Friday, 15 January 2016

Premier League clubs face fallout from Real and Atlético Madrid transfer ban

Manchester United and Chelsea may be forced to alter buying plans 
Fifa rules both Madrid clubs cannot register new players in next two windows

 Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid plan to appeal but if they are banned from signing players they are more likely to keep their star names, such as Real’s Gareth Bale. Photograph: Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images

Premier League clubs including Manchester United and Chelsea may be forced to alter their transfer plans after Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid were banned by Fifa from registering new players in the next two windows, a decision that could have significant ramifications in England.

Fifa said both Madrid clubs had breached its rules on the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18, with Atlético fined 900,000 Swiss francs (£622,000) and Real 360,000 (£249,000). More importantly, it means neither club is able to register a new player before the summer of 2017. The suspension does not come into effect until after the current January window.

Real and Atlético have said they will appeal but the ruling could mean that moves to bring Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo to the Premier League in the summer are scuppered. United have been linked with both and a potential transfer to the Bernabéu for the goalkeeper David de Gea – a deal that fell through last summerbecause the paperwork was not completed in time – could also be affected. Neither Madrid club would be prevented from selling players under the ban but if they cannot register new signings then the likelihood of star names departing is drastically reduced.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has been linked to Real and his club-mate Diego Costa with a return to Atlético, whose French forward Antoine Griezmann has been under consideration at Stamford Bridge. Atlético’s coach, Diego Simeone, is expected to move to the Premier League at some point, with Chelsea seeking a permanent manager once Guus Hiddink departs in the summer.
Atlético’s and Real’s promised appeals could lead to their bans being delayed, meaning they may be able to buy and register players in the summer if a legal process is ongoing.
Real denied any wrongdoing and described Fifa’s ruling as “absolutely inappropriate”. Atlético’s president, Enrique Cerezo, told the Spanish radio station Cadena Serthat the verdict was “a great injustice”.
An Atlético statement read: “Our club is not in agreement with the sanction from international football’s governing body and will study all the documentation we’ve received to present an appeal against the sanction.”
Fifa’s statement read: “The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions. The investigations concerned minor players who were involved and participated in competitions with the clubs over various periods between 2007 and 2014 (Atlético Madrid) and between 2005 and 2014 (Real Madrid).
“Fifa works hard to protect the rights of players under the age of 18 – whether male or female, amateur or professional. This is done through the enforcement of regulations prohibiting the international transfer of minors or the first registration of minors in a country other than their own.”
Barcelona were given a similar sanction by the world governing body in April 2014 and still embarked on a hugely successful period under Luis Enrique. The club appealed to Fifa and the court of arbitration for sport and, although both were rejected, the legal process allowed their punishment to be postponed. The Fifa suspension would not stop the Madrid teams from buying players but they would not be registered at the club. Barcelona bought Aleix Vidal and the Turkey international Arda Turan in the summer of 2015 but they did not make their debuts until this month, not being registered until 4 January.
The announcement could mean Real and Atlético embark on a flurry of transfer activity in the coming weeks, stockpiling talent before the end of the January window. Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafa Benítez as Real manager this month and, although the squad’s strength in depth was improved last year, his early time in charge now appears more complex.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

6 pictures that prove Arsene Wenger and 

Jurgen Klopp have 

the best bromance in football

Arsene Wenger doesn’t really do ‘being mates’ with other managers – but he might 


have made a new friend in the form of Jurgen Klopp

The pair always looked pretty fond of each other when the German was managing Borussia Dortmund, but now he’s moved to England their relationship seems to have moved up a level.

They were falling over themselves to praise each other in the buildup to 


game, and the respect between the two was evident all the way through the match.

And while the game itself was a hectic sp

ectacle that ended 3-3, the duo still made time for each other on the sidelines, and 

these pictures show that their burgeoning bromance is one of the best in football at 

the moment…

 They started off with a warm handshake…

    Which quickly turned into an embrace…


They were cracking jokes on the sidelines…


Which Klopp enjoyed…

When they’re playing with their hair you know you’re 


We’re just hoping they draw each other in the FA Cup…

Paul Dummett strike earns Newcastle draw against Manchester United 

New Castle              3-3                 Man UTD

                                      Georginio Wijnaldum 42                                                         Wayne Rooney 9 Pen
    Aleksandar Mitrovic 67 Pen                                                   Jesse Lingard 38
    Paul Dummett 90                                                                  Wayne Rooney 79

