It's not a complete surprise to see a Premier League side struggle against lower league opposition. It happens. There can be a natural tendency to take the opposition, who are often fired up for the occasion, lightly. It can be hard to break down a side sent out to frustrate.
Still, Liverpool fans were rightly unhappy with how little their side created against the worst defensive club from England's fourth division on Wednesday night. And even Carlisle's manager sounded a touch surprised at how easy it had been to keep the Reds to just the one goal across regulation and extra time.
"We've conceded goals for fun in the league but just one here at Anfield," said Keith Curle following the match. "It's a stepping stone in our progression. We need to be able to go to clubs like this in the future, and I want to manage [Carlisle] on a weekly basis in the Premier League—we need to be ambitious."
Carlisle may have finished the match talking moral victories from a penalty shoot-out loss, seeing reason to believe they can push on after their own stumbling start to the year and perhaps end up in the promotion places. For Liverpool, it felt more like defeat, though they will now face Bournemouth in the fourth round.
On paper, it seems one of the kinder possible draws. But then on paper, Wednesday night—at home, with a starting eleven that wouldn't have looked out of place in the league—appeared even easier. Instead it ended up a night of futility and frustration; of 47 shots, mostly from distance, and just one goal to show.
Carlisle may have had something to do with that, but despite Curle's pride in their performance, the truth is they remain the worst defensive side in England's fourth division. And they never looked to be made to work that hard to keep Liverpool at a distance, taking frustrated pot-shots when options failed to show.
The reality spoke less to an exceptional outing by a plucky underdog and more to lethargic Liverpool side that lacked anything resembling incisive movement or well-drilled patterns of passing play. Rodgers arrived at the club preaching pass and move; against Carlisle the players mostly stood around looking frustrated.
Occasionally—or rather more than occasionally based on the 47 shots they took—the players grew tired of waiting for a teammate to move into a promising position for a pass and shot from distance. Mostly those shots missed. On the 16 occasions they hit the target, the Carlisle ‘keeper had plenty of time to set himself and gather.
The fourth round of the Capital One Cup is set to kick off the week of October 26th. Bournemouth will travel to Anfield to face Liverpool for the second time this season after the newly promoted side was narrowly—and, due to some questionable officiating probably wrongly—defeated in match week two.
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