Exeter City vs. Liverpool: Winners and Losers from FA Cup
Brad Smith scored 17 minutes from time to save Liverpool's blushes in a 2-2 draw with fourth-tier Exeter City on Friday night in the third round of the FA Cup.
Wide his side depleted by injuries, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rotated his entire starting XI following the win over Stoke City on Tuesday in the Capital One Cup. The inexperienced squad struggled at times, falling behind the League Two side twice before eventually claiming a draw to force a replay later this month.
Tom Nichols and Lee Holmes scored for Exeter, while Jerome Sinclair notched the other goal for Liverpool.
"It's obvious what we have to learn in the future," Klopp said, per BBC Sport. "We have to be more robust. It was a difficult pitch. Exeter did really well. Maybe they know which part of the pitch you can play football. It was really difficult for us today. On one-on-one situations they were more robust than our guys."
Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the match.
Loser: Liverpool's Fixture List
The January fixture list was already loaded for Liverpool. In addition to four Premier League matches, the Reds had to plan for two legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final as well as Friday's FA Cup match at Exeter. This draw means Jurgen Klopp's side now have at least eight matches this month, which is a grueling stretch for any club.
And if they win the replay, which will take place Jan. 19 or 20, Liverpool will then add a fourth-round tie to the list for a total of nine.
Fans of English football know how busy the calendar becomes around the holidays, and now Klopp is finding out for himself. The physical demands on his side in December and January have already led to a string of costly injuries. Now, the Reds have another fixture on their hands, and you have to wonder whether we'll see the kids in the replay as well.
Winner: Exeter's Payday
Winning the match outright would have been the dream scenario for Exeter, of course. But in securing "just" a draw, the Grecians gained a significant financial windfall for the club.
Per Sporting Intelligence, Exeter would have claimed £67,500 in prize money for winning Friday's match. But by drawing, they'll earn an estimated £700,000 from their share of the revenue from the replay at Anfield.
While a draw might have been a disappointment, Exeter can take comfort in the fact that their FA Cup exploits are boosting the club's finances. Of course, winning the replay would only help even more.
Loser: Adam Bogdan
Lee Holmes will take the plaudits for Exeter's second goal after scoring directly from a corner kick. But although the "Olimpico" looked impressive in real time, the goal came down to a goalkeeping error by Liverpool's Adam Bogdan.
Holmes' delivery was sharp, with the Exeter man driving an inswinger fiercely into the danger area. But Bogdan should have been able to tip the ball over the bar. Instead, he flapped and allowed it to nestle in the net.
At SB Nation, Conor Dowley wrote:
The positioning, getting out-muscled by a player much smaller than he is, going to the wrong post and completely whiffing on his punch—Bogdan did literally nothing right on this play. Well, maybe he did one thing right: he didn't score an own goal. But giving up an Olimpico on what should have been an easy ball to snag out of the air is pretty horrible.
There's no way around it. Bogdan should have done better.
"We've been working all week on those corners—put it in the mixer and right on top of keeper Adam Bogdan," Holmes told BBC One. "We knew we could cause an upset. We're disappointed we didn’t come away with a win."
Winner: Brad Smith
Despite the fact that they nearly fell to a fourth-tier side, Liverpool had a few good individual performers in the side. Ryan Kent showed a few skillful touches, and Jerome Sinclair produced a cool finish for the visitors' first goal.
But another player who deserves further mention is Brad Smith. The Australian left-back scored a late equalizer to cap a strong performance in which he never seemed to stop running.
After nearly leaving Liverpool in the summer, Smith could now provide competition for Alberto Moreno.
Loser: Christian Benteke as Captain
Naming Christian Benteke captain for the night made some sense in this highly unfamiliar Liverpool side. The 11 starters had made 135 combined appearances for the club before Friday night (h/t Ged Rea), and although Jose Enrique was responsible for 95 of those, the Spaniard hadn't featured for the first team in a year.
Benteke, therefore, was the most "regular" of the names in the team. But if Jurgen Klopp had any questions about the Belgian's leadership qualities, they were answered in the negative in this performance.
For one of the more senior players in Liverpool's side, Benteke made little impact. The big striker did have one good chance in the second half, but his powerful header went straight at Robert Olejnik, who made a good reaction save.
Serving as captain was a big opportunity for Benteke and likely a test concocted by Klopp as well. Benteke failed.
Loser: Jose Enrique
As noted in the previous slide, Jose Enrique had not made a senior appearance for Liverpool in a year. The rust showed on Friday night.
The veteran defender was poor positionally, and Jamie Reid beat him badly in the build-up to Exeter's opener. If Enrique was hoping to make an impression with this performance, he might have done just that. But it wasn't a good one.
Another long spell on the sideline is ahead—or perhaps more likely a move away from Anfield.