Iago Aspas netted his first goal for Liverpool to help his side eventually get the better of Oldham Athletic in their FA Cup third round tie.
The League One side, who upset Liverpool in the same competition last season, again provided sterner opposition than their league position suggested. Indeed, it took the hosts until nine minutes into the second half to get the breakthrough at Anfield through Aspas’s first strike since his move from Celta Vigo last summer. It was only an own goal by Oldham defender James Tarkowski with just eight minutes remaining that sealed progress for the side fourth in the Premier League.
That Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers remained uneasy about the outcome of the tie until late on was shown in his decision to bring Luis Suarez off the bench with 14 minutes remaining. The in-form Uruguayan was one of several regulars rested for the FA Cup clash following a busy festive schedule. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet also started on the bench, alongside Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho. One of those that came into the side, though, was captain Steven Gerrard, who was handed his first start since returning from injury.
The changes doubtless contributed to a performance from Liverpool that was far from convincing. After an uninspiring first 45 minutes, it was Aspas, recently returned from injury, who got a most welcome of goals, both for his team and, he will hope, to help kick-start his career on Merseyside. The strike was created by Raheem Sterling, who tricked his way into a crossing position down the right of the box before delivering a ball that failed to be dealt with by a static Oldham defense and Aspas hooked the ball into the net from eight yards out.
By that point Coutinho and Lucas had already been introduced to the fray and when Suarez’s rest was also curtailed it meant that Liverpool had no further substitutes available when Daniel Agger was forced to go off with an injury. Some nervous last minutes looked in store, before a vital second goal arrived as Sterling’s shot took a crucial deflection off of the unfortunate Tarkowski.
The reward for Liverpool’s victory is a fourth round tie at either Bournemouth or Burton Albion.