Jurgen Klopp‘s decision to field Liverpool’s youngest ever team backfired as the Premier League title contender was held 0-0 at home by fourth-tier (League Two) Plymouth in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
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With games coming thick and fast during the festive season and a midweek trip to Southampton looming in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, Klopp made 10 changes from the team that drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Monday.
But instead of keeping players rested for other competitions, Klopp now faces an unwanted replay far away from home.
Liverpool is in second place in the Premier League and well positioned to challenge for the title. Plymouth is second, too, but in the far less glamorous League Two. Despite this it still seemed a risky move by Klopp to select a team with an average age of 21 years, 296 days.
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The 17-year-old Ben Woodburn – Liverpool’s youngest-ever scorer – made his full debut alongside 19-year-olds Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo in a three-man attacking midfield supporting lone striker Divock Origi. Trent Alexander-Arnold made only his second Liverpool start.
Woodburn and Ojo went close early on as Liverpool dominated. But for all of its possession, Liverpool struggled to create further chances.
Klopp brought on Sturridge shortly after the hour mark, and he went close almost immediately with a low shot past the right post.
Sturridge then clipped another shot narrowly wide as Liverpool continued to push forward. But even with the introduction of Lallana and Firmino late on – and six minutes of injury time – the winner never came.