Liverpool lost 2-1 to West Ham on Tuesday evening, in their FA Cup fourth round replay, with Angelo Ogbonna’s last-gasp header sending the Reds crashing out.
West Ham 2-1 Liverpool
FA Cup Fourth Round Replay– Upton Park – Tuesday 9th February 2016
Goals: Coutinho (48); Antonio (45), Ogbonna (120)
There was plenty of shock among supporters when Liverpool’s starting eleven was announced an hour before kick-off, with the Reds looking horrifying weak for such a tricky game.
Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Saturday, with the hapless Simon Mignolet the only player to keep his place, ironically.
Lucas Leiva started at centre-back alongside Tiago Ilori, Brad Smith and Jon Flanagan were at full-back and Pedro Chirivella, Kevin Stewart and Joao Teixeira all started too.
The biggest positive was the return of Philippe Coutinho, who has been missing since the start of last month. He began proceedings, as did Jordon Ibe and much-maligned striker Christian Benteke. Daniel Sturridge was on the bench.
It is fair to say that Liverpool were underdogs, following that team news.
The Reds’ inexperienced side made a positive start, with full debutant Chirivella one of many not looking daunted by the occasion.
Benteke had the first chance of the game, with Darren Randolph saving the Belgian’s close-range volley from a corner. Joey O’Brien’s deflected shot hit the post at the other end, in what was an interesting opening 20 minutes.
Teixiera dragged a shot wide following a slick counter-attack near the half-hour mark, but the Portuguese should really have opened the scoring.
Coutinho frustratingly hit the post soon after, and Benteke was again thwarted by Randolph, as Liverpool continued to really impress.
Dimitri Payet then almost struck the post with a free-kick, and Mignolet kept out the rebound, as the match really burst into life.
West Ham were ahead just a minute before half-time, sadly. Michail Antonio finished clinically on the volley from six yards, and Liverpool had it all to do in the second-half. Brad Smith’s marking left plenty to be desired.
There were no changes at the interval, and you couldn’t help but wonder whether the returning Sturridge would feature sooner rather than later.
Liverpool were level almost straight after the restart, and it was the talisman Coutinho who was the hero.
The Brazilian deliberately passed his free-kick under the West Ham wall and into the net, sending the travelling Reds supporters wild in the process.
Benteke, who was enduring a frustrating night, couldn’t squeeze the ball into the net shortly after, as Liverpool dominated.
Sturridge made his long-awaited return in the 59th minute, replacing goalscorer Coutinho. Divock Origi also came on at the same time, with the young striker brought on in place of Teixeira.
Ilori was very fortunate not to concede a penalty midway through the second-half, as the game continued to be incredibly evenly poised into the last 15 minutes.
Benteke’s free-kick was kept out by the impressive Randall, while Enner Valencia’s late header looped wide of the target.
Ibe nearly won it at the death with a left-footed strike, but extra-time was called for to see who wound make it to round five.
Mark Noble forced Mignolet into a decent stop in the 97th minute, while Benteke volleyed agonisingly wide minutes later. He then missed a one-on-one with Randolph, as his poor Liverpool career continues.
Sturridge poked a 20-yard strike just over the bar in the second period of extra-time, while Origi shot wide from a tight angle.
Sturridge and Flanagan had further chances, but it was West Ham who stole it at the death. Angelo Ogbonna headed home from a free-kick in the dying seconds, and Liverpool were out of the FA Cup.
It was long night full of positives, but an ultimately heartbreaking one.
TIA Man of the Match: Lucas Leiva
West Ham: Randolph, O’Brien (Moses 83′), Reid (Collins 64′), Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate (Carroll 75′), Obiang, Noble, Antonio, Payet, Valencia.
Subs not used: Adrian, Oxford, Cullen, Parfitt-Williams
Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Ilori, Lucas, Smith, Chirivella (Milner 101′, Stewart, Ibe, Coutinho (Sturridge 59′), Teixeira (Origi 59′), Benteke.
Subs not used: Ward, Enrique, Henderson, Randall.
Referee: Roger East
WEST HAM 2-1 LIVERPOOL
REACTIONS: “Brave performance”, “A bitter end”
RATINGS: Lucas and Stewart impress