Liverpool kids can’t break Plymouth resistance

Liverpool 0 Plymouth 0: Liverpool’s talented youngsters have commanded plenty of hype this season but fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle delivered something of a stern reality check at Anfield.
Liverpool kids can’t break Plymouth resistance

Jurgen Klopp selected the most youthful Liverpool team in the club’s history, with an average age of 21 years and 296 days, against the League Two side.

For the emerging talents of Ben Woodburn, Sheyi Ojo, Ovie Ejaria and Trent Alexander-Arnold, all of whom have been spoken about in glowing terms this season, this was a learning curve.

Against battle-hardened lower league players, their talent alone was not enough to secure a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

At full-time, after a frustrating goalless draw, the fresh-faced adolescents trudged off the Anfield turf like they were fearing the repercussions of an unauthorised house party.

Indeed, the spirit and organisation shown by Plymouth’s players in the first meeting between the sides since April 1962 determined the outcome as much as Liverpool’s lack of drive.

“Yippee!” Klopp sardonically said at the prospect of a 600-mile round trip to Plymouth’s Home Park in what is already a congested January programme with a two-legged EFL semi-final against Southampton.

Plymouth manager Derek Adams, with the jubilant chants of nearly 9,000 fans still ringing in his ears, ranked Argyle’s rearguard action as one of greatest produced by a side on Liverpool’s home patch.

Given the 68 places between the two sides in the football pyramid, and the cost of their respective squads, it was hard to argue otherwise.

“It’s one of the best defensive performances that Anfield has ever seen,” Adams said.

The last time Liverpool lost to a team at least three divisions below them in the FA Cup was in 1959 when non-league Worcester City beat them 2-1.

There was never any danger of that happening in this contest given how deep Plymouth sat in their own half as Liverpool monopolised the possession and chances.

It may well be a little trickier in the replay at Home Park in a couple of weeks’ time, though, when Klopp will surely pick a more experienced line-up.

“It is my responsibility, the whole thing, line-up, performance. We could have done better, 100%,” added the German.

“I don’t think the line-up was a mistake. I am responsible if you want to see it in a bad way. I always choose line-ups to win the game.

“We didn’t think about the age. They are important players in our squad. But we lost too early the patience. Crossing at the wrong moment, the wrong pass. We had these situations. The goalkeeper saves and then it is 0-0.”

Indeed, visiting goalkeeper Luke McCormick only had a couple of meaningful saves to make as Plymouth battened down the hatches.

Woodburn, Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer in an EFL Cup victory over Leeds United last November, forced McCormick to block from a tight angle with a low toe poke after clever play from Emre Can.

Divock Origi had the ball in the net for the Reds midway through the first half after he brought down a high ball inside the box, however the Belgium international was deemed to have fouled Plymouth defender Gary Miller.

Liverpool were frustrated after half-time and not even the introductions of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana could change the outcome. The closest the hosts came was a long-range effort from Lucas.

“The biggest challenge in football is to play a defending side,” added Klopp.

“Maybe Plymouth in this moment is happy, I know they are, I don’t know if at home they can play the same defensive style.

“The match was boring. I really am happy that Liverpool crowd didn’t leave after 60 minutes because it wasn’t the most exciting game.”

Liverpool will also get a reality check when they turn up at Home Park in a fortnight according to Plymouth manager Adams.

“The dressing rooms are not as luxurious as they are here,” Adams explained. “We are in a portable building. Welcome to the real world.”

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3):

Karius 6; Alexander-Arnold 7, Gomez 6, Lucas 6, Moreno 5; Stewart 6, Can 5 (Sturridge 63; 7), Ejaria 6 (Lallana 75;6); Ojo 5, Woodburn 7 (Firmino 75; 6), Origi 5

Subs not used:

Mignolet, Klavan, Clyne, Wijnaldum


McCormick 7; Miller 7 (Smith 76; 6), Songo’o 8, Bradley 8, Purrington 7; Threlkeld 7, Fox 6; Jervis 7, Carey 7, Slew 6; Garita 6 (Tanner 65; 6)

Subs not used:

Dorel, Bulvitis, Smith, Goodwillie, Osborne, Rooney


Paul Tierney

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