A disjointed Liverpool survived a scare to progress to the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday afternoon, coming from behind to see off a spirited Shrewsbury side at Anfield.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp returned to the dugout for the hosts having completed a period of isolation following a positive Covid-19 test, although Trent Alexander-Arnold was missing having tested positive himself after the draw with Chelsea on 2 January.
It was a subdued start to the game, with Klopp’s much-changed lineup taking a while to gel. Shrewsbury survived a penalty shout 15 minutes in when Kaide Gordon went down in the box, and the young winger saw a low left-footed shot tipped around the post by Marko Marosi shortly afterwards.
The League One side then stunned their illustrious hosts by taking the lead with a fine goal. Liverpool failed to learn their lesson when Nathaneal Ogbeta whipped in a dangerous cross which his teammates couldn’t capitalise on, only to repeat the trick a minute later with a wicked low ball that was blasted into the roof of the net by striker Daniel Udoh.
Liverpool weren’t behind for long, though. Seven minutes later, Conor Bradley’s pinpoint daisy-cutter was expertly controlled by Gordon, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and swept home.
The Shrews thought they had re-established their lead immediately when Ryan Bowman headed in, but the goal was chalked off for a marginal offside in the build-up.
The Premier League side were literally handed the opportunity to complete the comeback two minutes before half-time when Salop captain Ethan Ebanks-Landell needlessly handled from a corner, trying to buy a free kick under pressure from Virgil van Dijk. Fabinho stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way.
Josh Vela’s header had Caoimhin Kelleher scrambling in the Liverpool goal in first-half stoppage time, but he was just about able to keep it out.
Klopp’s side started the second half brightly, but Elijah Dixon-Bonner somehow failed to convert inside the six-yard box, seeing his shot brilliantly saved by Marosi.
Liverpool went through the motions thereafter as Shrewsbury kept them at arm’s length, controlling the ball but barely threatening. The hosts finally found a third with 12 minutes to go when the ball eventually made its way to substitute Roberto Firmino with his back to goal. The Brazilian showed typical flair, pinging a back-heel low beyond Marosi to make it 3-1.
Fabinho made it four in stoppage time, blasting the ball into the net after his initial header was blocked.
Here’s how the Liverpool players rated…
Caoimhin Kelleher (GK) – 5/10 – No chance with the goal. Almost embarrassed by Bowman but just got there.
Conor Bradley (RB) – 5/10 – Given a torrid time by Ogbeta and got nowhere near him as he crossed for the opener. Made amends with a pinpoint assist for Gordon.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 6/10 – Sleeping as Udoh drifted in behind him to score. Got an assists for Firmino, though.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 7/10 – Forced Ebanks-Landell into an unnecessary handball for the penalty. Solid, as ever.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 6/10 – Bombed forward with typical thrust and regularity. Nothing spectacular but a solid display.
Fabinho (DM) – 8/10 – Made some probing forays forward. Buried the penalty with aplomb. Kept Liverpool ticking over with some lovely passing. Doubled up with the last kick of the game.
Elijah Dixon-Bonner (CM) – 6/10 – Neat and tidy display, but missed an absolute sitter early in the second half. Subbed.
Tyler Morton (CM) – 5/10 – Unable to have too much of an impact but kept the ball well and didn’t do anything wrong.
Kaide Gordon (RW) – 7/10 – Decent low effort tipped around the post early on. Levelled with a low finish after showing quick feet to shift it onto his left.
Max Woltman (ST) – 5/10 – Dropped deep to get involved. Some neat touches but subbed at half-time.
Curtis Jones (LW) – 6/10 – Didn’t seize the opportunity of a rare start. Should be the star man in matches like this. Good passing, though.
Takumi Minamino (ST) – 4/10 – Half-time sub never really got into the match.
Roberto Firmino (AM) – 7/10 – Cheeky backheel to make it 3-1.
Mel Frauendorf (ST) – N/A
Kostas Tsimikas (LB) – N/A
James Norris (CM) – N/A