A Shrewsbury Town own goal helped Liverpool advance to the FA Cup fifth round with a 1-0 win at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Ro-Shaun Williams inexplicably headed a Liverpool long ball over the head of his keeper in the 75th minute to give the hosts a lead they’d hold onto for an improbable, but deserved result.
Jurgen Klopp came good on his decision to rest his first-team players for the replay during the Premier League winter break after the first meeting finished 2-2, with Liverpool fielding a team of youth players — the youngest side to ever take the field for the club in a senior match — and Under-23 boss Neil Critchley manning the dugout.
The Liverpool youngsters acquitted themselves well in opening 30 minutes against the more experienced League One opposition, with Neco Williams flashing a low shot just wide of the far post shortly after the half-hour mark.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes and the Anfield faithful and travelling Shrewsbury supporters gave their teams a rousing ovation as they headed to the dressing room deadlocked at 0-0.
A nice team move almost saw Liverpool take the lead, but Max O’Leary did well to keep Williams’ near post shot out after Harvey Elliot’s clever pass gave him an open look at the goal.
The visitors then looked to have found a way through shortly after, but a VAR intervention overruled Shaun Whalley’s headed goal because of offside in the buildup.
With Liverpool looking increasingly likely to score, Williams gifted the home side the team when he rose up and headed past O’Leary to send Anfield into rapturous applause.
The result sees Liverpool move on to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (streaming live on March 3 at 2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+) in the round of 16 when the cup competition resumes play in the beginning of March.
Klopp, whose side are 22 points clear in the Premier League and heading for a first English title for 30 years, was not even in attendance for the match, but there can be little doubt that the result left him smiling, particularly after the heat he received from some quarters for not using first-team players in the replay.
“It was just unbelievable,” Neco 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.”
Liverpool, unbeaten in 40 games at Anfield in all competitions, are next in action away at Norwich City on Feb. 15 when Klopp’s seniors return to continue their title procession.