Football Features

Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool: Minamino struggles to settle as Klopp’s men are held in FA Cup

By Oliver Young-Myles

Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool: Five things learned | FA Cup

Published: 19:06, 26 January 2020

League One outfit Shrewsbury Town shocked Premier League leaders Liverpool to claim an FA Cup fourth round replay at Anfield.

But what did we learn from the thrilling 2-2 draw?

Jones takes his chance again

“Unbelievable player. Scouser, very confident. He can’t wait to play in the first team, and he will be a Liverpool player if nothing strange happens, 100 per cent.”

Jurgen Klopp’s comments about Curtis Jones after the 18-year-old midfielder scored a majestic curling strike in front of the Kop in the cauldron atmosphere of a Merseyside derby against Everton earlier this month, showed just how highly he rates him. Jones oozed confidence that night and appears hellbent on making his every appearance count for his boyhood club.

Jones was called upon for the fifth time this season at New Meadow and again he made a positive impression, sliding Liverpool in front after 15 minutes with a cool finish on his left foot. Having netted a winning penalty against Arsenal, a stunner against Everton and now an opener against Shrewsbury, Jones is building up quite the portfolio of important goals for Klopp’s side.

Sloppy Liverpool punished after shocking second half

When Donald Love, a former Manchester United defender, no less, passed the ball into his own net 28 seconds into the second half, it looked as though Liverpool would coast to victory and progress to the 5th round.

Yet the hosts responded well to that calamitous own goal, going close through Callum Lang before Jason Cummings’ double saw them improbably draw them level. Liverpool will feel that the penalty decision went against them as Yasser Larouci’s cchallenge appeared to be outside rather than inside the box, but nobody could begrudge the Shrews their moment.

Of course, the League One outfit deserved immense credit for the nature of their comeback, yet Liverpool were guilty of handing them the initiative after sleep-walking their way through the second half. Klopp cut an animated figure on the touchline and he will be furious that his side will now have to play a replay in what is already a hectic fixture schedule.

Shrewsbury’s super-sub takes centre stage

There were boos when Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts decided to take his main striker Lang off after an hour, but little did the supporters know the impact his replacement Cummings was about to make.

The 24-year-old has lived a nomadic existence in recent years, spending time with Nottingham Forest, Rangers, Peterborough and Luton Town after leaving his first club Hibernian in 2017, before pitching up at Shrewsbury in the summer.

Cummings ended a three-month goal drought by netting during Shrewsbury’s 2-2 draw with Fleetwood last weekend and he continued that form against the European champions, converting a penalty before capitalising on poor play from Liverpool’s centre-backs to score his and Shrewsbury’s second.

Minamino taking time to settle

Liverpool’s £7.25m acquisition of Takumi Minamino from Red Bull Salzburg before the January transfer window had even officially opened was heralded as another example of the club’s savvy recruitment, led by sporting director Michael Edwards.

Minamino, along with Borussia Dortmund’s free-scoring Norwegian Erling Haaland, had impressed in two games for Salzburg against Liverpool in the Champions League group stages, scoring and providing an assist in a 4-3 defeat at Anfield.

Considering he has Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for competition, Minamino was always expected to be an excellent back-up option, rather than a first-choice starter, but he is being slowly integrated into the side.

The Japanese playmaker hasn’t yet managed to impact a game during three outings for his new club and was quiet at New Meadow. It is early days for the Klopp’s latest signing, though, and he will need time to showcase his best qualities.

Squad players return at a crucial time for Liverpool

Klopp seemingly isn’t particularly concerned about domestic cup competitions this season, shown by his heavily-rotated team selection against Everton in the previous round. With Premier League immortality within sight and retaining the Champions League a genuine possibility, it isn’t hard to see why the FA Cup isn’t too prominent on Klopp’s priority list.

Against League One opponents, Klopp named a much-changed side in the competition again with Salah, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold all benched and Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson given the day off entirely. In their places came highly-rated youngsters such as Harvey Elliott and Jones, plus more senior stars who have recently returned to fitness.

At the heart of the defence, Dejan Lovren was paired up with Joël Matip while Fabinho occupied the holding role in front of them. Matip and Lovren hadn’t featured since October and December respectively due to injury problems, while Fabinho has been slowly reintegrated after two months out.

That the trio came through unscathed was a bonus, although Klopp will not have been overly impressed by Matip and Lovren’s defending for Cummings’ second goal.