Poor Alex Palmer. Lincoln City’s goalkeeper was a Liverpool fan as a little boy and had spent the last week relishing the opportunity to face the champions.
Sometimes, though, it pays to be careful for what you wish. Palmer found himself stuck between the posts as a helpless bystander for a night when Liverpool’s second string team ran amok and seemed to be engaged in a competition of whose goal would be most spectacular.
No blame could attached to Palmer but, by the end, he had his head in his hands. Liverpool had the game won by the 17th minute, were out of sight by half-time and, come the final whistle, they had plundered seven to set up a fourth round tussle with Arsenal.
Xherdan Shaqiri opened the scoring in the ninth minute with an exquisite free-kick which soared over the Lincoln wall
Takumi Minamino quickly added a second with another fine finish as Jurgen Klopp’s side took control of the third-round tie
Curtis Jones made it 3-0 with half an hour gone as he hit a curling shot into the top corner beyond goalkeeper Alex Palmer
Lincoln goalkeeper Alex Palmer was a Liverpool fan growing up but was forced to pick the ball out of his net seven times
There was a point during the opening siege, as Liverpool hunted in packs, when Jurgen Klopp could be heard shouting: ‘I love it!’ and he had every reason to be so effusive. Lincoln had waited 60 years to host Liverpool but, after this, they will hope it is another 60 years before their paths cross again.
‘The boys showed so many things that I like for when an LFC team shows up,’ said Klopp.
Xherdan Shaqiri started the rout, with a glorious free-kick, in the ninth minute, and from that point Liverpool showed no mercy. Yes, they were given space to play by a team riding high in League One, but, even still, it was the ruthless way they demolished Michael Appleton’s team that struck.
Jones scored his second before half-time with another top-corner finish although his shot took a deflection its way through
Liverpool will face Arsenal at Anfield in the fourth-round after the Gunners beat Leicester 2-0 on Wednesday evening
Minamino grabbed his second goal of the evening just after half-time, following up Shaqiri’s saved effort for a simple tap-in
Lincoln (4-3-3): Palmer; Bradley; Eyoma; Montsma; Melbourne; Jones (Hopper 60); Bridcutt (McGrandles 60); Edun; Anderson; Scully; Grant
Subs not used: Jackson; Howarth; Ross; Roughan
Scorers: Edun (60); Montsma (66)
Liverpool (4-1-2-1-2): Adrian; Williams; Van Dijk (Fabinho 45); R Williams; Tsimikas; Grujic; Jones; Shaqiri (Keita 75); Minamino; Elliott (Jota 57); Origi
Subs not used: Wilson; Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold; Van den Berg
Scorers: Shaqiri (9); Minamino (18, 46); Jones (32, 36); Grujic (65); Origi (89)
Take Shaqiri. He had only played eight minutes for Liverpool in 2020, the product of two substitute appearances against Tottenham in January and Arsenal in July, but he reminded everyone of his prodigious ability with the first strike that whistled beyond Palmer.
There are doubts about whether Shaqiri will stay at Anfield for the long-term but he has a tendency for doing things that are out of the ordinary. If Liverpool play 60-plus games this season, won’t they need options such as him?
‘He had a super game,’ Klopp enthused. ‘He played in an unfamiliar midfield role but he did really well. The set piece was outstanding. There is no doubt about his quality. In the moment, everything looks good and we will see.’
If there are questions for Shaqiri to answer, the opposite is true for Taki Minamino. His team-mates rave about his quality and at most other Premier League clubs he would be a certain starter. With this performance, glossed by two goals, you suspect his time is not far away.
‘I loved Taki’s game,’ said Klopp. ‘It was absolutely outstanding. More and more, we are realising where his qualities are.’
The same is true for Curtis Jones, the Academy product who has been desperate to be selected. He conjured goals three and four, with right-footed shots that bent past Palmer, the first strike following another Divock Origi lay-off was the pick.
‘I thought we saw a masterclass of finishing from Liverpool in the first half,’ said Appleton. I think all the goals, apart from maybe the fourth, were right in the top corner. It made it really difficult for Alex.’
It wasn’t just the finishing. Any idea Liverpool would take things easy in the second period were instantly dismissed as Minamino bundled in from close range with the first attack after the restart and you feared, then, that Lincoln would end up being routed.
As it was, they showed courage and refused to give up. Admittedly, they were assisted by some erratic Liverpool defending and they helped themselves to a couple of consolation goals from Tayo Edun and Lewis Montsma that left Klopp exasperated.
His response was to send on Diogo Jota for his debut, following his £41million move from Wolves, and he saw Marko Grujic sweep in from 20 yards, with a shot that sneaked in under Palmer’s grasp. The rout was completed in the final minute when Origi rifled in from 18 yards.
‘We played a really good game and it was easy on the eye,’ said Klopp. ‘We passed the ball and finished situations off. The boys wanted to play football and showed an exceptional attitude. That’s how it should be. Wear the shirt and show who you are. I’m happy with everything.’
Marko Grujic sweeped Liverpool’s sixth goal of the evening with a shot that went underneath Palmer in the Lincoln goal
Divock Origi scored Jurgen Klopp’s side’s seventh and final goal of the night as Liverpool turned defence into attack