Liverpool ease past Oldham without much trouble
No repeat of last season’s humiliation
Iago Aspas of Liverpool celebrates his goal against Oldham.
Liverpool 2 Oldham 0
There was no repeat of last season’s humiliation but it told of another Liverpool exertion against Oldham Athletic that Brendan Rodgers took pride only in a competitive Anfield appearance for his son, Anton. For his own players the Liverpool manager reserved irritation and relief.
Liverpool booked a fourth-round tie at Burton Albion or Bournemouth without the drama or worry of last season’s exit against the same opposition and in that sense it was mission accomplished for Rodgers.
Iago Aspas scored his first goal for the club since a £7.7m transfer from Celta Vigo in the summer and ending the game with 10 men caused no tremors thanks to a late own-goal from the unfortunate James Tarkowski.
On the surface it was a routine win but it required the introduction of three South American substitutes to lift Liverpool from a first-half stupor. That was a compliment to an Oldham performance that belied their 19th position in League One but it was an annoyance to Rodgers that Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Leiva and finally Luis Suarez were required at all.
“It was for tactical reasons, we needed to be better,” he said of the interval decision to replace Victor Moses and Luis Alberto with Coutinho and Lucas respectively. “We needed more speed in our play and more intensity in our game. I didn’t want to do it – Lucas and Coutinho played a lot of hard games over Christmas – but the last thing I wanted was for the game to go to a replay. As a manager you can either wait for it to happen or create it. Sometimes you have to change the momentum with your substitutions. Lucas and Coutinho brought more intensity to our play and that allowed us to take control in the second half.”
Rodgers’ makeshift starting line-up was justified given the imperative of qualifying for the Champions League but included the insurance of an experienced defence, unlike in the fourth-round exit at Boundary Park last season. Only four players remained from Oldham’s 3-2 win but it was another testing afternoon for Liverpool.
Lee Johnson’s men passed intelligently, with James Wesolowski a key influence in midfield, and defended with discipline. They also had several inviting set pieces to unnerve Liverpool but, unlike last season, no battering ram in the form of Matt Smith to inflict damage. “We played well, we worked our socks off and we showed great energy after going a goal down,” said the youngest manager in the Football League. “For a 20-minute period you wouldn’t have known who was the Premier League team.”
Liverpool took the lead after the break. David Mellor floated a cross to the far post where the previously anonymous Aspas swept a fine finish back into the far corner. Just as Liverpool appeared set for a nervous finale with 10 men, when Agger limped off after Suarez had came on as the third substitute, Sterling’s shot struck Tarkowski and flew past his own goalkeeper.