Friday 20 October 2017

Lucas scratches seven-year itch to halt Pilgrims' progress

Plymouth 0 Liverpool 1

Plymouth Argyle's Jordan Slew in action with Liverpool's Joe Gomez and Kevin Stewart Picture: Reuters
Plymouth Argyle's Jordan Slew in action with Liverpool's Joe Gomez and Kevin Stewart Picture: Reuters

Jason Burt

They presented Jurgen Klopp with an enormous Cornish pasty but Plymouth Argyle almost delivered a giant custard pie instead as they pushed Liverpool all the way in this raucous FA Cup third round replay.

In the end, the Pilgrims did not progress, but they showed limitless courage and endless endeavour with only the width of a post denying them extra-time and, possibly, more. There was even a late penalty save by goalkeeper Luke McCormick.

It is 293 miles from Liverpool to Plymouth as, bizarrely, the icing on the pasty pointed out and this was a replay and a trip that Klopp had wanted to avoid. The Liverpool manager wanted to avoid an upset even more but it was only a goal from Lucas Leiva - seven years since his previous one - that managed to see off the side who are second in League Two and never allowed that gap to daunt them.

The inclusion of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge were the only changes for Liverpool from the side, the youngest in the club's illustrious history, that had drawn the goalless first encounter in Klopp's gamble.

Nevertheless, that represented fairly stellar additions even if Liverpool were frustrated in their desire to field another senior player - Joel Matip - because of the ridiculous wrangle with Cameroon and Fifa over his availability. Still it was a Klopp team that smacked of getting the job done.

And it was Coutinho and Sturridge who combined - with the former picking out the latter with a threaded through ball - for the first notable incident.

Sturridge went down under a challenge from Oscar Threlkeld, who appeared to catch him as he cut back inside, but his penalty appeal was waved away.

Plymouth built a wall of noise from their fans; Liverpool built a wall of pressure - and then broke through. Coutinho was again involved, swinging in a corner that was easily met by Lucas Leiva who flicked home a header at the near post from just six yards out.

Plymouth Argyle's Sonny Bradley in action with Liverpool's Divock Origi Picture: Reuters
Plymouth Argyle's Sonny Bradley in action with Liverpool's Divock Origi Picture: Reuters

It was Lucas's first goal since September 2010 - 201 games ago (and when half this Liverpool team were still at school).

Given how fiercely Plymouth had defended in the first match it was a poor concession.

It felt quite the occasion at Home Park, a 17,000-plus sell-out, a £1m purse for a match broadcast live (equivalent to 20 pc of annual turnover) and a club aching for lift-off.

They almost had it when Jervis acrobatically reached Sonny Bradley's header. Karius was beaten but the ball smacked off the outside of the post.

The atmosphere rocked but Plymouth just could not topple over their opponents although there was one last roar as McCormick held Divock Origi's penalty after Alberto Moreno had been brought down. It brought the loudest cheer of the night - but it was as good as it got. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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