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Liverpool vs Shrewsbury Town. The FA Cup Fourth Round.

AnfieldAttendance52,399.

Liverpool 1

  • R Williams (75th minute own goal)

Shrewsbury Town 0

    Liverpool 1-0 Shrewsbury: Ro-Shaun Williams' own goal gives young Reds victory

    Liverpool will face Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round after slender win

    Liverpool's young team edged past Shrewsbury to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup
    Image: Liverpool's young team edged past Shrewsbury to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup

    The youngest team in Liverpool's history justified the faith Jurgen Klopp placed in them when he absented himself and his first team from their FA Cup fourth-round replay by beating Shrewsbury 1-0 at Anfield.

    Former Manchester United academy player Ro-Shaun Williams' 75th-minute own goal proved to be the difference, moments after the League One visitors saw David Edwards' header ruled out by VAR.

    Klopp had been accused of disrespecting the cup when he chose to honour the mid-season Premier League break by sending all his stars on holiday rather than play in this game.

    Ro-Shaun Williams' own goal was the difference between the two sides at Anfield
    Image: Ro-Shaun Williams' own goal was the difference between the two sides

    But their replacements did themselves, Klopp and the club proud with a performance full of confidence and commitment which belied their tender years.

    With an average age of 19 years and 102 days, three debutants, 36 senior appearances between them and squad numbers ranging from 46 to 93 this was a very inexperienced team at any level never mind a somewhat controversial cup tie in front of almost 53,000 at Anfield.

    VS SHREWSBURY

    There was at least some first-team representation at the match with James Milner, who has remained behind to continue his rehabilitation work at Melwood rather than going away, sat in the first row behind the dugout.

    Ki Jana Hoever challenges Shaun Whalley
    Image: Ki-Jana Hoever challenges Shaun Whalley during the first half

    Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to an accident closing the M62 motorway which immediately prompted numerous jokes on social media about the Liverpool youngsters being out late on a school night.

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    Coincidentally a number of these players were scheduled for an 'education' session on Wednesday morning but for this night it was Shrewsbury who got a schooling.

    Team news

    Curtis Jones became Liverpool's youngest captain at 19 years and five days after being handed the armband to lead a youthful team.

    The side named by U23 manager Neil Critchley contained four players - Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams and Pedro Chirivella - from the original tie in Shropshire.

    League One Shrewsbury named 10 of the side which started the original tie with Liverpool.

    When striker Liam Millar, a Canada international with eight caps, robbed Ethan Ebanks-Landell just outside his own penalty area in the first couple of minutes, the tone was set.

    The youngsters buzzed about the Anfield pitch not overawed by, for most, the biggest occasion of their short careers and dominated possession - as high as 78 per cent in the first half.

    Shaun Whalley thought he had given Shrewsbury the lead but it was ruled out
    Image: Shaun Whalley thought he had given Shrewsbury the lead but it was ruled out

    They were not lacking in confidence either with first-half individual highlights of Curtis Jones, who became Liverpool's youngest captain at the age of 19 years and five days, including a drag-back nutmeg on Ro-Shaun Williams and a rabona cross.

    But they lacked a cutting edge, right-back Neco Williams going closest with an angled drive wide of the far post, and with the visitors - starting 10 players from the original tie - showing little intent to go forward, the half ended goalless.

    Attacking the Kop in the second half the impressive Neco Williams should probably have scored soon after the break but was denied by goalkeeper Max O'Leary's outstretched foot, coming just seconds after Callum Lang's rare foray into the Liverpool penalty area ended with him going down after a tangle with Ki-Jana Hoever.

    Whalley celebrates his goal but his finish was from an offside position
    Image: Whalley celebrates his goal but his finish was from an offside position

    If playing at Anfield was a new experience for Liverpool's side, VAR was a novelty for Shrewsbury and it came to the hosts' rescue on the hour when Shaun Whalley nodded in Edwards' rebounded shot only for the referral to rule it out for offside.

    Harvey Elliott and Jones both fluffed a close-range range attempts as the home side began to add some threat to their dominance but when the goal eventually arrived it came with some considerable assistance.

    Revised FA Cup fifth round draw

    Sheffield Wednesday vs Manchester City

    Reading vs Sheffield United

    Chelsea vs Liverpool

    West Brom vs Newcastle

    Leicester vs Birmingham

    Derby vs Manchester United

    Southampton/Tottenham vs Norwich

    Portsmouth vs Arsenal

    Neco Williams' long ball forward was aimed at Elliott but namesake Ro-Shaun intervened, heading back over his own goalkeeper from the edge of his own penalty area.

    It was then credit to Liverpool's youngsters that they saw out the remainder of the game with few alarms and were still attacking in added time.

    Chelsea at Stamford Bridge await in the last 16, when Klopp and some of his first-team stars will be back.

    What the managers said

    Liverpool U23s boss Neil Critchley: "The maturity that those young boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They actually calmed me on the side and over 90 minutes, I think we had the better chances, and were just about the deserved winners on the night.

    "The boss was in touch this afternoon with some words of advice and some encouragement, which was really nice of him.

    "I've not checked my phone, but we had a message from the staff at the end there saying he's absolutely delighted with the performance and he's buzzing. We've given him a game against Chelsea to look forward to."

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    Liverpool's U23s team fully deserved their FA Cup win over Shrewsbury, says head coach Neil Critchley, who reveals Jurgen Klopp had already messaged his delight

    Shrewsbury boss Sam Ricketts: "I feel a little bit flat to be honest with you as we struggled to get going tonight. We've played so many games. That was our 39th of the season, and we looked like a side who just couldn't quite get going.

    "Liverpool moved the ball really well. They're bright, lively and played well. We just weren't at it. You can't play at 95 per cent.

    "We had a spell after half-time where we had a goal disallowed, asked a few questions, but we were too passive."

    Analysis: 'Klopp has got away with it a bit'

    Aaron Pierre of Shrewsbury vies with Curtis Jones for possession
    Image: Shrewsbury's Aaron Pierre vies with Curtis Jones for possession

    Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy told The Debate:

    "I don't think he needed to vindicate his reasons for not fielding the first team with everything that's going on. Considering the opposition, he clearly felt the kids could do a job, and they've done the job.

    "In terms of him not being there, I suppose he's got away with that a little bit. If they'd lost the game, it would've been highlighted a little more.

    "He would've motivated the younger lads naturally. The intensity always goes up, but those questions about his absence have now been nullified."

    Opta stats

    • With an average age of 19 years and 102 days against Shrewsbury, Liverpool named their youngest ever starting XI in all competitions for the second time this season, surpassing their line-up for the League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa in December (19y 182d).
    • Shrewsbury have scored two own goals against Liverpool in the FA Cup this season, the first time the Reds have benefited from two own goals by the same opponent in an FA Cup campaign since Brighton scored three in a 1-6 defeat at Anfield in February 2012.
    • Liverpool are now unbeaten in 40 games at Anfield in all competitions (W35 D5), winning each of their last seven home matches without conceding a single goal.

    What's next?

    Live Premier League

    Liverpool now have their mid-season winter break, returning to action in the Premier League against Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday February 15; live on Sky Sports. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.

    Shrewsbury return to Sky Bet League One action this weekend, hosting MK Dons on Saturday at 3pm.

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