A second-half Ro-Shaun Williams own goal sealed victory for the Reds’ youngest ever side to show it is not just the first team who are contributing towards Liverpool’s remarkable season
It is fitting that a bunch of kids who looked like they should have been in bed, produced an FA Cup fairytale here Anfield.
How else to describe another remarkable night in an historic season for the Reds, and in some ways this was almost up there with the deeds of the senior team, as the youngest side in the club’s first team history earned a glamorous fifth round tie with Chelsea.
It was well deserved too, with the youngsters dominating a replay against hapless Shrewsbury, and eventually setting Anfield alight with a second half goal to justify manager Jurgen Klopp’s faith.
Jurgen Klopp wasn’t here in person to see his impressive junior side show fight and spirit, and crucially all the same qualities of the first team but in miniature, as they played with similar style, and tempo.
James Milner was there to lend his support as a non-playing presence on the bench, and he could only look on admiration – and joy at the end – as the team who are largely U19s, were unmoved in the face of the strength and aggression of their giant league one opponents
Klopp may have been viciously criticized for his decision to trust the kids – and their coach – to give Shrewsbury a proper game, but his answer came in the performance of Liverpool’s youngest-ever first team.
They started with an average age of 19 years and 102 days, and the weirdest teams-sheet that will surely ever appear in top flight football, with the lowest shirt number for the home side, Adam Lewis’s 46, going all the way up to sub James Norris with 93!
When he returns to England from his mid-season break, Jurgen Klopp may be inclined to ask why there was so much fuss about his absence.
Far from undermining the FA Cup, his deputy Neil Critchley and Liverpool’s youngsters played their part in keeping it on life support with one of the more romantic tales of recent years, certainly where the Merseyside club is concerned. The bid for five trophies in a season goes on.
In normal circumstances, the sight of the world and European champions engaged in euphoric celebrations after narrowly defeating League One opponents – with the help of an own goal – would be considered slightly embarrassing.
Liverpool’s season has been extraordinary enough. The contribution of the teenagers in both rounds of the FA Cup have added to the perception the spectators no longer turn up for mere football games in this venue; they are being treated to history.
Can an unprecedented quintet really happen? It is looking more plausible.
By Linda Amiani