LONDON: The sight of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino entering as substitutes late in the second half really summed up Liverpool’s desperation in their FA Cup match against supposed pushovers from the third tier on Sunday.
Even the two superstar forwards couldn’t prevent the world, European and likely English champions slumping to their most embarrassing result in years in a quaint market town near the Welsh border.
Liverpool squandered a two-goal lead and was held to a 2-2 draw by Shrewsbury Town in a riveting fourth-round match after second-half substitute Jason Cummins struck twice to inject some much-needed late magic into the competition.
The Shrews, 59 places below runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, faced a seemingly impossible task when Donald Love’s own goal 28 seconds after halftime put Juergen Klopp’s much-changed side 2-0 up after Curtis Jones had opened the scoring.
But unlike Championship side Fulham and League One outfit Tranmere Rovers, thrashed earlier on Sunday by Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, Shrewsbury staged some Cup heroics to roar back and shake their illustrious visitors.
Scottish striker Cummins began the comeback with a penalty after 65 minutes for a foul by Yasser Larouchi on Josh Laurent. Liverpool were rattled and the New Meadow stadium erupted when Cummins raced on to a long ball and fired past keeper Adrian.
In a nail-biting finale Klopp, who had made 11 changes to the side that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday, sent on Salah, Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Laurent almost won it for Shrewsbury with an audacious attempt.
The final whistle provoked a good-natured pitch invasion as Shrewsbury’s ecstatic fans celebrated their side’s best Cup result since beating Everton in the 2002-03 season.
It will also have put a smile on the faces of neutrals pining for a return of the FA Cup’s glory days.
The two Manchester clubs had no such problems against lower-league opponents in the fourth round.
United won 6-0 at third-tier Tranmere, after City beat 10-man Fulham 4-0.
Harry Maguire’s thunderbolt for United started a goal rush at Tranmere where the Reds scored five times before halftime. Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also scored.
Holders Manchester City’s task was made easier when Fulham’s Tim Ream was sent off after six minutes as he conceded a penalty which was converted by Ilkay Gundogan.
Bernardo Silva made it 2-0 and Gabriel Jesus scored twice after the break as City reached 100 goals for the season.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020