Liverpool were sent tumbling out of the FA Cup by League One Oldham Athletic as they lost 3-2 in the fourth round at Boundary Park.
A weekend that has supplied shock after shock saved arguably the most sensational for last as seven-time winners Liverpool were eliminated by an Oldham side fighting a relegation battle in the third tier.
Oldham's hero was striker Matt Smith - with spells at Redditch United, Droyslden and Solihull Moors on his CV - as he exploited some poor defending and then some lamentable goakeeping to score at the start and end of the first half, sandwiching an inevitable strike from Luis Suarez.
Reece Wabara breached an inexperienced and vulnerable Liverpool defence once again three minutes after the break and although the introduction of Steven Gerrard as a substitute saw Liverpool improve, Joe Allen scoring with a deflected volley, they succumbed to their first FA Cup defeat to a third tier side since losing to Bolton Wanderers in 1993.
Fabio Borini made his first start since suffering a fractured foot in October in an attacking Liverpool side that also boasted Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Suarez, who captained the side with Gerrard on the bench. Oldham were without their own captain as Dean Furman is representing South Africa at the African Cup of Nations, so the armband was handed to Liverpool fan James Wesolowski.
On a day when Chelsea had to come from behind to draw 2-2 at Brentford and Tottenham lost 2-1 to Leeds, it was left to Liverpool to uphold the honour of the Premier League. But Brendan Rodgers's expensively-assembled side found themselves a goal down within two minutes.
Liverpool spurned multiple chances to clear the ball and Sebastian Coates was caught out when Smith leapt above him to meet a cross from the left with a smart header. Martin Skrtel tried to nod the ball off the line but could only help it on as Oldham took a shock lead.
With Sterling going into the book for a poor challenge on Youssouf M'changama that forced the winger off with an injury, a nasty edge quickly developed and Robbie Simpson was also cautioned for going in late on Brad Jones, with the keeper and Skrtel both engaging him in a physical confrontation. Sturridge also clashed with Cliff Byrne and appeared to shape to throw a punch before thinking better of it, while Wabara was booked for clattering into Suarez.
An Oldham side that had lost seven of their previous nine games were always going to prove vulnerable and Liverpool carved out an equaliser after 17 minutes. Suarez tried to play in Sturridge but saw the ball roll back into his path via an unfortunate touch from Byrne. Displaying the poise for which he is known, he took a touch and finished neatly around Dean Bouzanis.
Sterling should have added a second when Borini backheeled a Suarez pass into his path, only for the teenager to shoot too close to Bouzanis after darting past his man. However, Oldham were not done, and three minutes into added time they went in front once again.
There appeared to be a foul on Sturridge in the build-up but when Wabara produced a weak cross from the right it looked as though Liverpool had snuffed out the danger. Jones dropped to his knees to smother the ball but it bounced off his chest and to Lee Croft, who found Smith unmarked at the back post with a gorgeous square pass.
Liverpool wasted a huge chance at the start of the second half when Borini made a horrid mess of a left-footed shot with the goal gaping invitingly at him; they were soon lamenting his inability to convert when Oldham claimed a third.
Carl Winchester burst down the left and hung in a deep cross to the back post, where Wabara crept away from a culpable Jack Robinson and planted his header back across goal and off the underside of the bar. Within minutes it could have been four, Baxter opting to try and dink the ball over Jones when through on goal and only just failing.
Rodgers could wait no longer to act and introduced Gerrard from the bench after 56 minutes. The arrival of the England captain precipitated a period of entrenched attack v defence, with Oldham repeatedly throwing bodies in the way of shots and Bouzanis making a succession of saves in a great show of defiance.
Liverpool could not shed their defensive vulnerability entirely though, with Baxter drilling one shout just wide, and a borderline calamitous performance from Coates continued when he allowed Simpson to run free and drive a shot just past the post.
However, Allen pulled a goal back with 10 minutes remaining when a corner was headed out to him and he found the bottom corner with a volley that took a huge deflection off an Oldham shirt.
Liverpool looked almost irresistible at times, but resist Oldham did - on one occasion with the assistance of the woodwork as Gerrard struck a thunderous effort off the underside of the bar. A full six minutes into added time though, Oldham's resolve was rewarded when referee Lee Probert provoked a pitch invasion with the full-time whistle.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Matt Smith (Oldham Athletic): His two goals did the majority of the damage for Oldham as they pulled off a huge shock.
OLDHAM: Bouzanis 7, Grounds 7, Mvoto 7, Byrne 8, Wabara 8, Croft 8, M'Changama 6, Wesolowski 7, Simpson 7, Baxter 8, Smith 8. Subs: Winchester 7, Taylor 7, Mellor 6.
LIVERPOOL: Jones 4, Wisdom 5, Coates 4, Skrtel 5, Robinson 5, Allen 5, Henderson 5, Sterling 5, Suarez 7, Borini 5, Sturridge 6. Subs: Gerrard 6, Downing 6, Shelvey 6.
- Sports & Recreation