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Danns double sinks Southampton as youthful Liverpool march on in FA Cup

Not content with winning the Carabao Cup with untested youngsters, Liverpool advanced into the FA Cup quarter-finals courtesy of two 18-year-olds who would have been playing in the FA Youth Cup against Leeds on Thursday but for the paucity of options available to Jürgen Klopp.

Lewis Koumas, making his first start for the club, and two-goal Jayden Danns maintained Liverpool’s pursuit of a quadruple and secured a visit to Manchester United in the last eight.

Klopp’s hopes of ending his Liverpool career at Wembley remain firmly on course thanks, once again, to the academy kids that have kept the hunt for silverware intact. There was even time for Klopp to introduce Trey Nyoni for his Liverpool debut, the 16-year-old becoming the youngest player to appear in the FA Cup for the club.

The League Cup was paraded around Anfield before kick-off by a few academy players considered too young even for Klopp’s first team plans. Those who did help deliver Liverpool’s record-extending 10th triumph in the competition at Wembley – Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jarell Quansah – started against the Championship side with Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo having swelled the ranks of the injured. The youngsters were accompanied by 18-year-old Lewis Koumas, son of former Tranmere and Wales playmaker Jason, who made his full debut on the left of Liverpool’s attack.

Russell Martin rang the changes with an eye on Southampton’s promotion prospects, which have suffered of late with three losses in the past four games. The manager rested eight players who started Saturday’s home defeat by Millwall and, while the selection invited criticism, it was counter-acted by his team’s impressive start. The visitors created enough clear chances for a comfortable lead before Liverpool had begun to find their way into the tie. A lack of conviction in Southampton’s finishing, however, granted Klopp’s makeshift team a reprieve.

Kamaldeen Sulemana was unfortunate to see his carefully-placed shot kiss the base of a post after he was found unmarked inside the Liverpool area by Joe Aribo. Sékou Mara, who converted past Caoimhin Kelleher after only 29 seconds but when clearly offside, had an excellent chance seconds after Sulemana when dispossessing McConnell outside the box. His low shot was well saved by the Liverpool goalkeeper, although should have been better placed.

Joe Rothwell was also wasteful when weaving his way into space inside the area but shooting well wide of Kelleher’s exposed goal. Sulemana had another fine opportunity when his pace took him away from Bradley and Quansah and left him with only the Republic of Ireland international to beat. A tame, side-foot finish straight at Kelleher ensured he did not.

Liverpool’s most promising situations before they took the lead arose from Southampton’s tendency to take too many risks while playing out of their own penalty area. Cody Gakpo had the host’s first chance charged down following over-elaboration by the visiting defence. Harvey Elliott tested goalkeeper Joe Lumley from distance before, moments before half-time, Koumas marked his debut with a moment he will never forget.

Receiving Clark’s forward pass on the corner of the Southampton penalty area, the teenager cut across Jack Stephens and dispatched a low shot that flew into the bottom corner via a slight deflection off Jan Bednarek. Lumley was rooted to the spot.

Koumas turned provider a minute later when releasing Gakpo behind the Southampton defence but the Netherlands international dragged his shot across both the keeper and the far post. Gakpo pulled another excellent chance wide early in the second half when found in space by Clark’s smart first touch. But it was the Championship side who continued to create the clearer openings, and continued to squander them. Sulemana shot tamely at Kelleher once again when Ibrahima Konaté, a half-time replacement for Sunday’s match-winner Virgil van Dijk, turned Samuel Edozie’s low cross into his path at the back post. Bednarek turned an awkward volley over from close range and Aribo headed wide when unmarked at a corner.

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Martin introduced Adam Armstrong into Southampton’s quest for an end product, the profligate Sulemana deservedly giving way, but there was no end to his team’s frustration.

Shea Charles had the goal at his mercy when Edozie’s corner sailed over a crowded six-yard box and landed at his feet at the back post. Unmarked and four yards out, he bought the ball down on his chest and shot into the side netting.

There was an inevitability to what followed, in terms of the quality of Liverpool’s second goal and the age of the scorer. It stemmed from a mistake by Southampton substitute Will Smallbone who played a stray pass straight to Elliott. The England Under-21 international, a relative veteran of this Liverpool team at 20 years of age, released Danns with a perfectly-weighted pass and the teenager dinked a superb finish over the advancing Lumley for his first senior goal.

Danns’ second arrived after Lumley parried Bradley’s shot back into the danger zone and the striker reacted quickest to convert into an empty net.

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