Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has blamed the St James Park pitch for his side's struggling in the draw with League two Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup. Brad Smith struck a 73rd equaliser to secure a replay after the Grecians had twice taken the lead in the first half.
Tom Nichols poked home early on before Jerome Sinclair equalised but Paul Tisdale's side led at the break when Lee Holmes' corner beat an uncertain Adam Bogdan. Both sides pressed for further goals in the second half but it was the Reds who grabbed a crucial leveller as Smith slammed home.
Amid a Liverpool injury list which sees 11 first team players out injured, seven of whom have hamstring complaints; Klopp was forced to draw on his youth and reserve sides for the trip to Devon. Tiago Ilori, Ryan Kent and Kevin Stewart made their full debuts for the Merseyside club but they were unable to take their opportunity.
Christian Benteke started as Liverpool captain but failed to make a worthwhile contributing as Sinclair and later Smth grabbed the crucial goals. The upcoming replay will be the club's ninth fixture in the month of January and Klopp has bemoaned his side's fortunes.
"They tried everything but it is obvious what we have to learn in the future," he told BBC Sport. "We have to be more robust. It was really difficult on the pitch but Exeter did really well and they had a fee parts where they played football; maybe they know on which parts of the pitch it is possible to play football and which parts you can only play long balls.
"We had a few good moments but it was really difficult for us today. You saw the players of Exeter and that is surprising that in a few one-on-one situations they were more robust than our guys so we have to work on that. There were too many easy flick ons but it is always difficult and you have to play long and the pitch doesn't get better.
"Both goals were unlucky for us, the first goal was the first offensive situation and it woke us up and the second one [shrugs]. We made the draw but now we have to play again, I can't believe again but if you want it like this we will be there.
The Liverpool boss added on his young guns: "How can I mix the team together and then say it is time to show the future. They can be the future but if I judge after this game ...it doesn't work like this. They helped us in our situation and we've got another game."