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'We played like a Liverpool team' - Neil Critchley hails his wonder kids after famous FA Cup win


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Liverpool's Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher and Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg celebrate their victory in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury

Liverpool's Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher and Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg celebrate their victory in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury

Liverpool's Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher and Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg celebrate their victory in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury

Liverpool's youngest-ever starting line-up beat League One rivals Shrewsbury Town 1-0 on a memorable night at Anfield, with a Ro-Shaun Williams' own goal after 75 minutes dividing the two teams.

Former Manchester United academy player Williams diverted a header into his own goal to spark wild scenes of delight around Anfield, moments after the visitors saw David Edwards' header ruled out by VAR.

Neil Critchely praised the youngest side in Liverpool’s history after they beat Shrewsbury 1-0 in their FA Cup fourth-round replay. Critchley said: "Over 90 minutes we had the better chances and were just about the deserved winners."

With Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his first team players not playing the game as they are currently in the midst of their mid-season winter break, the club's under-23 coach Neil Critchley took charge of a team that was woefully short of senior level experience.

With an average age of 19 years and 102 days, three debutants, 36 senior appearances between them and squad numbers ranging from 46 to 93 this was a very inexperienced team at any level never mind a somewhat controversial cup tie in front of almost 53,000 at Anfield.

Yet Liverpool's youngsters found a way to win and now Klopp has a decision to make as he considers his team for the fifth round tie at Chelsea in the first week of March.

"We played like a Liverpool team and I am so proud of them," said Critchley. "From the first whistle, the maturity the boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They calmed me on the sidelines. We're the deserved winners on the night.

"They've made a step forward. I was really pleased with how we stood up to the physicality of the game. We did things outstandingly well. It was much better than the Aston Villa game (when they lost 5-0 in the Carabao Cup in December).

"As a coach, you picture the game beforehand, you visualise it and you try to predict what’s going to happen. Obviously, with young players you're never quite sure, but I have to say from the first whistle the maturity those young boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They actually calmed me on the side and I think over 90 minutes we had the better chances and were just about the deserved winners on the night.

"We don't want this to be a defining moment of their careers. We want this to be a taste to whet their appetites. They want more of it. It gives them the belief and confidence in the work they do on a daily basis that people don't see until a night like this.

"The boss was in touch this afternoon with some words of wisdom. I've not checked my phone yet but he's buzzing and we've given him a game against Chelsea."

Critchely also revealed the advice he received from Klopp prior to kick off as he added: "What he does is give you total clarity – it is belief, it is play the Liverpool way and go for it. That’s how the first team play. It’s like, this is us, this is what we do, this is what we stand for, this is what we believe in and you better be ready for it. I think from the first whistle we did that."

Liverpool right-back Neco Williams urged Klopp to give the club's youngsters another chance to play in the fifth round clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, as he revelled in the moment.

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Liverpool under-23 coach Neil Critchley guided his young side to fine FA Cup win

Liverpool under-23 coach Neil Critchley guided his young side to fine FA Cup win

"It was just unbelievable," he told the BBC. "It was a night that we will remember for a long time, especially the debutants. The whole team dug in and we kept going to the final whistle. The crowd were excellent. This is a night lots of us will remember for a long time.

"As soon as the whistle goes at the start your mind is just focused on that game. The lads put everything out there tonight. It was a special night with a special team. I have known some of those loads out there since they were seven so to play at Anfield in front of that crowd, a special night.

"The lads were excellent and hopefully we will do the same against Chelsea in the next round. Every team Liverpool put out will put everything out there on the pitch.

"Our aim is to win the FA Cup. I think the lads will have been extremely proud of us and hopefully us young players will get a chance again."

Irish keeper Caoimhín Kelleher caught the eye once again with a solid performance and remarkably, Liverpool remain on course to match Manchester United's historic treble winning season of 1998/99 as they head into the final three months of the campaign.

Liverpool are 22-points clear at the top of the Premier League and have a Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid to play later this month, with Klopp doubtless toasting Critchley's boy wonders from his holiday retreat.

Online Editors