Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp breathed a huge sigh of relief after his inexperienced and much-changed side came from behind to dig out a draw against Exeter City.
Exeter looked set to progress in the Emirates FA Cup third round as Tom Nichols put the Grecians ahead early on before Lee Holmes saw his corner embarrass Adam Bogdan and fly straight into the net on the stroke of half-time.
Exeter City 2-2 Liverpool
Emirates FA Cup
Friday 8 January 2016
Winning sides receive £67,500 from The FA prize fund
In between Jerome Sinclair levelled for a much-changed Liverpool side, showing 11 changes, but with just over 15 minutes remaining Smith pounced for Klopp’s men. Liverpool was without a senior centre-back after Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure were ruled out through injury and their inexperience at the back showed but Klopp was pleased with a job well done.
He said: “It was very difficult with the pitch but I think Exeter did really well, they played football in parts and perhaps that’s because they knew which areas to play in and where it was possible.
“We had a few good moments but today it was really difficult for us and I think you saw that tonight. What was surprising was that in a few one-on-one situation they were more robust than us so we have to work on that.
"There were at times too many easy flick-ons but we need to keep learning and improving as a team.
"The first goal was very unlucky for us and I think it was Exeter’s first offensive situation – we were weak and the second one was disappointing.
“Now we have drawn and we have to play again and I can’t believe the number of games we have to play, we will be there.”
“We didn’t park the bus and I think we gave it a real go and we’ve now got a trip to Anfield”
Tom Nichols Exeter City goalscorer
Exeter striker Nichols, who has been with the Grecians since the age of 11, said: “I thought the boys were brilliant and I think we thoroughly deserved the draw.
“We didn’t park the bus and I think we gave it a real go and we’ve now got a trip to Anfield.
“I had been doing some work with one of our coaches the day before who had told me I needed to run into the box quicker. It was a great ball in and thankfully I got on the end of it – it was a great start. It was a shame we couldn’t hold on though.
“It’s obviously not normally this full but the fans have been different class for the last four or five games, all credit must go to them, the atmosphere was unbelievable.”