Liverpool started their quest for this season’s Carling Cup away to Exeter down in Devon. A banana skin of a tie for Liverpool with fresh in the minds of Lverpool supporters was last season’s debacle against Northampton. So Liverpool travelled down to Exeter determined to avoid such an upset. Exeter would make this a very difficult tie for Liverpool as this is like a Cup Final to team like them who find themselves 60 places lower in the League ladder.
Liverpool travelled down south with a very strong squad for their third round tie. Dalglish did make eight changes to the side which beat Arsenal at the weekend, but he fielded a very strong team mixed with youth and experience. A completely different defence from Saturday read, Flanagan and Robinson at full backs with Skrtel and Danny Wilson in the centre of defence, with Reina in goal. Big summer signings Henderson and Adam also started alongside Spearing and Maxi with Meireles and Suarez also returning to the line-up.
A colourful and pact crowd in this tight little ground at Exeter, with high hopes of a major upset. Liverpool on the other hand were in no mood to let this happen as Liverpool fielded a very strong side, with great experience on the bench.
It was Liverpool who threatened first with Skrtel side-footing a shot into the side netting from an Adam corner. Then Adam had a low drive saved by Kyrsiak. But Exeter did come into the game and Nardiello headed straight at Reina when he found himself unmarked at a free-kick.
Then Meireles landed awkwardly on his shoulder following a strong challenge, the Liverpool midfielder having to be replaced clutching his injured shoulder, Andy Carroll took his place. Midway through the half Liverpool took the lead after good work by Maxi and Henderson’s cross eventually falling to Suarez who drilled a low shot into the net.
Liverpool were on top and controlling possession and almost doubled their lead but Adam shot wide after Carroll set him up. Then right on half-time Suarez chipped an effort just over the bar.
Liverpool got a fright at the start of the second half when Nardiello beat Reina to a long ball, but his lobbed effort went just wide. But Liverpool got their important second goal when a Henderson pass sent Suarez down the right and his low cut back was slid into the net by the onrushing Maxi.
With Liverpool in the ascendency, they netted their third minutes later when Carroll worked space for himself on the edge of the box before unleashing an unstoppable shot past the helpless Kyrsiak.
With the contest over the dangerous Suarez was replaced by Downing who almost made it four when he cut in from the right and hit a near post drive which Krsiak did well to drive.
The home side were awarded a penalty with ten minutes to go when Skrtel upended Nardiello in the box, the striker took the spot-kick himself, firing past Reina and giving the home support something to cheer. Liverpool withstood some late pressure comfortably and came way from Exeter happy with a 3-1 win.
After last season’s disappointment in the Carling Cup I was very pleased to see Kenny field a very strong team with experience on the bench. Kenny showing the respect the competition and the opposition deserves, when far too often in recent years we have failed to do this. A good mixture of youth and experience which brought about a very professional performance from Liverpool as they played some great football and kept possession for lengthy spells. A great attitude shown by the players in what could have been a very tricky tie. But Exeter were not really given much encouragement of an upset as Liverpool controlled the game.
Man Of The Match – Suarez – superb once again scoring his third goal of the season in as many games, but his attitude and work ethic is really impressive, where many players could have found it hard to get excited about a midweek trip to Exeter.
written by Jamie McLaughlin website at www.anfieldnews.com