 Paul Dummett crashes in the 90th-minute equaliser. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

There were moments when Louis van Gaal looked slightly smug. At other times he seemed deeply frustrated and, occasionally, downright furious but there is one emotion Manchester United’s manager surely did not experience. It is safe to assume he was never bored by his team on Tuesday night.
Even Van Gaal had confessed to finding his latest team a little dull lately but here they provided the perfect antidote. Almost a throwback to the glorious tactical “anarchy” of Alex Ferguson’s early reign this was a gloriously exciting game featuring two goals from Wayne Rooney, an impressive Newcastle Unitedfightback and a host of defensive imperfections.
When everyone finally drew breath Steve McClaren’s side were still third bottom and Manchester United had slipped to sixth but both managers expressed cautious reason to believe they can defy the bookmakers’ odds and keep their jobs.
Once the £12m Jonjo Shelvey and the £4.5m Henri Saivet – signings from Swansea and Bordeaux respectively, who were paraded on the pitch before kick-off – begin fortifying midfield the Tynesiders should start climbing the table.
Watching from the stands that pair bowed their heads as St James’ held a heartfelt minute of applause in celebration of the life of Pavel Srnicek, Newcastle’s hugely popular former goalkeeper who died of a cardiac arrest last month at the age of 47.
Is it really 20 years since Srnicek was part of Kevin Keegan’s famous Newcastle “Entertainers” who, back in 1996, so memorably challenged Ferguson’s similarly swashbuckling Manchester United for the Premier League title?
Two decades on both sides’s harbour distinctly downgraded ambitions with McClaren’s hopes of avoiding relegation swiftly receiving the latest in a long line of dents when his team somewhat harshly conceded a penalty.
The former England coach has not had an awful lot of luck in recent months and here Chancel Mbemba was unfortunate to be judged guilty of handball after Marouane Fellaini rose to meet a corner and headed it straight at his marker’s admittedly extended arm.
With no room to manoeuvre there was nothing Mbemba could do about it but, nonetheless, Mike Dean – who could perhaps argue the centre-half had no need to stick that limb out in the first place and had quite possibly blocked a goalbound header – pointed to the spot.
Rooney stepped forward to send Rob Elliot the wrong way courtesy of a kick directed to the goalkeeper’s left. As it hit the back of the net, McClaren probably felt he had been kicked in the teeth.
Even worse for Newcastle’s manager was the sense that the game was settling into an all too familiar pattern. By the end Manchester United were being bullied off the ball and had lost control of possession but, at this early juncture, they exuded an increasing aura of authority which was starting to depress the Gallowgate End.
It could have been worse. When Rooney checked and cleverly beat the home offside trap before accelerating on to Jesse Lingard’s neat pass, he probably should have scored but instead shot narrowly wide.
Georginio Wijnaldum suggested he, too, had misplaced his shooting boots when, having been put through by Ayoze Pérez, he aimed his shot far too close to David de Gea, permitting Van Gaal’s goalkeeper to save smartly with his legs.
McClaren appeared to have genuine cause for complaint when Lingard looked to have tripped Daryl Janmaat in the area but, inexplicably, Dean refused to award a penalty and then again when Fellaini, already booked and getting away with a litany of niggly fouls, blatantly tugged Jack Colback back.
It was time for Van Gaal’s players to show their more attractive side and, sure enough, when Ander Herrera collected a loose ball near the halfway line he provided Rooney with an exquisite pass. After holding the ball up intelligently – and holding off Fabricio Coloccini – Rooney slipped in a superb reverse pass which Lingard, making a blindside run, took in his stride before dispatching the ball low, and assuredly, beyond Elliot.
Coloccini had seemed completely lost during that little cameo but Newcastle’s captain made amends with a diagonal pass from which Aleksandar Mitrovic beat Fellaini in the air and flicked on for Wijnaldum to volley unerringly past De Gea.
It was a fabulous finish which proved a precursor to a second-half Newcastle rally. Featuring Moussa Sissoko upping the tempo and driving his team forward at every opportunity it ensured unbridled optimism replaced earlier hints that mutiny might be simmering in the stands.
This newly restored faith was very nearly punctured when Anthony Martial tricked Mbemba and Herrera played an adroit pass from which Lingard should have scored but instead curled his shot high and wide.
It was a costly miss because when Chris Smalling wrestled Mitrovic to the floor as they jostled at a corner, Dean finally awarded Newcastle a penalty, crisply converted by the Serbia centre-forward.
Wijnaldum had what would have been a sublime goal disallowed for offside before Rooney thought he had clinched it. Although Coloccini blocked Depay’s shot the ball rebounded to United’s captain whose wonderful first-time shot from just outside the area whizzed into the top corner.
Then, just as locals were resigning themselves to by now customary disappointment, United failed to clear a cross. Meeting Mitrovic’s chestdown, Paul Dummett, McClaren’s left-back, swiped his left foot at the ball. A hefty deflection off Smalling ensured it evaded De Gea’s grasp and the smile was wiped from Van Gaal’s face.

