LIVERPOOL 4 - 1 SHREWSBURY
Liverpool: Gordon 32’, Fabinho 44’ (pen), 90+2’
Shrewsbury: Udoh 26’
Jürgen Klopp is back on the sidelines for Liverpool after missing last week’s league tie against Chelsea due to Covid, and Virgil van Dijk returns to an unexpectedly strong back five for the Reds that wouldn’t look out of place in a Premier League match bar perhaps youth right back Conor Bradley.
The Reds’ midfield and attack, though, show just how bad the outbreak at the club has been with Tyler Morton and Curtis Jones the most experienced players ahead of Fabinho at the base of midfield and starts for Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Max Woltman, and Kaide Gordon alongside them. It’s the magic of the FA Cup, Covid Edition.
Liverpool’s approach with a solid, foundational back five behind a very youthful attack resulted in a confident start for the Reds as their youngsters passed the ball around at tempo looking to pull Shrewsbury around the pitch while their lower league opponents packed in tight defensively, trying to hold their shape and ride out the early storm.
The Reds looked to attack early in the match. The ball stayed firmly in Shrewsbury’s half for the first 15 minutes, but the youngsters couldn’t make the possession count.
They lived to regret it at 25 minute when Shrewsbury main man Daniel Udoh easily beat Konate to open up the scoring in this first half. It was a break down in communication between van Dijk and Konate that led to Udoh pushing through the center of the box and receiving a fine cross in from the wings.
It took eight minutes for Liverpool to equalize through Kaide Gordon’s first senior goal. Conor Bradley crossed it into Gordon, who had the time and space to collect it on his left foot, control it on his right, and get it back to his left before sliding it into the Shrewsbury net. Imagine saying before the match that Bradley would be the most useful Liverpool defender on the pitch.
Shrewsbury very nearly regained the lead moments later, but thankfully the header is quickly deemed offside by the assistant referee.
42 minutes in, a Shrewsbury player made a very poor decision during Liverpool set piece, extending his hand in an unnatural position and gifting the Reds a penalty. Fabinho sends a cool spot kick into the top of the net, and Liverpool got on top for the first time in this match.
Once again, Shrewsbury responded quickly. In stoppage time, Kelleher was forced into a double save to prevent the visitors from evening the scoreline right before the halftime whistle.
A few minutes after the restart, Robertson got the ball into Dixon-Bonner, but sadly he sends it right into the hands of the keeper. It should have been 3-1, but instead the Reds continued to hold onto their one goal lead.
Dixon-Bonner then became the first player subbed off for the very welcome return of Roberto Firmino to play the last 30 minutes. As the minutes wore on, Liverpool tired, showing some uncharacteristic sloppiness on the ball.
Konate, who has not had the most impressive game, gave it away in the opposing half, creating an opportunity for Shrewsbury to attack. Van Dijk neutralized the danger and sent the ball out of harm’s way.
It didn’t take Firmino long to remind us all just who he is. A cheeky back heel past two defenders got the ball into the back of the net and got Liverpool a 3-1 lead. It was a long time coming, as the Reds messed around on half-speed for a significant part of this second half.
Finally, Fabinho finished off the game with his second goal. He botched the header into the box, but made up for it by getting his own rebound and tucking the ball into the corner.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
Ultimately, the scoreline was a bit flattering to Liverpool, who controlled the game without making much danger. But Liverpool have made it through to round four in the FA Cup.
Who was Liverpool’s man of the match against Shrewsbury Town?