Harold Cunningham - Getty Images
A young Liverpool squad that saw 18-year-old Samed Yesil make his debut at striker got even younger when substitute Jerome Sinclair became the club's youngest ever first team player. Meanwhile a number of strong performances and a Nuri Sahin brace saw the visitors advance past West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup.
West Bromwich Albion 1 Tamas 3'
Liverpool 2 Sahin 17', 82'
Samed Yessil made his debut at striker and Jack Robinson saw his first action under manager Brendan Rodgers, but otherwise it was the same youthful lineup for Liverpool that defeated Young Boys in the Europa league the week before. And in the beginning at least, the signs weren't encouraging. Despite winning the previous Thursday in Bern, many of the outfield players looked uncertain at the start of the match, and as was the case against Young Boys, Brad Jones inability to cope with the ball in his area was a major problem.
This time, though, rather than taking thirty minutes for the goalkeeper's poor handling to end in tears, it only took three, as in the opening minutes he flapped at a free kick as it sailed towards the six yard box, spilling to Gabriel Tamas to finish into the open goal. Jordan Henderson will have to share blame with Jones for playing a short ball to Andre Wisdom despite being under little pressure in midfield, leading to the foul that led to the free kick that ended up in the back of the net, but at the end of the day a firm punch or confident collection by Jones would have seen Henderson's early misstep quickly forgotten.
Things looked likely to get even worse two minutes later when Romelu Lukaku overpowered Jamie Carragher and got off a hard shot that Jones saved well with his foot as it fizzed toward the bottom corner. After physically dominating Carragher as a substitute when the two sides met in the league to start the season, it was an early warning sign that Liverpool's aging defender would be in for a rough ride.
However, despite the goal against and West Brom's strong early play, Liverpool soon found their nerves and started trading blows in what became an extremely open match. And at the ten minute mark, debutant Yesil should have scored his first and pulled Liverpool level when Assaidi beat fullback Liam Ridgewell to the outside and chipped a cross in for the young striker only for his free header to sail wide of the far post.
Seven minutes later, Liverpool would get the equaliser their play deserved—even if the goal itself owed a fair bit to a Ben Foster howler to match Brad Jones' earlier miscue. With the visitors dominating possession and keeping West Brom pinned back in their defensive third, Sahin found room and let fire with a speculative effort from at least thirty yards out and to the keeper's left. The ball was well struck, and it skipped towards Foster's near post at pace, but it was still a goal he would expect to stop 99 times out of 100.
Despite a late push by West Brom, most of the first half had belonged to Liverpool's youngsters, and the home side was lucky to head into the half level. Then, when the second half kicked off, they were even more fortunate to remain level as Liverpool came out firing. In fact, before the first minute had elapsed the visitors had already had a handball shout turned down and then saw an open goal unpunished when Stewart Downing watched a cross fall inches in front of his nose while unmarked at the back post.
It was a moment that summed up another poor night for Downing, likely Liverpool's least effective player even considering the various struggles by Jamie Carragher and Brad Jones. Almost every other player, though, deserved praise, and in particular Dani Paecheco must be singled out. There were probably better players in Liverpool's squad on Wednesday night, but after an uninspiring performance against Young Boys while played out of position at centre forward it was encouraging to see him shine at both ends of the pitch in a more natural attacking midfield role.
Around him, every other one of Liverpool's kids impressed, too, showing confidence on the ball and refusing to wilt no matter West Brom's pressure. Yesil didn't seem out of place leading the line—though he did appear to quite obviously still be far from the finished product—while Assaidi, Coates, and Andre Wisdom all made strong cases for inclusion on Saturday against Norwich City. Assaidi in particular was impressive, beating defenders at will and absolutely embarrassing Craig Dawson after he came on for Ridgewell in the 22nd minute.
Then there was Sahin, who bossed the midfield, looking to have fully shaken off the rust he arrived at Liverpool with after spending much of the past year on the bench for the defending Spanish champions. Meanwhile, a pair of late substitutions saw Jerome Sinclair become Liverpool's youngest ever first team player when he and Suso came on for Yesil and Pacheco in the 81st minute. And while it might have been a substitution for the record books for Sinclair, the real impact on the match came from Suso, who collected the ball in midfield with his first touch of the night and beat two defenders as he drove towards the West Brom goal before playing Assaidi in. Then, Assaidi squared the ball to Nuri Sahin for his second of the night and sent Liverpool through to the next round.
West Brom fought back hard in the final minutes, forcing Liverpool's young back line to begin hoofing the ball clear, but each time the ball headed back in there was another desperate scramble and clearance to preserve the narrow lead, giving the kids a win in the cup that their more senior teammates hadn't been able to find on the opening day in the league.