier this season, Gordon was handed his second start of the campaign as he once again stepped into Mohamed Salah’s position on the right side of Liverpool’s front three.
A daunting prospect, peut-être, but even before the goal, Gordon was bright on another encouraging display from the confident and direct forward. An early shout for a penalty at the Kop end was waved away before he had the opportunity to drive at defender George Nurse, cutting inside onto his left foot and forcing the first save of the match from Marko Marosi.
The goal itself was brilliantly taken, controlling Conor Bradley’s cut-back and turning in one fluid motion before tucking the finish past Marosi, and was the defining moment of his display before being taken off near the end of the second half.
Jones and Robertson make rusty returns
Curtis Jones has a proud history in the FA Cup, having scored a spectacular winner for Liverpool against Everton in front of the Kop, but it’s very much a sign of his progress in recent years that he returned to action as an important member of the first-team squad.
Having been out injured since the end of October, the 20-year-old returned to the starting team at an important time, with Liverpool’s options set be stretched over the coming weeks.
It was interesting, therefore, to see him start on the left of Liverpool’s front three, before filling back into midfield in the second half. With Salah and Sadio Mane at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool are desperately short of attackers and it was notable that Jones was considered, albeit briefly, as an option.
This was a good outing for Jones, who understandably showed plenty of rust on his first appearance in over two months. Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson also got important minutes back. The left-back took a while to get up to speed following his three-match suspension, while Firmino added Liverpool’s third with a clever back-heel that finally saw off the Shrewsbury challenge.
Liverpool youngsters get their chance
Liverpool named five members of their academy, without including Jones or Caoimhin Kelleher, in Sunday’s starting eleven against Shrewsbury – and it was understandable that there would be mixed results in terms of performances.
Gordon, as previously mentioned, rather stole the show with his overall display and equaliser, but Conor Bradley at right back also did not put a foot wrong and was instrumental in setting up Liverpool’s first goal with his run and cut-back.
It’s always harder for forwards to make their mark, especially when fielded in a central position, and Max Woltman had a quiet game before he was taken off at half-time.
Elijah Dixon-Bonner showed glimpses of his technical ability in a midfield role and should really have put Liverpool two goals up, only to be denied from close range by Marosi.
Tyler Morton, making his eighth senior appearance of the season, was more settled alongside Fabinho and grew in confidence as the game went on. Of the five, he is still the one who Klopp is most likely to turn to as the Reds return to Premier League and Carabao Cup action.