Monday, 11 January 2016

FA Cup fourth-round draw hands Manchester United trip to Derby County

FA Cup fourth-round draw hands Manchester United trip to Derby County

 Only Arsenal of the Premier League top six will play at home, against Burnley 
 Chelsea go to Northampton or MK Dons; Manchester City could face Aston Villa

 The FA Cup fourth round draw handed Michael Appleton, whose Oxford United side beat Swansea in round three, a possible reunion with Blackburn, where he endured a 67-day spell in charge in 2013. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

An intriguing draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup has thrown up a maximum of three all-Premier League ties, with Arsenal the only top-six side who will play at home.
The Cup holders will host Burnley, having won their last five meetings in the competition with the promotion-chasing Championship side by an aggregate score of 16-1.
Eastleigh, the only non-league side still in the competition, were once again drawn at home to Championship opposition – Leeds United on this occasion – though they will first have to survive a replay against Bolton, with whom they drew 1-1 on Saturday, at the Macron Stadium.
“It’s a great tie,” said their manager, Chris Todd. “It’s unbelievable for teams like Leeds and Bolton to be mentioned in the same breath as Eastleigh, that’s a massive achievement. We’ve done extremely well to get where we are and we’re very excited to have that challenge in front of us, against Bolton, and then the prize that we could achieve of playing Leeds at home which would be incredible really.”
The only totally top-flight tie certain to be played sees Crystal Palace, who also had to beat Premier League opposition in the third round when they won 2-1 at Southampton, host Stoke. If Liverpool win their home replay against Exeter City they will welcome West Ham United, a prospect the Hammers’ chairman David Sullivan described as “not ideal but certainly not impossible”. Manchester City could also face Premier League opposition but only if Aston Villa come through their tie against Wycombe, who held them to a 1-1 draw at Adams Park on Saturday.
Oxford United, whose 3-2 victory over Swansea was perhaps the finest of the third round so far, were rewarded with another home tie, even if their opponents – either Blackburn Rovers or Newport County – are probably not those they had dreamt of, with their appetites whetted by a pairing with Chelsea in the rehearsal.
It may however present an opportunity to settle some personal scores. Oxford’s manager, Michael Appleton, endured a miserable 67-day stint at Ewood Park in 2013 while his assistant, Derek Fazackerley, is Blackburn’s record appearance-maker, having represented them 596 times in the league.
Colchester, 23rd in League One, were rewarded for a victory over Charlton with a home game against either Tottenham or Leicester City. “It’s a great draw,” said their captain, Chris Porter. “They both have a lot of quality players so regardless of who they put out, it will be a good test. We’ve got to expect they’ll have a bit of possession, but the way we played against Charlton shows we can be hard to break down. If we can get a goal or two on the counter, who knows?”
Manchester United will travel to Derby, second in the Championship, a match almost certain to become their 48th consecutive televised FA Cup tie. “It’s a fantastic draw and I am so pleased that we are at home as well,” said Paul Clement, the Derby manager. “It is certainly a game and an occasion to look forward to, one that we will all relish.”
Chelsea will visit either Northampton, second in League Two, or the Championship side MK Dons. Of the remaining Premier League sides Watford will visit Nottingham Forest while Bournemouth travel either to Ipswich or Portsmouth. Carlisle United and Yeovil will be motivated for their replay by the prospect of welcoming Everton.
“Everyone enjoys the FA Cup draw, and the excitement it brings but we have to make sure we keep our eyes on what is important,” said the Carlisle manager, Keith Curle. “The next challenge we face is Barnet, that’s where all of our thoughts will be focused this week.”

