Wolverhampton Wanderers proved to be too strong for an under-strength Liverpool on Monday. History repeats itself as Jurgen Klopp’s men exit the FA Cup at the third round stage to a 2-1 Wolves victory.
The night got off to an ominous start as Dejan Lovren suffered an injury just minutes after the whistle.
Klopp was forced to hand a first-team debut to Ki-Jana Hoever to replace the only recognised senior centre-back. Hoever is now Liverpool’s youngest ever player to feature in the FA Cup, aged just 16 years and 354 days.
He’s also the third youngest Liverpool debutant in any competition for the Reds, behind Jerome Sinclair and Jack Robinson.
Unfortunately, that was the only highlight of the evening as the Reds crashed out of the FA Cup.
Liverpool have not made it past the fourth round since the 2014/15 semi-final with Brendan Rodgers. A dismal record compounded by this is Liverpool’s second loss in the space of a few days.
Eyebrows were raised when Klopp’s team sheet was released, sporting a largely inexperienced side. Klopp gave the nod to three players born after the year 2000, once Hoever came on.
Simon Mignolet starting in goal was confirmed earlier in the week. While he didn’t make any major mistakes, he didn’t instil much confidence into his back four.
#WOLLIV team news…
Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones make their full #LFC debuts.👇
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 7, 2019
The defence of Rafael Camacho, Fabinho, Hoever and Alberto Moreno didn’t cover themselves in glory. The foursome really struggled to deal with the Wolves attack.
However, criticism should not be too harsh — it’s the first time they have all played together. Also probably the last.
In midfield, the Reds failed to take a firm grip. Naby Keïta started well but faded as the game went on. The Guinean continues to struggle to replicate the form showed at RB Leipzig.
James Milner was sloppy throughout and while Curtis Jones showed glimpses of class, he did very little to affect the game.
Liverpool’s attack as a whole was poor. The trio of Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri showed a real lack of aggression and work rate. Wolves had no real problems containing the three going forward.
Apart from Origi’s equaliser and Shaqiri’s superb free-kick — which was matched by Ruddy’s amazing save — the front three did very little to worry the Wolves backline.
It’s a concerning period for Liverpool who have suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season.
With the squad looking thin — especially at centre-back — Klopp has a lot of short-term decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on how the Reds fair for the rest of the season.
Liverpool will now have to dust themselves down and get back to winning ways to avoid Manchester City closing the gap on their four-point lead.
Klopp’s terrible FA Cup record continues until next season but for now, he will have to put that in the past and prepare the players for what promises to be a tough second half of the season.