ANFIELD CASH FOR GRECIANS
WITH money in mind, Liverpool’s leveller at St James Park was the ideal finale for Exeter City – but manager Paul Tisdale couldn’t hide his frustration at letting victory slip.
The Grecians hosted an almost unrecognisable Liverpool side on Friday night and came within 20 minutes of booking their place in the FA Cup fourth round.
Tom Nichols and Lee Holmes each found the net either side of a Jerome Sinclair strike, before Brad Smith earned the Premier League outfit a home replay.
Victory would have earned Exeter £67,500 in prize money, but the trip to Anfield will see them pocket an estimated £700,000, and Tisdale was able to see the bright side.
“I’m a football manager and I want to win games,” he said.
“When you’re 2-1 up and defending a lead with ten 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.”
Man-of-the-match Nichols added: “We didn’t park the bus, we gave it a real go and we’ve now got a trip to Anfield.
“The boys were brilliant and we thoroughly deserved the draw. The fans have been different class for the last four or five games. All credit must go to them, the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp made 11 changes to the side that beat Stoke in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday night amid a minor injury crisis, and there were a handful of unfamiliar faces on show in Devon. They were behind after just nine minutes when Nichols stuck out his leg to meet Jamie Reid’s low cross and poke the ball past Adam Bogdan.
Sinclair soon levelled things up, slotting home from 12 yards out, but the Grecians were ahead again on the stroke of half-time. Lee Holmes went across to take a corner and sent an in-swinging cross directly into the back of the net, Bogdan making a complete mess of it.
But full-back Smith spared his side’s blushes a quarter of an hour from the end, capitalising on a weak clearance from Jordan Moore-Taylor to volley past Bobby Olejnik and secure the replay.
“It was very difficult with the pitch but Exeter did really well,” reflected Klopp. “They played football in parts and perhaps that’s because they knew which areas to play in and where it was possible.
“We had a few good moments but it was really difficult for us. What was surprising was that in a few one-on-one situations they were more robust than us so we have to work on that. There were at times too many easy flick-ons but we need to keep learning and improving as a team.
“The first goal was very unlucky for us and it was Exeter’s first offensive situation – we were weak – and the second one was disappointing.
“Now we have drawn and we have to play again and I can’t believe the number of games we have to play.”