FA Cup fourth round draw

Ties to be played over the weekend of Friday 29 January
West Bromwich Albion or Bristol City v Peterborough United
Eastleigh or Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United
Arsenal v Burnley
Derby County v Manchester United
Huddersfield Town or Reading v Walsall
Exeter City or Liverpool v West Ham United
Wycombe Wanderers or Aston Villa v Manchester City
Shrewsbury Town v Sheffield Wednesday
Nottingham Forest v Watford
Carlisle United or Yeovil Town v Everton
Crystal Palace v Stoke City
Oxford United v Newport County or Blackburn Rovers
Ipswich Town or Portsmouth v Bournemouth
Colchester United v Tottenham Hotspur or Leicester City
Bury or Bradford City v Hull City
Northampton Town or MK Dons v Chelsea

Former Swansea striker Michu rebuilding career in Spain’s four

Michu was the Premier League’s top scorer at end of 2012 but ankle injuries meant he bought out Swansea contract and now he is with an amateur team

 Michu during his debut for Unión Popular de Langreo, a 3-0 win over Club Deportivo Covadonga. Photograph: Eloy Alonso
 I lasted 60 minutes and then my ankle said: ‘Enough.’” Michu walked off the pitch that night in Bern and did not walk back on again until last Thursday night in Langreo, 441 days later and a long way away. The Premier League’s top scorer at Christmas 2012, an international with the world champions Spain in 2013, he started 2014 in the Champions League with Napoli; now, aged 29, after a series of operations on his right ankle, he hopes to restart his career from the bottom with Unión Popular de Langreo in Spain’s regionalised fourth tier.

Michu’s last game was at the Wankdorf stadium in the Europa League. More than a year later he finally played again, at Ganzábal alongside the river Nalón in the wet, green hills of Asturias, surrounded by mines and foundries; an artificial pitch with a municipal swimming pool at one end of the ground and a block of flats at the other. His return came in a 3-0 win over Club Deportivo Covadonga in Spain’sTercera, a league with 17 divisions, down below PrimeraSegunda and the 80-team Segunda B, itself split between four regionalised groups.
Langreo’s manager calls them “amateur”, although some players are paid fees of up to €500 a month. Michu is not one of them. The captain of Covadonga is Negredo; not Álvaro but his brother César. When Michu came off in Bern, he was replaced by Marek Hamsik; when he goes on here, wearing 16, he replaces Carlos Viesca, a 23-year-old striker. Seven hundred and 16 people are there to see it.
At one end, someone has hung six Michu shirts over a barrier: Oviedo, Rayo Vallecano, Napoli, Swansea City home and away and Spain. Diego Cervero is here – the captain of second division Real Oviedo is among Michu’s closest friends, with whom he began his career 20km away at the Carlos Tartiere stadium. Michu’s father is here, too, and so is the player’s brother, Hernán Pérez Cuesta. He really could not miss this: Hernán Pérez is Langreo’s coach.
 Michu fans display some of the shirts that he has worn throughout his career. Photograph: Eloy Alonso
Michu began training with Langreo in the summer. He was still owned by Swansea and there were offers to go to first division clubs in Spain and interest from England, too, but Michu knew that he was not right and that joining them would not be right either. “You have to be honourable in life,” he says. Instead, he began a process of rehabilitation that he knew might fail following another operation. There is little cartilage left in his right ankle, leaving bone against bone. “I don’t remember what it is like to be pain-free,” he says
Hernán Pérez, his brother and coach, says: “He has suffered terribly: many people would have thrown in the towel already.” Langreo offered Michu a place to train and, eventually, to play. So, too, did Covadonga. Their manager, Fermín Álvarez, knows Michu from Oviedo, where Michu made his debut aged 17, in the same Tercera to which he has returned 12 years later
Covadonga also agreed to move the game from 3 January to Thursday night, so Michu could play. Although he rescinded his contract with Swansea, he had to wait until the transfer window opened to be able to formally register with the Royal Asturias Football Federation. He had hoped to play in November; now, at last, he could. On the way on to the pitch, a slogan is painted above the door: “We’re in this together.” Michu says later: “There are no words to express how grateful I am to everyone.”
Michu turns up a little before 6pm, an hour and a half before kick-off, a bag slung over his shoulder. He is nervous; more nervous, he later admits, than when he visited Old Trafford or Anfield. “I couldn’t sleep last night; I couldn’t even take asiesta this afternoon, and I always have,” he says. “It seems strange that I couldn’t control my emotions but that’s the way it is.”
He starts on the bench, photographers gathering to take pictures. But at half-time he is out there warming up with Álvaro Vázquez, the physical coach. In the 48th minute, at 8.39pm, with the score at 1-0, he comes on. Slowly, he eases his way into the game. Playing just behind the forwards, he has a couple of chances, one that he hits over, another that he passes instead of taking on. A volley flies past the post. He provides two assists that are ruled out by the linesman and starts the moves that lead to the second and third goals.
 Michu in action during his first game back after operations on his right ankle,a 3-0 win over Club Deportivo Covadonga. Photograph: Fernando Rodríguez/La Nueva España
At the full-time whistle, he heads straight to the dressing room, the first off. He is not comfortable with the attention but things have gone well.
“It was a special day,” his brother and coach says. “Even if you have played in huge stadiums, that feeling you get as a footballer is the same everywhere and you need it. He had not played for a long time. Above all, we have to recover him emotionally. Hopefully he will be better with every game and we’ll see how far he can go. The president said he can stay here for as long as he wants and go when he wants. Let’s see how his ankle responds, let’s see if we can lift him emotionally – and then whatever will be, will be.”
For now, what Michu wants to be is happy, a footballer. His ankle does not feel entirely comfortable but he does not expect it to. “There’s always some pain. I hardly know what it is like to play without pain but I felt good,” he says. “It’s been so long. I remember my last game … it was an artificial pitch and I lasted 60 minutes and then my ankle said: ‘Enough.’ Now I hope to rise again. I’m not really planning anything: enjoy the next session, then play a bit longer in the next game. Then we’ll see if I can compete at a higher level or not.”
There are still doubts, then? “Yes.”
He adds: “I can play. The problem is: what level? I would love to reach the level I was at again, or who knows if even higher, but it will be difficult, I know that. I came here to be happy. It’s football, whatever level you’re at. I’m playing, competing. Long-term plans? None. Tomorrow I train and on Sunday we play Lugones.”

