Wednesday 18 October 2017

Klopp's kids clutter up the calendar with cup misfire

Liverpool 0 Plymouth 0

Daniel Sturridge gets in a shot Picture: Getty
Daniel Sturridge gets in a shot Picture: Getty

Simon Hughes

Had Paul Garita been taken into a side room during the half-time break at Anfield ahead of a psychological assessment, it is possible the hulking Cameroonian forward, on loan at Plymouth Argyle from Bristol City, would have been diagnosed with some form of acute sorrow due to his lack of interaction with other human beings.

Liverpool were not spectacularly bad. Their domination of Plymouth was almost absolute and the only shock that ever seemed likely to happen was the possibility of a draw and therefore a replay at Home Park the week after next.

And yet, Liverpool did not do enough to win; failing to perform with the level of speed necessary to out-think and break down an opponent, which quite understandably had only one target in mind: the result that transpired.

When you see squad numbers like 53, 54, 58 and 66 on the teamsheet you know straight away that it's not a first 11.

It was, in fact, the youngest Liverpool XI in history, with an average age of 21 years and 296 days.

Never before had it been below 22, with the previous record being set against Wolves ahead of the club's first FA Cup final in 1965. And had Lucas Leiva not been selected as captain on the eve of his 30th birthday, it is possible the mean would have been even lower than it was.

Plymouth deserve credit for their perseverance and organisation.

Their supporters had queued from 3am in the cold of late December to purchase tickets for this match. They had risen early again yesterday - at 5am - to begin the seven-and-a-half-hour journey to Merseyside and 8,600 of them took up the entire Anfield Road stand.

Liverpool probably needed to score early in order to intercept rising confidence in the away end.

The danger for Liverpool - especially with so many young players involved against an opponent happy to let them have the ball - was blatantly obvious. This could become the type of tippy-tappy game you see at many academies or sometimes don't see when one of those behind closed door friendly matches are held at training grounds.

For the majority, indeed, the pattern was consistent: 21 players being camped in the Plymouth half of the field; Liverpool passing it this way and that way, making Plymouth chase and chase before regrouping - which they did superbly.

Sheyi Ojo and Ben Woodburn missed Liverpool's best opportunities and, when Divock Origi finally found a way past Luke McCormick, he was penalised for fouling his marker. (© Independent News Service)

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