Liverpool 1-0 Shrewsbury: Kop kids send hosts into FA Cup fifth-round

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Liverpool youngsters Neco Williams and Adam Lewis celebrate after taking the lead in the 75th minute over Shrewsbury


Here’s all you need to know. Four minutes’ injury time had been signalled, and nobody was leaving. Well, a few. There’s always a few.

Yet for 99 per cent of those inside Anfield, this was utterly gripping. It might as well have been Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah out there. Better than Van Dijk and Salah, actually, for these were local boys, many of them, from places like Toxteth and Rainhill, in St Helens.

So when they won, they celebrated in front of the Kop as if this was the pinnacle of their season, not the league, not Europe, because that’s exactly what it was. Then they took those celebrations to all four sides of the ground, hugging each other and their coach Neil Critchley as if he was Jurgen Klopp because, to them, he is.

Liverpool youngsters Neco Williams and Adam Lewis celebrate after taking the lead in the 75th minute over Shrewsbury

Williams celebrates with Liam Millar after his cross was headed into his own net by Shrewsbury's Ro-Shaun Williams

Williams celebrates with Liam Millar after his cross was headed into his own net by Shrewsbury’s Ro-Shaun Williams

Curtis Jones joins in the celebrations as Anfield goes wild following the bizarre opening goal of the game

Curtis Jones joins in the celebrations as Anfield goes wild following the bizarre opening goal of the game

Ro-Shaun Williams does not see goalkeeper Max O'Leary off his line and heads the ball beyond him and into his own net

Ro-Shaun Williams does not see goalkeeper Max O’Leary off his line and heads the ball beyond him and into his own net

Harvey Elliott wheels away towards the fans as Liverpool's youngsters set themselves en route to the fifth-round of the FA Cup

Harvey Elliott wheels away towards the fans as Liverpool’s youngsters set themselves en route to the fifth-round of the FA Cup

Shrewsbury's players celebrate after Shaun Whalley earlier headed home a rebound from point blank range in the second half

Shrewsbury’s players celebrate after Shaun Whalley earlier headed home a rebound from point blank range in the second half

Whalley reacts quickest to head the ball beyond Caoimhin Kelleher and give the visitors what they thought was a shock lead

Whalley reacts quickest to head the ball beyond Caoimhin Kelleher and give the visitors what they thought was a shock lead

But the goal was disallowed after a VAR check as replays showed Whalley turned the ball in from an offside position

But the goal was disallowed after a VAR check as replays showed Whalley turned the ball in from an offside position

A steward removes a smoke bomb that had been let off by Shrewsbury fans before the goal was eventually disallowed

A steward removes a smoke bomb that had been let off by Shrewsbury fans before the goal was eventually disallowed

MATCH FACTS 

Liverpool: Kelleher, Williams, Hoever, van den Berg, Lewis, Clarkson (Boyes 90+2), Chirivella, Cain, Elliott (Dixon-Bonner 90+4), Millar (Hardy 82), Jones

Subs not used: Gallacher, Bearne, Norris

Goalscorers: Williams og 75 

Booked: Williams

Shrewsbury: O’Leary, Love, Ebanks-Landell, Williams, Golbourne, Pierre, Edwards, Laurent, Whalley (Walker 82), Lang (Udoh 57), Goss (Cummings 74)

Subs not used: Murphy, Beckles, Sears, Hart

Booked: Golbourne, Love

Referee: Andrew Madley

So what part of this was disrespectful, exactly? What part was a betrayal? Klopp gave the FA Cup the sprinkling of magic so many claim is missing. He gave it vitality, excitement, joy — and the thrill of the unexpected. For once, nobody knew how it would go for Liverpool. Not this Liverpool. 

Against a League One side, they may even have been the underdogs. Then came a victory for a gutsy team of teenagers. A fifth-round place for a band of little brothers. Raw and flawed but also, in their way, quite magnificent.

The winning goal was unfortunate, headed into his own net by Shrewsbury defender Ro-Shaun Williams, a former graduate of Manchester United’s academy. Yet its effect has potency. 

It leaves Liverpool on course for an unprecedented quintuple of league, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, the most successful season in English football history if accomplished. There is a long way to go yet, obviously, but two of those titles have already been won, and another is merely a matter of time. Only the FA Cup and Champions League remain in the balance.

Klopp’s decision to field his Under 23 side, right down to coach Critchley, was controversial but ultimately vindicated. When Ro-Shaun Williams headed Neco Williams’ long ball past his own goalkeeper, one of the key arguments — that Klopp had given up Liverpool’s hope of a unique five-time success — fell away.

Debates about principle remain. Yet nobody present felt they saw anything less than a Liverpool team giving their all. They even stopped singing for heroes currently sunning themselves in Dubai and the Maldives as the game wore on.

As for Shrewsbury, they were unimpressive, but ultimately came up against an opponent even more unpredictable than a bunch of teenagers. VAR. They don’t have it in League One, and they won’t have any Salopians proposing it in a hurry either, after this.

