Exeter earn Anfield replay against Klopp’s kids after FA Cup draw
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 8, 2016
Exeter City 2-2 Liverpool
- Tom Nichols nets ninth minute opener
- Grecians lead lasts a short while
- Sinclair equalises for Reds
- Holmes direct from a corner gives Exeter half-time lead
- Liverpool level again through Brad Smith
Reds replay for Grecians
Exeter City twice lost the lead against an experimental Liverpool side, but did enough to warn an Anfield replay after drawing the first of 32 FA Cup third round ties 2-2.
With Reds boss Jurgen Klopp picking several academy products and handing out debuts either from the start or off the bench, Paul Tisdale’s team took advantage of a makeshift visiting defence – yet proved no more adept at the back themselves.
Tom Nichols’ early opener was cancelled out by Jerome Sinclair, with Lee Holmes grabbing a second Grecians goal from a corner. It fell to Australian full back Brad Smith to spare Liverpool’s blushes and ensure the Premier League outfit would receive the League Two club on Merseryside the midweek after next.
Excellent in an attacking sense, Exeter exploited obvious weaknesses, with the Red suffering from a spate of hamstring injuries that left Klopp with no senior centre backs to choose from for the Merseyside men’s fifth fixture in 14 days.
Grecians academy product Nichols got on the end of Josh Read’s right-wing cross to slide in the opener, as a rusty looking Jose Enrique lacked the pace or presence to cut this out playing out of position.
Exeter’s lead was short-lived, however, and inside 12 minutes Liverpool were level. Sinclair snapped up his first senior goal as the ball ricocheted around the hosts’ penalty area and bounced off Christian Benteke, plus a Grecians defender.
A narrow setup from Tisdale’s team appeared to inhibit Exeter at times, though they went on the offensive late in the first-half with Christian Ribeiro heading wide from Holmes’ centre.
The Grecians profited from Reds stopper Adam Bogdan’s weakness at set-pieces to re-establish at half-time lead. Holmes, who was once the youngest FA Cup debutant aged 15 during his days at Derby County, saw a corner kick go all the way into the net in stoppage time.
Indebted to number one Bobby Olejnik when the Exeter keeper tipped a Benteke header over from Cameron Branagan’s cross, the hosts held out until a costly Aron Davies slip 17 minutes from time.
That forced Jordan Moore-Taylor to clear Liverpool sub Sheyi Ojo’s ball into the box, but only as far as Smith who duly equalised. Klopp’s Reds found no further way through, so will have yet another January game to play.
Who says romance is dead? The Grecians bridged a wide gulf of some 75 places in English league football between their bottom tier selves and top-flight opposition. That is the magic of the FA Cup!