Following a raft of injuries which left Klopp with a depleted pool of senior players, the German had little choice but to field a young and inexperienced starting XI against League 2 side Exeter. Five of these players were making their Liverpool debuts and very few had ever played together. As is usually the case when pitted against lower league opposition in the early rounds of the FA Cup, Exeter were fully pumped up and full of energy, not afraid to go head to head with Liverpool. Nonetheless, the youngsters did well to come back from behind on two occasions to rescue a draw and a replay at Anfield, keeping Liverpool in the cup. As Klopp said in his post-match interview, another match is hardly what Liverpool needed right now, but he is likely to field a similar lineup again. Here’s how I rated our players on the night.
Adam Bogdan- 3/10
Another opportunity for Bogdan, another game to forget. Bogdan was beaten directly from a corner kick and should have done far better to clear what was an admittedly well taken set piece, but no professional goalkeeper should be outfoxed that easily. It remains a mystery why Liverpool ever signed the second choice keeper from Bolton.
Connor Randall- 5/10
A difficult evening for the stand-in right back. He got forward well during the first half and put a few decent deliveries into the area, but throughout the game we was left exposed down the right-hand side and should have done more to prevent crosses coming into the Liverpool box on several occasions.
Tiago Ilori- 5/10
Finally making his long-awaited Liverpool debut after signing for the club back in September 2013, it was a difficult evening to judge Ilori who has hardly played any football all season after a frustrating loan spell at Aston Villa. He made some important blocks and interceptions, but his concentration wavered as the game went on and he was replaced with 15 minutes to go.
Jose Enrique- 4/10
Hardly looked like one of the three senior players in the side, Enrique made his first appearance in almost a year, playing in the unfamiliar role of left-sided centre back, although at times it was difficult to tell where he was supposed to be playing. He was badly caught out of position for the first Exeter goal, before being easily out-paced and failing to prevent the cross which lead to the goal. It’s something of a mystery why he’s still at the club.
Brad Smith- 7/10
One of Liverpool’s brightest performers on the night, this was another impressive display by the Australian left back. He showed boundless energy and pace to get up and down the wing all night, supporting the attack well and covering his duties in defence. Excellent finish to score the equaliser- his first Liverpool goal. Starting to look like a very capable backup for Alberto Moreno.
Kevin Stewart- 5/10
After spending the first half of the season on loan at Swindon, Stewart made his Liverpool debut, starting in a defensive midfield role. He kept things neat and tidy and used his physicality well to win back possession several times, although his quality on the ball was limited. At the age of 22, it looks unlikely he’ll have a future at the club.
Cameron Brannagan- 6/10
A quietly impressive performance by Brannagan who started alongside Stewart in central midfield. He used the ball sensibly and looked calm and composed in possession, also playing some incisive forward passes. Lovely piece of skill to fool a defender with a drag-back before floating in a perfectly weighted cross from which Benteke should have buried the header. A good night’s work.
Ryan Kent- 5/10
Started brightly, showing his confidence and agility on the ball and wasn’t afraid to run at defenders when he got the chance, although he lost possession more often than not. Sent a decent ball in during the build up to the first Liverpool goal, but gradually faded and was replaced after 57 minutes. You can tell there’s a talented player there.
Joao Teixeira- 7/10
You could tell from his confidence and swagger that Teixeira knew he was a cut above the rest, and he played like it as well. Always looked like he had more time than anyone else on the ball, showing some real quality with some neat flicks and dribbles, although his final pass was sometimes rushed and overweighted. Looks like a really sharp, gifted midfielder and also tracked back well on multiple occasions. Turning 23 this month, Teixeira is running out of time to prove himself at Liverpool but looks worthy of further first-team opportunities on this display.
Jerome Sinclair- 5/10
Reacted well to a loose ball in the box to coolly slot the equaliser into the bottom corner for his first Liverpool goal, but faded out of the action thereafter and contributed little else of note before being replaced after 71 minutes.
Christian Benteke- 3/10
You want your senior players to step up on occasions like this and lead by example, but Benteke was alarmingly anonymous throughout the match. Stand-in captain on the night, Benteke really struggled to influence the game whatsoever, except for a few flick-ons here and there. You could argue he didn’t get much service, but he should have buried a header from close range in the second half from Brannagan’s cross. For a £32.5 million striker, the fans expect much, much more.
Sheyi Ojo- 7/10
Replacing Sinclair after 71 minutes, Ojo made his Liverpool debut and helped changed the game in his team’s favour with a highly encouraging cameo performance. Was never afraid to take people on, and delivered the cross which led to Smith’s equaliser. Should also have been awarded a penalty after being clattered over in the box. He could have an important role to play this season, especially with Jordon Ibe and Philippe Coutinho out through injury.
Pedro Chirivella- 4/10
Replacing Kent after 57 minutes, Chirivella slotted into central midfield but took a while to get settled into the game with a couple of sloppy, misplaced passes and moments of poor control. Was involved in the build-up to Smith’s equaliser with a well-weighted pass to Ojo.
Joe Maguire- N/A
Another debutant, Maguire, usually a left-back by trade, filled in at centre back for the final 15 minutes in place of Ilori. Cleared his lines well, didn’t do anything wrong.