IAGO Aspas scored his first Liverpool goal to help them into the fourth round of the FA Cup – but it was far from an easy win over Oldham.
The 26-year-old summer signing from Celta Vigo has endured a difficult start to his Anfield career and never looked comfortable in the Premier League. But Aspas was handed the responsibility of leading the line with 20-goal striker Luis Suarez rested and he eventually delivered with a decent strike ten minutes after half-time.
James Tarkowski’s late own goal, diverting in Raheem Sterling’s shot, gave Liverpool the cushion they needed – especially as they were down to ten men after Daniel Agger was forced off injured with three substitutions already made. But there was to be no fairytale repeat of Oldham’s fourth-round victory over the Reds last January and Liverpool now face a trip to either Bournemouth or Burton Albion.
With six changes from the New Year’s Day win over Hull it took a while for the home side to develop any sort of control or rhythm. Only three of the starting XI – goalkeeper Brad Jones, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling – experienced the 3-2 humbling at Boundary Park just over a year ago.
Steven Gerrard’s position as a deep-lying midfielder denied the home side an attacking thrust going forward and after a toothless first half the introduction of Lucas Leiva for Luis Alberto at half-time provided a welcome release for the captain. Within ten minutes they had broken the deadlock. Sterling finally found an end product worthy of the name and Aspas produced a finish Suarez would have been proud of, hooking home the cross right-footed.
Oldham refused to lie down, but Sterling made the final telling intervention when his shot was turned in by the unfortunate Tarkowski.