Liverpool are yet to win the FA Cup at the new Wembley. 14 years ago was their last success overcoming West Ham United via a shootout in a memorable final at the Millennium Stadium which ended 3-3. That day Steven Gerrard cemented himself further still in Liverpool folklore. That’s what the FA Cup does. It produces memorable moments, legends, winners, it produces the sort of stuff to tell your grandkids about.
Ok Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool have more pressing issues to worry about than the FA Cup this season. The World and European Champions are still without a domestic league title for 30 years. Remarkably the best club team on the planet have never won the Premier League. But now more than ever is the closest they’ve been.
A sixteen point gap with a game in hand on their nearest rivals Manchester City with just fifteen games to play means they will more than likely end their hoodoo this year. They will win the league, anything else will be the biggest fail at the football club since signing Sean Dundee.
So although the cup is not priority, it’s still not to be sniffed at. I repeat Liverpool will win the league. But they might not win the cup.
On Sunday Liverpool travelled to League One Shrewsbury for a fourth round FA Cup tie. The Shrews 16th in the table, the third tier of English football having drew at Fleetwood the week before, up against the mighty Liverpool, 22 wins from 23 Premier League games this season having just seen off Man Utd & Wolves. Shrewsbury didn’t have a chance. But this is the FA Cup remember. This is England.
I switched on the radio to hear a local journalist from the Shropshire Star comment about ‘the magic of the cup’ with words like ‘the whole town is buzzing’ and ‘my heart says we have a chance but my head says we don’t’ stating that ‘taking anything from the game will be up there as one of the club’s greatest ever achievements’ perhaps their best since beating Everton thanks to Nigel Jemson and co.
I thought to myself ‘only the FA Cup can do this’ as even I started to believe, whilst drawing my own conclusion that in reality ‘it’s not going to happen is it.’
But then I saw the team. Almost the same as the one battered by Villa in the League Cup when they were ‘forced’ to play two games in two days. Why? I wondered? Full backs I’ve never heard of, a midfield that’s never played with each-other, a front three muddled together without thought… Is Klopp taking this seriously at all?
Ok yes Liverpool played on Thursday and yes they have a game on Wednesday, but they also have a 16 point lead back in bread and butter. Plus they have a pretty decent bench with lads that haven’t even played that much football of late. Where’s Keita? What about Lallana? Surely the Ox could do with another run out?
But players like Williams, Larouci, Chirivella? Four teens including a 16 year old?? Are Shrewsbury Town being shown the respect they deserve? Is the FA Cup being shown the respect that it deserves?
For 46 minutes Jürgen Klopp might have been proved right, but truth was that Liverpool were lucky to be leading at half time. They were even luckier to be leading 2-0 with a gift of an own goal just 30 seconds into the second half and were lucky not to be reduced to ten men when substitute Cummings was brought down.
Ok their old friend VAR might have bailed them out of conceding a penalty had they had the technology installed at the New Meadow, but there’s an old saying ‘you get what you deserve in football’ and Shrewsbury certainly deserved their goal all be it a slice of luck thanks to Lee Mason’s poor eyesight, despite him showing a severe lack of balls not to send Larouci off for a foul clearly denying a goalscoring chance.
It mattered little though as the homeside got their reward. Cummings again like a knife through butter getting between the centre halves to coolly slot home. At 2-2 Shrewsbury even went for the jugular as only then Liverpool Manager Klopp decided to bring his star assets on. First Salah, then Firmino, but it was too late, the damage had been done. Shrewsbury earning the right to force a replay at Anfield. A huge pay day lies ahead, a huge performance was rewarded with a huge result, the fans on the pitch celebrating what is a massive away day for them too. The best team in the world they said? They weren’t even the best team in Shropshire.
Now Liverpool have an annoying extra game to play, another match to prepare for, yet another In a busy congested fixture program and one that Klopp could do without. But I blame Jürgen Klopp because through his own stupidity, through his own arrogance and through his own disregard for the greatest cup competition in the world, he has proven that he and his team are not quite as untouchable as they think.
In a way I feel sad, because I love the quirky German and for what he’s done in the game but I don’t love how he treated Shrewsbury Town Football Club, I do however love that he got what he deserved. More headache ahead and more needless cup ties to irritate him over selection and congestion all because he got it wrong.
Liverpool will probably win the replay at Anfield at a canter by four or five, but Liverpool had they shown the right amount of class, the right amount of dignity and had they selected the right players for the job in hand would have probably won at a canter yesterday too.
The fact they didn’t will now live forever in the hearts of those that were there, those that saw the mighty Liverpool come to town and get outplayed by little old Shrewsbury from the Meadow.
Final score: World Champions two, Sixty Six times Shropshire Senior Cup winners two. Note to Jurgen…. Don’t disregard your FA Cup opponents again.