LONDON: Liverpool surrendered a two-goal lead as they were held to a 2-2 draw by third-tier Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday after second-half substitute Jason Cummins struck twice to inject some much-needed late magic into the competition.
The Shrews, 59 places below runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, faced a seemingly impossible task when Donald Love’s own goal 28 seconds after halftime put Juergen Klopp’s much-changed side 2-0 up after Curtis Jones had opened the scoring.
But unlike Championship side Fulham and League One outfit Tranmere Rovers, thrashed earlier on Sunday by Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, Shrewsbury staged some Cup heroics to roar back and shake their illustrious visitors.
Scottish striker Cummins began the comeback with a penalty after 65 minutes for a foul by Yasser Larouchi on Josh Laurent. Liverpool were rattled and the New Meadow stadium erupted when Cummins raced on to a long ball and fired past keeper Adrian.
In a nailbiting finale Klopp, who had made 11 changes to the side that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday, even sent on Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Laurent almost won it for Shrewsbury with an audacious attempt.
The final whistle provoked a good-natured pitch invasion as Shrewsbury’s ecstatic fans celebrated their side’s best Cup result since beating Everton in the 2002-03 season.
It will also have put a smile on the faces of neutrals pining for a return of the FA Cup’s glory days.
“I told the players at halftime that the game was there for them,” said Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts.
“The belief within the group is unbelievable. Jason (Cummings) came on (after 60 minutes) and he’s a goalscorer.
“I was waiting and waiting to put him on then I finally did and he gets the chances and takes them.”
Shrewsbury’s reward will be a replay at Anfield.
“We just said to the lads, ‘You could have won it, but you all wanted to go back to Anfield didn’t you?’” Ricketts said.
Liverpool‘s lineup was not the familiar-looking one that has seen them waltz 16 points clear towards a first league title in 30 years. But it still contained the likes of Champions League final scorer Divock Origi, Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren.
Klopp has never taken seven-time winners Liverpool past the fourth round but when 18-year-old Jones finished well after 15 minutes and then Love got his angles wrong when making a clearance and gifted Liverpool a second it seemed like job done.
But Shrewsbury had shown an adventurous spirit all game and European champions Liverpool, for once, lacked discipline and focus and invited the hosts to have a go. The home fans were not disappointed with the response from their team.
Cummins was a livewire when he came on and wrote his name into Cup folklore with his second-half double.
“I could have got a hat-trick. It was a dream come true against the best team in the world. Going to Anfield is what it’s all about,” he said.
The late collapse means Liverpool will have an unwanted fixture in what is supposed to be a winter break and Klopp was far from happy with his side’s failure to see it out.
“We don’t have enough time to say all the things which weren’t right today,” the German said. “It just didn’t look like it was 2-0 on the pitch. It looked like we were 2-1 down.
“But well deserved for Shrewsbury, it was the minimum they deserved. Congratulations to them.”
Earlier, Harry Maguire’s thunderbolt for Manchester United started a goal rush at Tranmere where the Reds scored five times before halftime. Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also scored.
Holders Manchester City’s task was made easier when Fulham’s Tim Ream was sent off after six minutes as he conceded a penalty which was converted by Ilkay Gundogan.
Bernardo Silva made it 2-0 and Gabriel Jesus scored twice after the break as City reached 100 goals for the season.