Shrewsbury Town hosted Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup, as they looked to cause one of the greatest upsets in recent history by eliminating the reigning European champions. The Reds have looked unstoppable in the Premier League thus far and faced a side from the third tier of English football, after overcoming arch-rivals Everton in the fifth round.
Liverpool looked to be on their way to another routine victory, but Shrewsbury rallied back from 2 goals behind to secure a stunning 2-2 draw, as they produced a famous result in the FA Cup to force a replay at Anfield.
Expectedly, Jurgen Klopp opted to give his big guns a breather and made 11 changes to the side that beat Wolves 2-1 in the previous league encounter. In what has been a common theme from the German in cup competitions this season, a team with a mixture of youth and experience was chosen, with the young Reds taking their place alongside the fringe players from the first-team squad.
Naby Keita returned to the bench for the Merseyside club after a short injury layoff, as was the case with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, who were restored to the starting XI after making their returns from injury in recent weeks. The Reds dominated proceedings from kickoff and although clear cut chances were at a premium, they took control of the game and registered an early lead.
Curtis Jones, who was the hero in their previous FA Cup fixture, broke the deadlock in the 15th minute, as he finished calmly with his left foot after being played through on goal delightfully by Pedro Chirivella. New Takumi Minamino went within inches of scoring his first goal since joining from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer, as he was within inches of heading in a beautifully whipped cross from right-back Neco Williams.
Deputizing for Alisson Becker between the sticks for the away side, Adrian was called into action just once in the first half but the Spanish shot-stopper made a stunning save, as he denied Shawn Whalley with an outstretched right foot. The Englishman, who is a boyhood Liverpool fan, was presented with another gilt-edged opportunity in the closing stages of the first half to restore parity but fluffed his lines once again, as the Reds went into the interval with their lead still intact.
Moments after the interval, Liverpool went two goals ahead and effectively put the game to bed, as former Manchester United man Donald Love inadvertently stroked a Neco Williams cross into his own net to leave his side with a mountain to climb.
However, Shrewsbury stunned the reigning European champions with a sensational comeback, as a second-half brace from Jason Cummings gave the home side a historic result, one they'll cherish for a long, long time.
As Klopp's side were held to a 2-2 draw and forced into a replay at Anfield, let's look at some of the talking points from the game.
#1 Fabinho looked shaky on his return
Fabinho made his first start since returning from injury but the midfielder looked out of his depth and lacked sharpness, as he was run ragged in the centre of the park. Often viewed as a reliable presence in midfield, the Brazilian who is described as the 'lighthouse in the organized chaos' by assistant manager Pepijn Ljinders was far from his best, as he failed to produce the goods on his return to the side.
Starting alongside Pedro Chirivella in a double pivot, the former Monaco man struggled from the get-go and was guilty of either dwelling too much on the ball, or being too careless while on possession. In his absence, the likes of Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have established themselves as indispensable members of the team, and Fabinho has his work cut out for him to force his way back into the starting lineup in the Premier League.
While it's only a matter of time until he returns to his best, the 25-year-old was subpar on the day and was uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball, as the Reds surrendered a 2 goal lead against a side from the third tier of English football.
#2 Virgil van Dijk's absence was apparent
With Virgil van Dijk rested, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren started at the heart of the defence and the pair struggled throughout the game, as they were punished for the sloppiness in the second half. The duo never looked comfortable although Liverpool raced to a 2-0 lead in the early stages of the second half, and their indecisiveness coupled with their lack of match practise cost the away side dearly on the night.
As Matip was dragged out of possession, Lovren mistimed his challenge and was out of the game, as Cummings slotted home from the edge of the area to restore parity in stunning circumstances for the hosts.
Lovren and Matip looked out of their depths playing alongside each other and Van Dijk's presence was sorely missed, as the Reds missed a glorious opportunity to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup. While they could still do so, a replay only adds to the congested fixture list and it remains to be seen the kind of team Klopp puts out at Anfield.
#3 Young reds overshadow senior pros
As Jurgen Klopp opted to name a starting XI with a combination of youth and experience, barring Adrian, the senior players failed to deliver the goods for the reigning European champions and fell flat in the second half. However, in stark contrast, the young Reds enhanced their reputations further and left with their heads held high despite the result, as the put the older players to shame with lively performances.
The likes of Fabinho, Divock Origi, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip looked out of depth and failed to make their presence felt in the game, as Shrewsbury rallied back from 2 goals behind to force a replay at Anfield. While new signing Takumi Minamino produced a lively display, most of the senior player did their reputation no good, as they fell flat after a torrid second-half performance.
Aside from Jones, Neco Williams and Pedro Chirivella also impressed on the night and the youngsters will look to make it count in the replay at Anfield, as they aim to advance to the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup.