Jurgen Klopp is no idiot as Liverpool scrape past Plymouth
Second string Liverpool side progress to the fourth round thanks to a rare goal from Lucas
Plymouth 0 Liverpool 1
So far this season the FA Cup has failed to properly catch fire and the tournament offered up another slow burner at Home Park on Wednesday as Liverpool edged their third round replay against League Two side Plymouth.
A sell-out crowd of 17,000 - including a couple of thousand Liverpool fans who had made the 600-mile round-trip - braved the winter weather but they had little to cheer other than Lucas Leiva's first goal in seven years.
Leiva's header from a Philippe Coutinho's corner on 18 minutes was the only goal between the two sides in 180 minutes of football, and if the original match at Anfield was an anti-climax then the replay was little better.
Liverpool should have put the contest to bed from the penalty spot after Yann Songo'o felled Alberto Moreno with three minutes remaining but Divock Origi's effort was comfortably saved by Luke McCormick. But the Pilgrims failed to capitalise and the visitors held on.
But to be fair to them, Plymouth, roared on by their fans, never gave up and came agonisingly close to equalising in the second-half when Jake Jervis rattled the post with a scissor kick. But it is Liverpool who will face Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round of the cup on 28 January.
Informed that it was his first goal for the Red since he scored in a 4-1 win against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League in September 2010, Leiva joked: "It's that long? I scored last week in training". In fact, added manager Jurgen Klopp, the Brazilian is "the top scorer in training".
Leiva was the most experienced player in another young side fielded by the Liverpool boss (the XI that started the initial tie was the youngest in the club's history) but Klopp was pleased that they had the wherewithal to win what was an awkward encounter and insisted he was right to give his second-string players a run-out.
"It was tough," he said. "We had a lot of young players today and one of the challenges they had was playing live on television against a fourth division team and everyone thinks you are three-to-four classes better, and then not feeling embarrassment when you lose a challenge or something."
Klopp had no qualms about fielding his youngsters given that the league match against Swansea on Saturday the first of four matches in 11 days for the Reds, including next Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton and then the clash with Premier League leaders Chelsea on the last day of the month.
"I named the team I could name, that's what I always do," Klopp said, when asked about his decision to start with four teenagers. "Only you [the media] judge it as stronger or weaker, I don't do this. It's all about who is available. We play now Saturday, then Wednesday, then Saturday, then Tuesday. If I always let the same players play I would be a real idiot. So I don't do it."