Liverpool’s youngest-ever starting line-up vindicated manager Juergen Klopp’s 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 to set up a fifth-round tie at Chelsea.
Klopp, whose side are 22 points clear and heading for a first English title for 30 years, was not even in attendance as a Liverpool side featuring only players from the U23 team edged past the League One side through Manchester United graduate Ro-Shaun Williams’ own goal.
Seven-times winners Liverpool have now reached the fifth round for the first time since Klopp took over in 2015.
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.
At an average age of 19 years and 102 days, it was the youngest line-up in Liverpool’s history, eclipsing the team – average age 19 years and 182 days – overwhelmed 5-0 at Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup quarter-final in December when the senior side were at the Club World Cup in Qatar.
Aged 19 years and five days, Toxteth-born Jones became the youngest first-team captain in Liverpool’s history.
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.
It will be the first time that Rooney – United and England’s all-time top scorer – has faced his former side since playing for Everton in a 2-0 defeat at Goodison on 1 January, 2018.
The Rams will host Manchester United in the week commencing 2 March.
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.
FA CUP 5TH ROUND DRAW
Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester City
Reading v Sheffield United
Chelsea v Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United
Leicester City v Birmingham City
Derby County v Manchester United
Southampton/Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City
Portsmouth v Arsenal