Despite putting in a tremendous performance at Anfield, Latics cup adventure is over for another year after slipping to a 2-0 defeat against Liverpool. Second half goals from Iago Aspas and a James Tarkowski own goal sealed Latics' fate, though it was far from one way traffic and Lee Johnson’s side left Merseyside with heads held high.
There were three changes to an Oldham team beaten at home by Shrewsbury on New Years Day. Back from injury came James Wesolowski, sporting a protective mask, and Danny Philliskirk whilst David Mellor was brought back into the starting line up.
Liverpool fielded a very strong side including the likes of Gerrard, Henderson, Agger and Sterling. Whilst current Premier League top scorer Luis Suarez was on the bench for a game in front of a sell out crowd at Anfield.
Latics skipper Korey Smith fell foul of referee Stuart Attwell within 50 seconds of kick off, his thunderous challenge on Steve Gerrard earning him a yellow card. Liverpool started the stronger of the two sides without ever really testing Mark Oxley in the Latics goal, Luis Alberto’s curling effort wide of the top corner was the closest they came. Roared on by a vociferous away support Oldham got a foothold in the game and grew in stature as the half progressed, a Danny Philliskirk drive going just over the bar. The half time whistle went and Latics left the field to great applause.
Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, made two changes at half time, introducing Brazilian internationals Lucas and Coutinho in place of Alberto and Victor Moses. These changes almost had an immediate effect with Countinho shooting narrowly wide, then Gerrard heading just over from a corner. This was proving to be Liverpool’s best spell of the match and they took the lead on 54 minutes. The increasingly influential Raheem Sterling wriggled free and his cross was met at the far post by Iago Aspas who’s well placed shot gave Oxley no chance. Aspas nearly doubled the lead within a couple of minutes as his header came back off the bar.
Latics then enjoyed their best spell of the game. Lee Johnson made 2 substitutions, on came James Dayton and, making his Latics debut, Gary Harkins in the place of Jonson Clarke-Harris and Adam Rooney. Harkins impact was immediate, a burst in the to the Liverpool box appeared to be halted by a push, Latics players and fans alike appealed loudly for a penalty but what looked to be a strong claim was ignored by referee Attwell.
Shortly after, with Latics still very much on top, Mike Petrasso produced a tremendous turn, skipping past Agger and Toure before his powerful, goal bound, effort was superbly saved by Brad Jones’ left arm. Liverpool responded to Latics dominance by introducing Luis Suarez in place of England captain Gerrard. This moved could have backfired as with 10 minutes to go Daniel Agger limped off, leaving Liverpool to face the closing stages with only 10 men.
However with 8 minutes remaining it was heartbreak for Latics, a fast counter attack saw the tricky Sterling fire an effort across goal, the ball deflected off the outstretched leg of James Tarkowski into the opposite corner of Oxley’s goal. It was a cruel moment for one of Latics stand out performers as it sealed the game for the hosts.
Latics final substitution saw Anton Rodgers enter the fray as he lined up against his Dad’s team, receiving a warm reception from both sets of supporters. The final minutes saw Genserix Kusunga and James Dayton pick up bookings for fouls as the game drifted to it’s conclusion.
After the match, manager Lee Johnson was full of praise for his side’s performance; “Brendan Rodgers said it was one of the hardest games they have had this season. Making two substitutions at half time and bringing on Luis Suarez at 1-0 shows how well we played.”
“All my players have enjoyed the big occasion and I know each one of them can look at themselves in the mirror and be happy with what they have done.”
“We now need to get things back into perspective and concentrate on next week’s game against Stevenage. We had a fantastic following today and when you think what our home attendance’s normally are it is astounding. It has been another fantastic occasion for the club and its fans.”