Liverpool solid across the board in FA Cup win vs. Exeter City
Liverpool got the job done against a spirited but limited Exeter side, 3-0, to set up an intriguing FA Cup fourth round clash with West Ham.
Despite home advantage, manager Jurgen Klopp gave the visitors more respect than the first game by selecting a few senior players. One, Joe Allen, got the opening goal which helped settle the Reds down and another, Jordon Ibe, enjoyed his evening with a number of dangerous runs.
Both Sheyi Ojo and Joao Texeira opened their Liverpool accounts with fine goals that gave the score-line some respectability for the Premier League side after a turbulent first game almost saw them knocked out of the FA Cup.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Simon Mignolet, 6 -- Hard to rate as he had so little to do. He will have enjoyed this quiet evening after too much focus was put upon his new contract all week.
DF Connor Randall, 6 -- Made way for the return of crowd favourite Jon Flanagan on 50 minutes. Not ever tested defensively so could have come forward more in the first half. He actually did make a couple of good attacking runs in the second half before being replaced.
DF Tiago Ilori, 7 -- Never really tested, even when Exeter brought on their "big guns" in the second half. Made one vital clearance late in the game but was generally calm and methodical. Will he ever get to show his ability against stronger opposition? With Liverpool's injury record, you never know.
DF Jose Enrique, 6 -- Also safe and secure, had one or two lackadaisical moments early on but rarely troubled after that. Economic passing usually found another red shirt and didn't disappoint for what is probably his final game for Liverpool.
DF Brad Smith, 7 -- Another good performance from the Australian who has already proven he has a future at Anfield. Set up the opener for Allen with a typical bravura run forward, showed strength in defence when needed and was always available for attacks. One of the rare bright spots this season.
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MF Jordon Ibe, 7 -- Almost too easy for Ibe at times, he was clearly the biggest threat all evening and showed more purpose after the break. He smashed a wonderful shot onto the crossbar. Moved out left to accommodate Ojo, he possibly should have been left where he was, although the substitute did score the vital second.
MF Cameron Brannagan, 6 -- Busy and tried his luck from long-range on a couple of occasions, he worked hard in Liverpool's engine room and still found time to get into Exeter's box occasionally. Hasn't disappointed during his rare appearances but will need to show something extra to prove he's worthy of more selections in future.
MF Joe Allen, 7 -- A storming performance against Stoke and goals against Arsenal and Exeter, it seems a strange time to be reading stories about the "Welsh Xavi" leaving Liverpool. Got forward to good effect and harassed the opposition with his usual appetite for hard work. Was Klopp saving him for the next league on Saturday by replacing him shortly after the hour mark?
MF Kevin Stewart, 7 -- Did a little more on the night than his fellow midfielder Brannagan; he was reckless in possession once or twice, which might have been punished by better opposition. In fact he almost got Smith booked with one poor pass. Plenty to admire though, and despite looking a little tired after an hour, he found a second wind and kept going admirably. Another who can be proud of his first games for the Reds.
MF Joao Teixeira, 7 -- Lots of quality touches, culminating in a fine goal that sealed victory for his side. Shades of Philippe Coutinho in his play, he produced a classy cross in the first half which Christian Benteke should have converted. Good reports from his loan spell at Brighton did not lie and he may even get some game time in the Premier League on this evidence.
FW Christian Benteke, 6 -- A curious performance, he should have scored a couple of goals himself but did help set up the first and third for others. Some very odd positioning throughout the evening and seems to do better instinctively, rather than when he gets time to think. Attitude was good all night, typified by him desperately trying to score until the very last kick of the game.
DF Jon Flanagan, 6 -- A standing ovation for the long-awaited return of the man who's had two years of his career cruelly taken from him due to injury. One or two forward passes were an indication of the old class, which will help gloss over one or two forgivably rusty moments. Great to have him back.
MF Sheyi Ojo, 7 -- Scored a fine goal within 10 minutes of replacing Allen, he enjoyed himself against a tiring Exeter back four. There will hopefully be more to come.
MF Pedro Chirivella, NR -- Presumably brought on in the 79th minute to preserve Ibe's fitness for the next league game, he settled into midfield and helped see out the game.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.