The FA Cup
ExeterExeter City2LiverpoolLiverpool2

Exeter City 2-2 Liverpool

By Gary RoseBBC Sport

League Two Exeter were denied a memorable FA Cup upset as a barely recognisable Liverpool side came from behind to force a third-round replay.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp had made 11 changes and his side fell behind early on when Tom Nichols poked in.

Jerome Sinclair equalised with a low finish but the hosts retook the lead when goalkeeper Adam Bogdan conceded direct from a Lee Holmes corner.

With time running out, Brad Smith rescued Liverpool with a neat finish.

The replay at Anfield means Exeter are set for a cash windfall, with Sporting Intelligence estimating it will be worth about £700,000external-link to the Devon club.

Read about how the game unfolded

Klopp's gamble almost proves costly

The average age of the Liverpool starting line-up on Friday was 22

Liverpool have been hit hard by injuries this season, with enough first team players on the sidelines to make up an alternative starting XI.

Consequently, Reds boss Klopp made wholesale changes for Friday's game, with just three players boasting more than four first-team appearances.

Klopp's entertaining post-match interview

A number of those included in the side had been recalled from loan spells elsewhere, including midfielder Kevin Stewart, whose spell at League One Swindon was ended just a few hours before the Exeter clash.

Stewart, defender Tiago Ilori and winger Ryan Kent were making their first-team debuts for the club, and the team's lack of any significant time playing together was immediately evident.

They lacked cohesion, with Sinclair's goal their only effort of note in a first half Exeter edged, and as the game wore on the home side grew in confidence.

Klopp's gamble looked to have failed until Smith took advantage of a tiring Exeter to spare his manager's blushes, but the German has previously complained about his side's busy fixture schedule and the draw has added another game to that.

Liverpool's injured players
Liverpool currently have enough injured first-team players to field a strong alternative outfield 10

Bogdan's blunder

It has been a season to forget for Bogdan so far.

The Hungarian keeper made his Premier League debut against Watford on 20 December when number one Simon Mignolet was injured, but made the headlines for the wrong reasons when he dropped the ball from a corner to allow the Hornets to score.

Against Exeter, it was once again a corner that caught Bogdan out.

With the game approaching half-time, Holmes swung the ball in and it dipped under the crossbar as a perplexed, out-of-position Bogdan flapped meekly at it with an Exeter player in close attention.

Match of the Day co-commentator Danny Murphy was not impressed: "Unbelievable. The keeper has to be stronger - you can't be bullied by a striker. You're stronger than him and he's weaker than you."

Excellent Exeter

Exeter are 16th in League Two and went into the game on the back of four successive defeats, but they clearly sensed the opportunity to cause an upset from the start.

They took the game to Liverpool, pushing their players forward at every opportunity and were good value for their ninth-minute lead.

Even after Liverpool's equaliser Exeter did not alter their approach to their game. Instead it was their opponents who rarely progressed beyond the halfway line.

After Holmes caught out Bogdan to restore Exeter's lead, it looked like the hosts were on course for a famous FA Cup upset.

Ultimately, their exertions took their toll as Smith took advantage of tiring legs, but a replay at Anfield is the least they deserved for a determined display.

Exeter's average position map (left) shows how determined they were to attack Liverpool in the first half, with six of their players spending most of their time in the opponent's half. They were rewarded with two goals

What they said

Exeter boss Paul Tisdale: "I'm a football manager and I want to win games. When you're 2-1 up and defending a lead with 10 minutes to go then you're disappointed. But we got a draw against a very good side and have a replay at Anfield. We have no investor so every penny counts. At the end of the day we've put on a really good show."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on BBC One: "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.

"The first goal was unlucky for us - it was their first attack. I won't say anything about the second goal - they showed it live on the BBC. I can't believe we have to play another game now. You want it like this, so we will be there."

'Liverpool youngsters will learn'

"It was a brilliant 94 minutes of football," said BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer. "From start to finish it was entertaining. What a night for the Exeter chairman and the football club.

"As for Liverpool, the experience the kids will get from the game will carry them on for the rest of their careers."

Man of the match - Tom Nichols

Tom Nichols
Tom Nichols' early goal - his 10th for Exeter this season - settled any nerves the hosts may have had and allowed them to take the game to Liverpool

The stats you need to know

  • Liverpool have lost their last three FA Cup third-round replays, all of which were at home to teams from a lower league.
  • Liverpool have not won a match they've been losing at half-time since 14 February 2015 - an FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace.
  • Adam Bogdan has conceded five goals in his last two games for Liverpool, having conceded just two in his first three.
  • Only three of Liverpool's starting XI had played four or more games for the club.
  • Tom Nichols has scored three of Exeter's last four goals in all competitions.
  • There are 76 league places between Liverpool and Exeter.

What next?

The date of the replay is yet to be confirmed, but both teams will be in the hat for the fourth-round draw, which takes place on Monday and is live on The One Show on BBC One from 19:00 GMT.



Formation 4-1-3-2

  • 1Olejnik
  • 6RibeiroSubstituted forDaviesat 66'minutes
  • 39Brown
  • 15Moore-Taylor
  • 3Woodman
  • 26Tillson
  • 14Nicholls
  • 4NobleSubstituted forOakleyat 62'minutes
  • 10HolmesSubstituted forGrantat 84'minutes
  • 18Read
  • 20Nichols


  • 5McAllister
  • 8Oakley
  • 11Davies
  • 13Morrison
  • 16Hoskins
  • 21Hamon
  • 31Grant


Formation 4-4-2

  • 34Bogdan
  • 56Randall
  • 26IloriSubstituted forMaguireat 77'minutes
  • 3Enrique Sanchez Diaz
  • 44B Smith
  • 40KentSubstituted forChirivellaat 57'minutes
  • 32Brannagan
  • 35Stewart
  • 53Vilaca Teixeira
  • 48SinclairSubstituted forOjoat 71'minutes
  • 9Benteke


  • 20Lallana
  • 21Leiva
  • 39Fulton
  • 54Ojo
  • 57Maguire
  • 68Chirivella
  • 87Masterson
Stuart Attwell

Match Stats

Home TeamExeterAway TeamLiverpool
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Exeter City 2, Liverpool 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Exeter City 2, Liverpool 2.

  3. Post update

    José Enrique (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Jordan Tillson (Exeter City).

  5. Post update

    Attempt missed. Jordan Moore-Taylor (Exeter City) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Craig Woodman with a cross following a corner.

  6. Post update

    Corner, Exeter City. Conceded by Joe Maguire.

  7. Post update

    Attempt missed. Brad Smith (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Connor Randall.

  8. Substitution

    Substitution, Exeter City. Joel Grant replaces Lee Holmes.

  9. Post update

    Kevin Stewart (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Josh Read (Exeter City).

  11. Post update

    Attempt saved. João Teixeira (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Christian Benteke.

  12. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Jordan Tillson (Exeter City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  13. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Josh Read (Exeter City) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Lee Holmes with a cross.

  14. Post update

    Attempt missed. Kevin Stewart (Liverpool) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is too high following a set piece situation.

  15. Post update

    Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Troy Brown (Exeter City).

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Liverpool. Joe Maguire replaces Tiago Ilori because of an injury.

  18. Goal!

    Goal! Exeter City 2, Liverpool 2. Brad Smith (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

  19. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Kevin Stewart (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Connor Randall.

  20. Post update

    José Enrique (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Friday 8th January 2016

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