League Two Exeter were denied a memorable FA Cup, as a barely recognisable Liverpool side came from behind to force a third-round replay. All eyes were on the Reds with Barclays Premier League tests against Arsenal and Manchester United to come in the next week or so. Boss Jurgen Klopp decided to bring youth at St James Park.
Liverpool had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 at fourth tier Exeter City, but it was a close call, Exeter seeking a place in the fourth for the first time in 35 years.
Klopp changed all 11 players from Liverpool's last outing, the League Cup first leg victory at Stoke, handing out three debuts among his starting eleven and naming a side in which just two players -- Jose Enrique and Christian Benteke -- could boast more than four appearances for the club.
First goal was scored by Tom Nichols for Exeter. After Jerome Sinclair's equaliser, Reds boss Klopp saw Adam Bogdan's blunder allow Lee Holmes' corner to go straight into the net. Australia international Brad Smith, eventually ensured Exeter had to settle for the consolation of a lucrative replay at Anfield when he equalised for Liverpool in the closing stages.
While “a tad disappointed” with the result, Exeter manager Paul Tisdale could also see the silver lining. "It was a great cup tie and I felt we gave it a real go and I am really looking forward to the replay.”
Next month, Liverpool face German club Augsburg in the knock-out stages of the Europa League, in what will be the fourth competition the Reds enter this season.
"We have to play again, I can't believe that is another game but we will be there," said Klopp who admitted that he could not judge his young players on this one game alone.
"It's obvious what we have to learn in the future. We have to be more robust. It was a difficult pitch. Exeter did really well. Maybe they know which part of the pitch you can play football. It was really difficult for us today. On one-on-one situations they were more robust than our guys,” Klopp said after the game.