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Liverpool 3, Exeter 0: The Kids Advance to the Next Round

Liverpool's reserves make relatively easy work of Exeter City and advance to the 4th round of the FA cup after a replay.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool 3 Allen 10', Ojo 74', Teixeira 82'

Exeter City 0

A bit of a starlet showcase end with a couple of debut goals for Liverpool's youngsters.

Jürgen Klopp stayed with the rejects and children ethos of the first leg, and put out a nearly identical XI, with Simon Mignolet, Joe Allen and Jordon Ibe replacing Adam Bogdan, Jerome Sinclair and Ryan Kent. Kevin Stewart took up the deepest midfield position in a 4-1-4-1, with Allen and Cameron Brannagan immediately ahead. Ibe and Teixeira played wide, and Christian Benteke got another cup start as the spearhead. The defensive line was unchanged, featuring Conor Randall, Tiago Ilori, Jose Enrique and Brad Smith.

The home team were immediately on the front foot and took the lead inside ten minutes in a packed but quiet Anfield. Brad Smith combined excellently with Christian Benteke, received the ball on the touchline and played a perfect reverse ball for Allen, who scored his second goal in three matches, tucking it home from about six yards.

The game plan was clearly to work the ball wide and cross for Benteke to head home, and it consistently worked right up until that final part. The Belgian striker first headed a perfect Teixeira cross inches over, before dispatching and Ibe cross from the opposite flank straight into a blocking defender.

When this tactic failed to produce goals, the youngsters started resorting to dribbles and pot shots, with both Brannagan and Ibe going close. Ibe's left footed curler in particular was agonizingly near, skimming off the far crossbar, out of Robert Olejnik's reach.

As half time came, Exeter had yet to manage a single shot, and Liverpool were looking comfortable, despite the close scoreline. A confident and in-form Christian Benteke could be expected to tuck away at least one in a half like that.

The visitors came out with a bit more intensity in the second half, throwing men forward without ever really threatening Mignolet in the Reds' goal. On 50 minutes, Jon Flanagan made his first Liverpool appearance in 20 months, coming on for Randall to a rapturous standing ovation. It was the biggest cheer of the night, illustrating just how badly Liverpool fans want the local lad to succeed.

Counter attacking was the game now, and Liverpool started producing chances. Jordon Ibe once more cut inside, this time hammering a left-footed shot off the underside of the bar, nearly lifting the goal frame off the ground. The ball looked to have crossed the line in real-time, but Eagle Eye technology ruined the day, showing that the shot was about an inch shy of paydirt.

Brannagan then set up Benteke and Teixeira played in Ibe, but neither player could convert. Sheyi Ojo came on for Joe Allen after 65 minutes, and made an immediate impact. First he went close with a committed run to the first post, but a defender got in the way of Smith's powerful cross. Minutes later, the young Londoner cut in from the right, picked his spot and eminently placed an unsaveable swerving shot into the far corner. It was a touch of absolute class from one of the most promising talents in Liverpool's stable, and the home side were cruising.

Pedro Chirivella was subbed on for Jordon Ibe, and took up playmaking position in central midfield, several times coming close to playing in attackers, but timing or precision letting the young Spaniard down each time.

Benteke, who had spent much of the match begrudgingly trying to dribble defenders in wide areas finally succeeded, going past three players and, when the shot wasn't on, turned to find Teixeira with an inch-perfect through ball. The injury-plagued Portuguese showed typical composure and buried his shot past the goalkeeper.

Benteke would come close twice more, first stinging Olejnik's fingers with a drive from range, then skipping past the goalkeeper following a four on two counter attack in injury time, but for the third time in a month, fluffed his opportunity when through on goal.

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A very comfortable win for Liverpool's youngsters in the end, finishing the match with 26-6 in the shots column, and 11-1 in shots on target. Exeter were kept quiet throughout, and were left vulnerable when they committed men forward in the second half.

The centre-backs looked solid when called upon, and fullbacks on either side got up and down the pitch with regularity. Smith in particular looks like he can be a regular contributor to the first team, while Flanagan showed typical dedication, but also the kind of rust you get from not playing for over a year and a half.

In midfield, Allen was consistently the most forward player, often moving past Benteke and into the box, capping it off with a well-taken goal. Brannagan showed tenacity and an extreme willingness to shoot, while Stewart mostly kept it simple from his deep position. Teixeira displayed his usual calm on the ball, while Jordon Ibe had much greater success against his opposing fullback when he switched between the inside and outside move. Sheyi Ojo again made a difference, undoubtedly prompting some unreasonable expectations from the fanbase.

Up top, Christian Benteke continued to look a poor fit, not really contributing to the press, dropping too deep or too wide, and often failing to attack the six yard box when the ball was in the wide areas. It seemed that he wanted to show quality with the ball at his feet, constantly trying nifty touches and dribbles, but losing possession more often than not. A secondary and primary assist on the goals isn't too bad, but there's little doubt he should've added at least two goals himself.

West Ham await in the 4th round, and it is expected that Klopp will start more senior players when that time comes. First, though, come 16th-placed Norwich at the weekend, fresh off a hammering by Bournemouth. They will undoubtedly be looking for a response and Liverpool must be ready.

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