Klopp’s kids ease past Grecians

liverpool celebrate

Liverpool 3-0 Exeter – www.thisisanfield.com

There was to be no fairytale at Anfield on Wednesday night. Liverpool were held by League Two Exeter at St James’s Park in the original tie, but had no such difficulties this time around, winning 3-0 with goals from Joe Allen, Sheyi Ojo and Joao Teixeira. It was a dominant display from the Reds, who bossed the game from minute one as their opponents rarely looked like scoring.

Exeter had won 3-1 at Leyton Orient on Saturday, but neither of their two goalscorers that day started this game. Jayden Stockley netted a brace in the capital but was cup tied due to his involvement in the FA Cup with Portsmouth last month, while Tom Nichols was intentionally dropped to the bench. Perhaps, the average cynic might suggest, manager Paul Tisdale wanted to take Nichols out of the limelight during this transfer window, with bigger clubs including Peterborough reportedly interested.

Liverpool had lost 1-0 to rivals Manchester United at the weekend and it was important for them to start this game on the front foot. They did this to good effect, alleviating any lingering nerves among the home faithful. Dominic Smith had looked lively in previous appearances and the left-back’s cross was half-cleared, but the ball came back into the penalty area and Christian Benteke’s improvised close range effort was saved.

Smith and Benteke would combine for the opening goal. Smith played a neat one-two with the Belgian and beat Matt Oakley for pace before slipping the ball across goal for Joe Allen, who tapped it home. After conceding that goal, Exeter did not change their game plan, they kept defending deep in an attempt to stem Liverpool’s flow.

It was easier said than done, however, because the hosts were playing with confidence. Joao Teixeira picked the ball up on the left flank and chipped it in for Benteke, who headed it over the bar from close range when he should have hit the target. The striker had scored 42 goals in 89 games for Aston Villa but has not enjoyed too much success at Liverpool, and hit a free-kick against the wall before Brannigan’s sweet shot was pushed wide by Bobby Olejnik.

morrison

Clinton Morrison – www.bbc.co.uk

The Austrian has played every minute of every game for Exeter this season and bravely smothered Joe Allen, who was let loose after a Danny Butterfield error. Butterfield was one of two of Exeter’s former Crystal Palace players in their late 30s, the other being Clinton Morrison, who was isolated and had very few touches. Both players would be taken off at half-time.

The left-back area has been problematic for Exeter this season and Jordan Ibe took advantage of Craig Woodman’s limitations. The winger made some positive runs down the right and forced a save with his firm effort from outside the box, before firing over a few moments later.

In the latter stages of the first half, it looked as though Liverpool needed to get the ball to their wide men more often to penetrate, but they upped their game further in the second period. Ibe continued to make his case for a first team berth, hitting the bar on 54 minutes with a powerful strike.

Sheyi Ojo came on for Joe Allen on 65 minutes. Ojo was not rated so highly at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but he impressed as a substitute in the meeting at St James’ and made a similar impact here. With Ojo on the right, Ibe moved to the left and on a counter-attacking run, the former Wycombe winger cut the ball back for Teixeira, whose drive was blocked by Troy Brown.

Ojo scored Liverpool’s second goal on 74 minutes. He picked the ball up on the right in a dangerous area and teased the frail-looking Woodman, before curling the ball into the far corner with his left foot. At 1-0, Exeter still had half a chance of scoring a memorable equalizer and taking the game to extra time, but the game was all over at 2-0.

The visiting defenders stuck stoically to their duties, as Troy Brown produced a great challenge to halt a threatening run from the impressive Smith. Centre-back Brown was part of a Cheltenham Town team last season that suffered relegation, but he and academy graduate Jordan Moore-Taylor stood tall on the night. Unfortunately for the travelling Grecians fans, their team’s forward men did not catch the eye in the same manner and attacks were fragmented due to the need to keep numbers back. Exeter had a rare attempt when Lee Holmes’ speculative shot was blocked on 78 minutes.

teixeira

Joao Teixeira – www.squawka.com

Liverpool got their third goal on 82 minutes when some great work from Benteke set up Teixeira, who finished neatly from close range. Teixeira had impressed on loan at Brighton last season before picking up a long-term injury, and will hope to force his way into Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

Exeter had their most threatening moment of the match on 84 minutes. David Wheeler, a highly rated winger who has also just returned from injury, was released by Alex Nicholls and tried to centre for Will Hoskins, but the ball was cut out. Tom Nichols then tried a bicycle kick, but it was blocked well by a Liverpool defende.

Benteke could have added Liverpool’s fourth. On 88 minutes, he curled the ball towards the top right hand corner from just outside the box, but he was denied by a strong one-handed save by Olejnik. In the dying seconds, the target man rounded the keeper but could not get the ball out of his feet and the chance went.

The game had been a foregone conclusion in the latter stages but Exeter fans remained loyal, singing and supporting their team until the end. So much so, the club’s Twitter account handed their man of the match to the 6,000 travelling fans who had made the long journey from Devon. Unfortunately for those supporters, they did not see a goal to cheer as the referee blew for full-time.

tisdale

Paul Tisdale

Liverpool secured their passage to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they will face West Ham, a team who have already done a Premier League double over the north-west club. While Klopp cannot read too much into his side’s performance against League Two opposition, he may be encouraged by the performances of some of his young players. The likes of Jordan Ibe and Dominic Smith truly stood out for the Reds, for whom bigger challenges lie ahead.