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Liverpool kids defeat Shrews to advance in FA Cup

Liverpool reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time under Jurgen Klopp.

With Klopp determined that he and his senior players had the week off during English soccer’s new midseason break, Liverpool fielded its youngest ever team for a competitive match – at an average age of 19 years, 102 days – for the fourth-round replay versus third-tier Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

The kids, led for the match by under-23 coach Neil Critchley, came through, winning 1-0 to set up a last-16 match they probably won’t be playing in. It will be at Chelsea in early March.

Critchley said Klopp sent messages to the team before, during and after the match. “He is delighted with the performance and the result,” Critchley said of Klopp.

An own-goal in the 75th minute settled the match and it was scored by Ro-Shaun Williams, a former youth-team player for Liverpool’s fierce rival, Manchester United. Williams stretched to head away a long ball forward from Liverpool, and only succeeded in nodding it past Shrewsbury’s stranded goalkeeper who had come out to clear.

Shrewsbury, which came from two goals down to draw 2-2 three weeks ago, had few opportunities in the replay at Anfield but did have a goal ruled out by VAR for offside in the 58th minute.

The victory keeps alive Liverpool’s chances of a treble.

The Reds are closing in on winning the English league title for the first time in 30 years, and are through to the last 16 in their defense of the Champions League.

Whether the young players given a game versus Shrewsbury get more playing time this season remains to be seen. “These boys are in a phase of their careers where they need to keep learning and the developing,” Critchley said. “Hopefully the players see the benefit they have done in training with nights like tonight.”

“When we were able to get back into the game, we would have a breakdown on the perimeter and they would get to the basket or get to the free-throw line. They made big shots to stop our runs.”

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