th tier

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Jürgen Klopp warns Pep Guardiola: England is football, football, football

  •  Klopp discovered after move that Capital One Cup semi-finals were two legs 
  •  ‘I had people in Germany last week saying: “Yeah, you’re in the final again!

Jürgen Klopp with Liverpool youngster Joe Maguire at Exeter on Friday. Photograph: Alex James/JMP/Rex/Shutterstock

Jürgen Klopp has said the only advice he can give Pep Guardiola about the Premier League is to prepare for a draining fixture schedule, admitting he was unaware the Capital One Cup semi-final was over two legs before he arrived at Liverpool.
The manager lamented the addition of another game to an already hectic programme after drawing at Exeter City in the FA Cup third round on Friday. Liverpool’s Europa League campaign also resumes next month and he believes the intensity of the fixture list, not the intensity of his playing style or training methods, is culpable for Anfield’s extensive injury list.
Klopp received congratulatory messages from friends in Germany following Liverpool’s Capital One Cup semi-final win at Stoke City last week. They assumed he had led Liverpool to Wembley with the 1-0 first leg win at the Britannia Stadium and have also been surprised that drawn FA Cup ties result in a replay rather than extra time and penalties.
Asked what advice he would give to Guardiola, who has announced his intention to leave the Bundesliga for the Premier League this summer, the former Borussia Dortmund coach said: “I don’t have to tell Pep Guardiola anything because he is that experienced. [But] the number of games is the biggest difference. When I came here, I didn’t know there were two rounds in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup. I had people in Germany last week saying: ‘Yeah, you’re in the final again!’ Idiots!
“In Germany, when you tell people about the FA Cup that if you draw you play again they say: ‘What?’ Here you have penalties and extra time, but only after the second game. That’s the thing, the number of games – football, football, football. With a perfect pre-season you are prepared for a long, long journey. We knew about it, but to feel it is different.
“Pep is so experienced, for sure. I’m sure he will buy a few players and have a good team, have 35 players or whatever! What I can say about here is very positive. It’s a great country, great people, the food is much better than everybody said and the weather is not great, like everyone said.”
Liverpool have recalled the goalkeeper Danny Ward from his loan spell at Aberdeen after impressing while in Scotland.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Liverpool’s Brad Smith strikes to deny Exeter a memorable FA Cup scalp

Liverpool’s Brad Smith strikes to deny Exeter a memorable FA Cup Scalp


    Exeter                2-2                 Liverpol
     Tom Nichols 9                                                            Jerome sinclair 12
   Lee Holmes 45+0:15                                                         Brad Smith 73

Brad Smith turns to celebrate scoring Liverpool’s second goal with Pedro Chiribella while Exeter players show their despair. Photograph: Henry Browne/Reuters

