LONDON (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, it seems, can do no wrong after his youngsters vindicated his decision to rest his entire first-team squad by beating third-tier Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in their FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield on Tuesday.
Klopp, whose side are 22 points clear and heading for a first English title for 30 years, was not even in attendance but would have been smiling as Ro-Shaun Williams’s unfortunate 75th-minute own goal sealed victory and a fifth-round clash with Chelsea.
Seven-times winners Liverpool, whose starting lineup was the youngest in their history, had a let-off as Shrewsbury, backed by 8,000 fans, had a goal ruled out via VAR with the score 0-0.
They were worthy winners though as Liverpool reached the fifth round for the first time since Klopp took over in 2015.
Wayne Rooney will face his old club Manchester United in the fifth round after he netted a penalty for Derby County in their 4-2 win over fourth-tier Northampton Town.
Newcastle United edged past third-tier Oxford United 3-2 thanks to a superb extra-time winner by Allan Saint-Maximin.
Steve Bruce’s side, held at home, had been cruising with a 2-0 lead but Oxford hit back to level with Nathan Holland’s sublime volley in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Newcastle have reached the fifth round for the first time since 2006 and will face Championship side West Bromwich Albion.
The night’s other replays were decided by penalties with Reading beating Cardiff after a 3-3 draw while Birmingham City edged out Coventry City after it finished 2-2 after extra time.
Klopp said after his side squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Shrewsbury that he would not use any first-team players for the replay as it would eat into his side’s two-week breather courtesy of the inaugural Premier League break.
As against Aston Villa in a League Cup quarter-final in December, he gave under-23 manager Neil Critchley the reins.
On that occasion Liverpool’s ‘kids’ suffered a 5-0 loss, but they proved too technical for Shrewsbury.
Critchley’s side, with an average age of 19, dominated possession in the first half without offering much goal threat against a Shrewsbury side unable to impose themselves.
Shrewsbury, who have twice reached the last eight and knocked out Everton in 2002-03, improved after the break and their fans were in raptures when Shaun Whalley headed in from close range, only for their cheers to be silenced when a VAR check ruled the effort out for offside.
The visitors then suffered a double whammy as the dangerous Neco Williams launched a long cross-field pass which former Manchester United graduate Williams nodded past his keeper.
“It was just unbelievable,” Williams said. “It was a night that we will remember for a long time, especially the debutants. The whole team dug in and we kept going to the final whistle.
“The lads were excellent and hopefully we will do the same against Chelsea in the next round. Every team Liverpool put out will put everything out there on the pitch.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)
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