Last season’s beaten FA Cup finalists, Liverpool, were dumped out of the same competition by League One side Oldham on Sunday, preventing them from meeting Merseyside rivals Everton in the next round of the tournament.
As Brendan Rodgers’ young side failed to cope with the determination and intensity of their opponents’ play at times, they did not know who they would meet in the last 16 if they had managed to progress. The draw was, after all, made following the conclusion of the fixture. However, a Liverpool-Everton clash – a repeat of the semi-final from last term – would have been a mouth-watering prospect. That dream is dead.
Liverpool, who have reportedly agreed a deal to bring Inter’s Brazilian attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho to the club, were let down by their promising youngsters. Some will criticise Rodgers for selecting a so-called weakened team, but that he picked star Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez and kept him on the pitch for the duration of the game, despite the crucial upcoming Premier League fixture against Arsenal to be played on Wednesday, suggests that the former Swansea boss was taking this competition seriously.
Martin Skrtel, too, featured in the starting line-up, as did Raheem Sterling, Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge. With one eye on the Arsenal fixture, Rodgers did leave the likes of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Jose Reina, Glen Johnson and Lucas out of the team, but they should not have been needed to overcome the challenge provided by a side who stood more than fifty places below the Anfield outfit in the Football League pyramid. Oldham bossed the first-half and took a deserved 2-1 lead into the break.
It was only when Rodgers threw Gerrard into the mix that Liverpool’s performance visibly improved and the inspirational skipper almost clinched a replay when his long-range effort crashed against the crossbar while the score was 3-2. However, despite their physicality, many neutrals would argue that it would have been an injustice of Oldham had failed to win the game and in the end, they dumped the Reds out of the cup in one of the shock results of the weekend.
Rodgers criticised his youngsters for failing to make the most of their opportunity to impress with tough games on the horizon. Jack Robinson, Sebastian Coates and Fabio Borini did little to suggest that they were pushing for a regular place in the team. Indeed, some have even argued that temporary moves away from the club could help Robinson and Coates to develop. Given recent reports, it seems as though Coates may even be free to leave on a permanent basis.
This is not the first time Liverpool have been dumped out a cup competition by lower league opposition and it will not be the last, but it is important for the Reds to pick themselves up for the clash against Arsenal on Wednesday. A win at Emirates Stadium would help to erase the memories of the Oldham defeat. Fortunately, Rodgers will have a number of senior players to re-call for that trip.
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