Curtis Jones (right) became the youngest captain in Liverpool history as he was given the armband on Tuesday night

Curtis Jones (right) became the youngest captain in Liverpool history as he was given the armband on Tuesday night

Liverpool defender Ki-Jana Hoever attempts to shield the ball as Shrewsbury's David Edwards puts him under pressure

Liverpool defender Ki-Jana Hoever attempts to shield the ball as Shrewsbury’s David Edwards puts him under pressure

Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg nips in to challenge Shrewsbury's Josh Laurent for the ball during the first half

Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg nips in to challenge Shrewsbury’s Josh Laurent for the ball during the first half

Shaun Whalley thought he had opened the scoring on 58 minutes, but VAR ruled substitute Daniel Udoh offside in the build-up in another troublingly close call. It was one of those moments that do not get repeated for the underdogs. That was their chance to score at Anfield. Once it was gone, nothing like it came around again.

For all the criticism, this was a singular event. Liverpool reduced ticket prices and the callow nature of this team was so well-publicised, nobody at Anfield could claim to have been short-changed. Instead, they were treated to a rarity: an unpredictable Liverpool game. Klopp’s first team have set such heights of excellence this season, we arrive expecting one outcome — certainly at home.

Here, no one could be sure. Would Liverpool’s young men still have too much for Shrewsbury, 16th in the third tier, or would age and wisdom beat youth, beauty and a funky haircut? Dave Edwards, Shrewsbury’s captain, was 34 on Monday; Harvey Elliott, starting for Liverpool and a star in the making, won’t be 17 until April. 

His captain Curtis Jones was, at 19 years and five days old, the youngest skipper in Liverpool’s history. He was leading Liverpool’s youngest team, too — an average age of 19 years and 102 days, with seven teenagers in the 10 outfield starters.

The argument is that by taking his stance Klopp has disrespected the competition, the opposition, even the broadcasters — oh, won’t somebody think of the broad- casters! — who declined to show this tie. More fool them.

This wasn’t the greatest game in terms of quality but it had an element of the unknown, and plenty of edge once Shrewsbury gave the impression that they could bully the youth off the park.

James Milner watches on from behind the dugout despite behind handed a week-long break by manager Jurgen Klopp

James Milner watches on from behind the dugout despite behind handed a week-long break by manager Jurgen Klopp

Despite the absence of star names in the Liverpool first team, Anfield was packed to the rafters for the fourth-round replay

Despite the absence of star names in the Liverpool first team, Anfield was packed to the rafters for the fourth-round replay

Liverpool's Under 23 coach Neil Critchley passes the ball to Adam Lewis after it went out of play for a throw in

Liverpool’s Under 23 coach Neil Critchley passes the ball to Adam Lewis after it went out of play for a throw in

Curtis Jones whips out a rabona cross as he attempts to find a team-mate in the box during the first half of the game

Curtis Jones whips out a rabona cross as he attempts to find a team-mate in the box during the first half of the game

Jones receives treatment after taking a blow to his face following a robust challenge that resulted in a Liverpool free kick

Jones receives treatment after taking a blow to his face following a robust challenge that resulted in a Liverpool free kick

FA CUP 5TH ROUND

Reading v Sheff Utd

Chelsea v Liverpool

Derby v Manchester United

Leicester v Birmingham

Portsmouth v Arsenal 

Sheff Wed v Man City 

Southampton/Tottenham v Norwich.

West Brom v Newcastle

Jones caught a beauty, right in the kisser, from Ro-Shaun Williams as he tried to nip past him on the left. Scott Golbourne on Neco Williams soon after had more intent and earned a booking from Andy Madley. Minutes later, Neco Williams left a foot in on Aaron Pierre, and got the night’s second yellow card. 

But it set the tone. These boys were going to be no soft touch. Neco Williams had two very good shots, too.

So Klopp did no disservice. It is not his job to make the FA’s wish for a winter break, and its refusal to compromise on replays, sit comfortably together. Whatever was agreed by club officials at the start of the season, Klopp was plainly out of the loop and had every right to be staggered by news that the gap in the schedule was to be used as a dumping ground for superfluous additional games.

So he drew a line in the sand. He knows the pull his first team have, he knows the cameras lap him up, too. So he determined that the Cup wouldn’t get any of it, during the winter break. Not his team, not him. 

Maybe he should at least have occupied a seat in the directors’ box as one of his players, James Milner, did. But Klopp probably needs a rest as much as any of them.

Would Liverpool have found it easier with even a sprinkling of first-team squad players: Adam Lallana, Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri? Almost certainly. Yet the club were bolstered by this display and so was the competition.

Young people bring a different dynamic. Jones pulled off a Rabona cross; Elliott sprinted 50 yards past two players and was only stopped by a foul; a quite lovely move after 52 minutes saw Neco Williams force an outstanding save from Shrewsbury goalkeeper Max O’Leary.

There was romance here, after all. And integrity. Football does not have enough of either.

Shrewsbury's Callum Lang attempts to get around Liverpool teenager Neco Williams during the first half at Anfield

Shrewsbury’s Callum Lang attempts to get around Liverpool teenager Neco Williams during the first half at Anfield

Welsh defender Williams comes close to breaking the deadlock for Liverpool but sees his shot saved by Max O'Leary

Welsh defender Williams comes close to breaking the deadlock for Liverpool but sees his shot saved by Max O’Leary

Left back Adam Lewis tries his luck from distance from a free kick but sees his effort blocked by the Shrewsbury wall

Left back Adam Lewis tries his luck from distance from a free kick but sees his effort blocked by the Shrewsbury wall



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