Date: 6th January 2014 at 11:24am
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An improved second half showing helped Liverpool to overcome plucky League One outfit Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday…

Liverpool were tested more than most people expected in their third round FA Cup tie with Oldham Athletic at Anfield yesterday.

The Reds eventually ran out 2-0 victors but a lacklustre first half showing had raised the prospects of a second successive shock exit at the hands of the Latics.

A pair of half time substitutions from Kop boss Brendan Rodgers, replacing Luis Alberto and Victor Moses with Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho, played a significant part in an improved second half showing which eventually secured progress to round four.

“We needed to be better,” commented Rodgers when asked about the changes at his post-match press conference. “We needed to have more speed in our game and have a bit more intensity to our game.

“You don’t want to do it, but the last thing I wanted was the game to go to a replay.

“You hope in a game like this to rest a number of players and give them that recovery period. Lucas and young Coutinho, and a few others, have played hard games all over the Christmas period. The ideal scenario was to let them recover, but we also wanted to win the game.

“We didn’t want a replay, we wanted to get through into the next round. The second half was better, we were more lively in our game and ended up with a good victory.

“I think you learn as a manger as you get more experience – you can’t wait for it to happen. You’ve got to create it and sometimes you have to change the momentum.

“And with Coutinho and Lucas coming on, we had that bit of intensity and purpose to our game. That allowed us to get better control.”

Liverpool’s all-important first goal came via summer recruit Iago Aspas, in the 54th minute, before a late own goal by James Tarkowski secured a tie with either Bournemouth or Burton Albion.

Aspas’ strike was his first for Liverpool and it was worth waiting for as the former Celta Vigo forward impressively converted a Raheem Sterling cross on the swivel via a controlled half-volley.

Rodgers hopes the goal boosts the 26-year-old going forward, saying: “The goal was important for Iago’s confidence. It has been difficult for him.

“You’ve got a world-class striker [Luis Suarez] playing week-in, week-out, getting goals, and then you’ve got Daniel Sturridge supporting.

“So he’s been the cover player a lot of this season, apart from the opening period. It was good for him to get his goal in front of the Kop and hopefully that will give him a lot of confidence.

“[The whole squad] has to contribute; you can’t rely on 11 or 12 players. Brad Jones coming in was excellent – he has been a really loyal No.2. He didn’t have much to do today, but in what he did do his hands were clean and his distribution was very good.”

One negative for the Merseysiders was a late injury to defender Daniel Agger who limped out of the game to leave his team mates to finish with 10 men.

Rodgers was unable to give an accurate diagnosis on the Dane’s prospects but did say: “It’s too early [to tell] yet. It looked like his calf had cramped up.

“We’re just waiting and we’ll probably know a wee bit more tomorrow.”

Liverpool are next in action on Sunday when they travel to Stoke City in the Premier League.

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