Limp Liverpool struggle to Shrewsbury Stalemate
Liverpool squandered a 2-0 lead and now must face Shrewbury in an FA Cup 4th round replay after a Jason Cummings inspired comeback saw the home team secure a memorable 2-2 draw.
The Reds were 2-0 up — thanks to a Curtis Jones goal and a Donald Love own goal — but substitute Cummings, through a penalty and a sharp finish, notched a brace and inspired the League 1 side to hold out for the replay securing draw.
Jurgen Klopp opted to make several team changes with the line up composed of youth and players returning from injury and the lack of freshness and synergy was notable throughout and the European champions laboured in a stodgy performance.
The opening exchanges were dominated with sterile Liverpool ball possession. Shrewsbury were content to sit deep in their 343 and let the visitors pass in front of them.
The first Reds attempt at goal arrived in the 7th minute when Takumi Minamino, dropping deep from his false 9 berth, fed Divock Origi and the Belgian drilled just wide of goal from outside the box.
The European champions didn’t have to wait much longer to open the scoring, however.
Minamino, again knitting the play together, laid the ball back to Pedro Chirivella and the Spaniard’s first time through ball incisively found the run of Curtis Jones. With a calm composure, the young Scouser caressed to ball home for the opening goal.
Liverpool were enjoying a procession of possession but without troubling Max O’Leary in the Shrewsbury goal. It was Adrian who was needed to intervene, despite the Reds dominance.
A slack piece of defending from Fabinho saw the Brazilian lose a 50/50 duel and — with Liverpool’s extremely high defensive line — saw Sean Whalley race in behind. One on one with Adrian, however, the striker panicked and shot directly at the legs of the Spaniard, spurning a great opportunity.
Whalley was proving the hosts main out ball and, after a slack Neco Williams defensive header, found himself once again bearing down on Adrian’s goal. This time, though, he badly shanked his effort wide of goal with what proved to be half’s last chance; with the Reds going into the interval 1-0 up.
Fortune was Liverpool’s friend with the half only a minute old. Williams’ harmless back post cross was inexplicably diverted into his own goal from Love. An own goal of such hilarity that it is sure to live in infamy.
Like the first half, the Reds offside trap was too easily exploited and when Dejan Lovren stepped up and Callum Lang ran in behind, they were exposed once again. But the toothlessness that saw Shrewsbury squander their first half chances reared it’s ugly head again and Lang dragged his shot wide.
Undeterred, however, the hosts kept plugging away and were rewarded for their character when they awarded a penalty. Cummings’ run behind was found and the Scotsman was bundled down by Yasser Larouci. Despite television replays confirming the foul was outside the box, the referee pointed to the spot.
Dusting himself off, Cummings sent Adrian the wrong way to half the deficit. The hosts goal was deserved, on the run of play, but Liverpool will rightly feel aggrieved with the awarding of the penalty.
If the penalty was fortunate, then Shrewsbury thoroughly deserved their equaliser. A long punt up field from the keeper saw Joel Matip bullied in the air and from the subsequent flick on Lovren miscued a clearance before being edged out of the way by Cummings. Showing the composure that evaded his team in the first half, the Scot fired home past Adrian to deservedly draw his side level.
Worried about the potential of a comeback, Klopp elected to bring on Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah, replacing, Minamino, Harvey Elliott and Matip respectively.
Firmino almost made an immediate impact when his angled shot was cleared off the line by Roshaun Williams with the sliding Curtis Jones poised to tap it in.
The Brazilian almost became provider moments later, but Salah directed his cross wide.