Argyle 0 Liverpool 1 - ReportArgyle 0
by Haden Tye
Argyle are out of the Emirates FA Cup.
Out, but not down.
The Pilgrims they will receive the plaudits of a nation for their battling display against Liverpool, in which the Reds edged past Argyle at a packed Home Park, winning 1-0 thanks to a Lucas Leiva header. The talk will all be about Argyle, though, as they did themselves proud, battling to the very last in an evening that will be remembered as a proud occasion rather than a slim defeat.
After a superb defensive display at Anfield ten days earlier, Derek Adams opted for a similar 11 to that of Saturday's 4-2 victory over Stevenage, with his only change the inclusion of Ryan Donaldson who was returning from injury, for the injured Connor Smith, who was still out with an ankle problem he picked up in a tackle that kick-started the counter attack for Argyle's fourth on Saturday. Adams included 17-year-old Alex Fletcher and 18-year-old Callum Rose on the Argyle bench, also.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made nine changes from his side that drew 1-1 at Old Trafford just three days ago. Compared to his eleven that played against Argyle at Anfield there were two differences, with Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge replacing Emre Can and Sheyi Ojo.
The stage was set. For the second time. If Anfield had provided comfort for Jurgen's men, then Home Park would provide splinters in the side. 54,000 people had witnessed history at Anfield as Argyle played the role of David, whilst Liverpool boasted the stature of Goliath but struggled to prove their dominance on the field.
This was different though. A crammed Home Park on a Wednesday night. This was Liverpool stripped back to their bare bones, against a determined Argyle team being roared on by a sea of green. Argyle once again had their wall of noise and this time it echoed from all corners. Everything was in place to unsettle Jurgen's superstars, but it wasn't going to happen. Was it?
The Pilgrims started well. With the Green Army behind them, Argyle seemed happy to attack. In the same breathe, the Pilgrims were more than aware of their defensive duties. The Reds controlled the ball, and moved it at pace. The Greens sat deep once more.
Liverpool won a corner on the left with just under 20 minutes played, as Jake Jervis blocked an Alberto Moreno cross. Phillipe Coutinho took the corner and whipped in a cross to the front post. Time stood still for a moment, as did Argyle's defence, as a bursting run from Lucas Leiva surpassed multiple green shirts, and the Brazilian headed past a helpless Luke McCormick in the Argyle goal for the opener.
Home Park reacted though, and invigorated the Greens. A Graham Carey shot beamed across the face of Loris Karius from left to right and was punched away by Liverpool's number one. The ball fell back to Argyle, and ping-ponged around Liverpool's box, but at the crucial moment Donaldson couldn't get his shot away.
The Pilgrims surged forwards once more. A wide lofted ball to the right saw Jervis beat Moreno to the header and find the feet of Oscar Threlkeld. The Argyle right-back poked the ball past the last line of the Liverpool defence and chased his pass to the right wing. Threlkeld played a low ball across the face of the Liverpool goal and was attacked by an under pressure Arnold Garita, who's tame shot was turned away for an Argyle corner.
Whilst the Reds always looked menacing on the break, Argyle had added a composure and an intent to their play. The half-time whistle brought the end to a mixed half; whilst Liverpool's opener will frustrate Adams, Argyle were shifting the ball with confidence and looked a genuine threat.
Argyle started the second-half the way they ended the first. Some nice play down the right led to Jervis teeing up David Fox, who fizzed a low shot to the bottom right corner of the Liverpool goal, but it was saved comfortably by Karius.
The Pilgrims continued to plug away at the Reds. Garita continue to battle away at every loose ball, and help Argyle to push further up the field. Fox was magnificent in the middle for Argyle and retained possession on countless occasions. With 20 minutes to play, Argyle very much still had a chance.
Whilst Liverpool had chances to double their lead, notably a blocked McCormick kick that nearly rebound into the Argyle net and a Sturridge strike that McCormick blocked, Argyle had pressed and battled all evening. Then, the moment that the Green Army had longed for all evening nearly came.
A launched ball into the right of Liverpool's penalty area was met by Sonny Bradley's head, and lofted over the final defender. It was at a difficult angle but Jervis made light work of it, and rifled an overhead kick towards the far left corner. A moment of suspense whilst the ball lingered in the air was met with heartbreak as it ricochet of the post and went wide.
The visitors had a chance to finish the tie off with four minutes to go, as they got a penalty for a Yann Songo'o tackle on Moreno. Liverpool's left-back looked to have overrun the ball, but managed to hit an overhit cross just before being clattered by Songo'o. Divock Origi stepped up to take the kick, but hit a tame penalty to the right of McCormick and the Argyle goalie not only saved, but also caught the shot.
With time running out, the Pilgrims pushed further forward, which offered Liverpool the chance to break. The visitors could not capitalise, though and had to withstand Argyle until the very end.
It will be an evening that the Green Army will remember fondly, as should the whole of the South West. Argyle went toe-to-toe with a team worth millions, and very nearly made it count.
So: back to the league, but that is not too bad is it?
After all, we are second. All to play for, now.
Argyle (4-3-3): 23 Luke McCormick (capt); 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 4 Yann Songo'o, 15 Sonny Bradley, 16 Ben Purrington; 11 Ryan Donaldson (27 Craig Tanner 66), 24 David Fox, 10 Graham Carey; 14 Jake Jervis, 26 Arnold Garita (20 Louis Rooney 72), 8 Jordan Slew (5 Nauris Bulvitis 80). Substitutes (not used): 3 Gary Sawyer, 21 Vincent Dorel (gk), 30 Alex Fletcher, 32 Callum Rose.
Booked: Songo'o 86, Purrington 90.
Liverpool (4-3-3): 1 Loris Karius; 66 Trent Alexander-Arnold, 12 Joe Gomez, 21 Lucas Leica (capt), 18 Alberto Moreno; 35 Kelvin Stewart, 53 Ovie Ejaria, 10 Phillipe Coutinho (59 Harry Wilson 65); 27 Divock Origi, 15 Daniel Sturridge (54 Sheyi Ojo 76), 58 Ben Woodburn. Substitutes (not used): 17 Ragnar Klavan, 22 Simon Mignolet (gk), 49 Jordan Williams, 56 Connor Randall, 61 Paulo Alves.
Booked: Gomez 25, Ejaria 51.
Referee: Graham Scott.
Attendance: 17,048 (2,456)