Liverpool 2 Oldham Athletic 0 match report: Iago Aspas breaks his duck but shows Liverpool’s need to strengthen

Spanish forward helps the Reds progress to the fourth round

Anfield

A very good quiz question will not, after all, have to be amended. It is “who is the only Liverpool No 9 to go through an entire season without scoring?” The answer is El Hadji Diouf. For most of this season it has looked as if it would also be Iago Aspas.

The name of the side he scored against will not resonate on Spain’s Atlantic coast, where Aspas grew up – Oldham are only being kept out of the League One relegation zone on goal difference. However, it was a goal that displayed considerable technique, as he leant back to hook home a low cross from Raheem Sterling. Moments later, in an almost identical move, he struck the post.

Oldham were far better than their league position suggests but, had he not scored in this fixture, you would have to ask what the point of him was. At 26, Aspas is too old to be filed under “young and promising” and the £7.7m Liverpool paid Celta Vigo for him will have to be justified fairly swiftly.

This was the third successive season these sides had met in the FA Cup and it was by a distance the least memorable game. Kenny Dalglish’s team won the first 5-1 on their way to the 2012 final while Oldham’s 3-2 victory at Boundary Park last year was not enough to prevent Paul Dickov’s dismissal as their manager.

Here, Liverpool, who will travel to either Bournemouth or Burton Albion in the fourth round, got through three captains and finished the match with 10 men after Daniel Agger, who had been given the armband by the departing Steven Gerrard, limped off with cramp in his calf. Brendan Rodgers had by then used all his substitutes.

Two of the changes were made during the interval after a dreadful first half in which the Liverpool manager replaced two others he had brought to Anfield in the summer – Luis Alberto and Victor Moses, who looks chronically short of confidence. Rodgers might have thought long and hard about replacing Aspas.

“We needed to do better, we needed to have more speed and intensity in our game,” said Rodgers. “I didn’t want to make the substitutions but the last thing you want is for the game to go to a replay. As a manager you learn you just can’t wait for it to happen, you have to create that momentum yourself.

“The ideal scenario was to let players who play week in and week out recover but we wanted to win the game. The others have to contribute; you can’t keep relying on the same 11 to 12 players.”

The evidence of this tie and much of this season is that unless Rodgers is allowed to spend in the transfer window Liverpool will be relying on 11 to 12 players in general and Luis Suarez in particular.

Their play did not merit a second goal but they got one when a wild shot from Sterling struck James Tarkowski and ricocheted horribly past Mark Oxley in the Oldham goal.

There was time for Rodgers to be given what he reflected was “the surreal experience” of seeing his son, Anton, come on to play against him.

While Oldham were a goal down, they continued to fight and, but for a fine one-handed save from Brad Jones, Michael Petrasso would have earned them an equaliser. It was then that Rodgers decided to drag on Suarez, which for Oldham was a victory of sorts. “We tried to go toe-to-toe with one of the best sides in the country,” said their manager, Lee Johnson. “We need that attitude for the rest of the season.”

The tie had begun with a tribute to Wayne Harrison, who, when he moved from Oldham to Liverpool in 1985, became the most expensive teenager in the country. But for an irreparable injury, he might have become one of the great footballers of his generation rather than ending up as a brewery driver who died from pancreatic disease at 46.

Harrison was never bitter about his fate and what was meant to be a minute’s silence became a sustained round of applause. It was a fitting tribute, if not a fitting match to remember him by.

Liverpool: (4-1-4-1) Jones 6; Kelly 6, Toure 6, Agger 6, Cissokho 6; Gerrard 6 (Suarez 77); Sterling 7, Henderson 6, Luis Alberto 4 (Lucas Leiva ht 5), Moses 4 (Coutinho ht 6); Aspas 6. Substitutes: Mignolet (g), Ilori, Skrtel, Brannagan. Booked; Sterling.

Oldham Athletic: (4-4-2) Oxley 7; Kusunga 6, Tarkowski 6, Grounds 6, Mellor 6 (Rodgers 84); Rooney 5 (Harkins 60 5), Wesolowski 6, Smith 6, Petrasso 6; Clarke-Harris 5 (Dayton 60 5), Philliskirk 6. Substitutes: Rachubka (g), Winchester, Lockwood, Brown. Booked: Smith. 

Referee: Steve Attwell

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

Attendance: 44,102

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all