In the end everything turned out rather well for Exeter City, even if this will be remembered as a night when a golden opportunity to eliminate Liverpool from the FA Cup and register one of the most famous victories in the League Two club’s history slipped through their fingers.
Brad Smith, a 21-year-old Australian who was making only his fifth appearance for Liverpool, equalised 17 minutes from time to spare Jürgen Klopp the embarrassment of an upset that looked on the cards from the moment the teams were announced. The bad news for Liverpool’s manager is that another fixture has to be crowbarred into an already congested schedule and, with that in mind, it was tempting to wonder whether a draw was the worst possible scenario for Klopp.
With 12 Liverpool players missing through injury, the tie being played on a pudding of a pitch, live television cameras in town and Exeter right up for the occasion, all the ingredients were there for a famous upset and for a long period it looked as though Paul Tisdale’s side would deliver one of those famous FA Cupstories.
Smith, however, had not read the script and his close-range left-footed shot, after Jordan Moore-Taylor cleared off the line, means Exeter will travel to Anfield on Wednesday week for a replay and quite a payday. Early estimations are that a share of the gate receipts at Liverpool could be worth as much as £500,000 to Exeter.
That should soften the blow for Tisdale, whose disappointment afterwards reflected how close his impressive side had come to giving Klopp an unwelcome first taste of what the FA Cup is all about. Exeter’s manager had every right to feel proud of his players, who performed with courage and belief.
The home team sensed blood from the outset, took the lead through Tom Nichols’ 10th goal of the season and, when Lee Holmes scored direct from a corner kick on the stroke of half-time, to restore their advantage after Jerome Sinclair had equalised in the 12th minute, Klopp’s face was a picture.

 Tom Nichols slides the ball past Adam Bogdan to score Exeter’s first goal. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
It was not a moment that Adam Bogan, the Liverpool goalkeeper, will want to view again and added to the growing impression that this was going to be Exeter’s night. Bogdan was one of the few recognisable names in the Liverpool side, along with José Enrique, who was making his first appearance for the club in the best part of 12 months, and Christian Benteke.
Liverpool’s £32.5m signing played the full 90 minutes and it must have been a chastening experience for the Belgium international. He was unlucky to see his powerful header tipped over the bar by Bobby Olejnik early in the second half but he was a peripheral figure for much of the evening and could have been forgiven for wondering how his Liverpool career has got to the point where he has ended up playing in a team of virtual unknowns.
Klopp’s starting lineup showed 11 changes from the team that started against Stoke City in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday night. In fact, take Benteke and Enrique out of that XI and the other nine players had only 18 Liverpool appearances between them.
In that context Klopp could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when Exeter took the lead after nine minutes following a raid down Liverpool’s left flank. Jamie Reid was the creator, the forward showing a mixture of pace and strength to get away from Enrique before delivering a low inch-perfect cross that was expertly steered in by Nichols.
Liverpool, to their credit, quickly responded, albeit after some calamitous Exeter defending. Ryan Kent, who started brightly, looked to pass into the feet of Benteke in the area and, as the ball broke loose, two Exeter players seemed to get in one another’s way. Jordan Tillson ended up swinging a wild left boot at the ball and it fell kindly for Sinclair, who finished clinically from about 10 yards on his first start for the club.
Exeter, however, looked the more dangerous of the two teams. David Noble might have done better when he lifted a shot over the bar and Christian Ribeiro, who was keen to get forward on the right at every opportunity, narrowly headed wide of the far upright with Bogdan beaten.
The Liverpool goalkeeper was not so fortunate four minutes later. Holmes stuck his left-footed corner kick with pace and precision, the ball arrowing over the head of Bogan, who ended up hanging on to the crossbar, and into the far corner of the net to put Exeter back in front.
Although Benteke saw his header saved, Exeter were growing in confidence in the second half and it was difficult to see where the Liverpool equaliser was going to come from. Yet Sheyi Ojo, who was one of five Liverpool debutants, made an instant impact when his break down the left, only two minutes after coming off the bench, led to Smith drilling home.
While “a tad disappointed” with the result, Tisdale could also see the silver lining. “A windfall like this is the sort of cash injection we don’t get,” he said. “We’re going to get a payday and it’s about keeping going what we have, not just signing new players but re-employing players, so it’s a big achievement for us tonight. We’re very frugal, careful with every penny, so I just can’t over-emphasise how important this will be for a club like Exeter.”