Klopp’s decision to field youngest ever side backfires
Coach Juergen Klopp’s decision to field Liverpool’s youngest ever team backfired as the Premier League title contender was held 0-0 at home by fourth-tier Plymouth in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
With games coming thick and fast during the festive season and a midweek trip to Southampton looming in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, Klopp made 10 changes from the team that drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Monday.
But instead of keeping players rested for other competitions, Klopp now faces an unwanted replay at Plymouth’s Home Park stadium, around 470 kilometers (292 miles) from Anfield.
“It’s not the result we wished obviously but it’s not frustrating because that’s football,” Klopp told BT Sport. “We go to Plymouth for the first time in my life, all good.”
Liverpool is in second place in the Premier League and well positioned to challenge for the title. Plymouth is second, too, but in the far less glamorous League Two. Despite this it still seemed a risky move by Klopp to select a team with an average age of 21 years, 296 days.
The 17-year-old Ben Woodburn – Liverpool’s youngest-ever scorer – made his full debut alongside 19-year-olds Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo in a three-man attacking midfield supporting lone striker Divock Origi. Trent Alexander-Arnold made only his second Liverpool start.
Attacking midfielder Adam Lallana, forward Roberto Firmino and England striker Daniel Sturridge were on the bench.
Woodburn and Ojo went close early on as Liverpool dominated. But for all of its possession, Liverpool struggled to create further chances.
Klopp brought on Sturridge shortly after the hour mark, and he went close almost immediately with a low shot past the right post.
Sturridge then clipped another shot narrowly wide as Liverpool continued to push forward. But even with the introduction of Lallana and Firmino late on – and six minutes of injury time – the winner never came.
Youth was the theme of the day elsewhere, too, as 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon scored Fulham’s winner in a 2-1 win away to Cardiff – a match pitting teams from the second-tier Championship.
Later Sunday, it was: Premier League leader Chelsea vs. third-tier Peterborough; Middlesbrough vs. Sheffield Wednesday; and Tottenham vs. Aston Villa.
Defending champion Manchester United crushed Championship side Reading 4-0 on Saturday, but Premier League Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke lost to lower-league opponents, while Arsenal needed a late winner against Preston to reach the fourth round. –Jerome Pugmire