Brendan Rodgers wins bragging rights in Anfield battle with son Anton
Liverpool 2-0 Oldham Athletic
Published 05/01/2014 | 19:51
Brendan Rodgers had feared fate would determine son Anton could help Oldham knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup again, but instead he was left to savour one of the proudest moments of his life alongside a scrappy win.
Rodgers senior, whose side lost 3-2 at Boundary Park last season to exit this competition at the fourth-round stage, was so concerned that the football gods would write the perfect script that he had told his players in the build-up to the Anfield clash that they needed to be extra wary of "their number 17".
As it turned out, Anton only entered the fray seven minutes from time and with Liverpool leading at that point, after Iago Aspas had opened his Reds account and James Tarkowski had scored an unfortunate own goal, his father was able to savour the sight of his son running on to cheers and applause from the Kop.
"It's brilliant, I've seen Anton's life from when he was a young footballer and to see him run out there was a bit surreal really," Rodgers said after Liverpool's 2-0 win.
"He's a great kid and we're very proud of him as mother and father. He's having a good career and Oldham are a brilliant club for him, they really look after him well. They've got an outstanding young manager who will go on to do really well and he's got a young team and they've got a great spirit.
"I've seen them a number of times and Anton's obviously playing a part in that. It's a great moment in his career and, as a father, it's even more special that he gets a nice round of applause from the Liverpool supporters as well."
Such admiration may not be have so forthcoming had the Liverpool boss not turned to his own substitutes at half-time, though.
After an uninspiring first 45 minutes, Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho were both called upon to rally the troops and the Reds soon took control with Aspas hooking home a half volley nine minutes into the second half.
Even then their League One opponents failed to cave in. Oldham, who thought they should have had a penalty when debutant Gary Harkins was shoved to the turf by Jordan Henderson, went close through Michael Petrasso and it needed the introduction of Luis Suarez and a second goal, which came courtesy of the otherwise-brilliant Tarkowski following Raheem Sterling's effort.
Oldham boss Lee Johnson saw the fact Liverpool needed to introduce a trio of star names as a testament to how well his team were playing.
Rodgers explained: "We needed to have more speed in our game and a bit more intensity. You don't want to do it (making the substitutions) but the last thing I wanted was the game to go to a replay.
"I think you learn as a manager. As you get more experiences you can either wait for it to happen or, if you don't think it's going to happen, you have to change the momentum of the game by making your subs.
"Coutinho came on, Lucas came on and they add that bit of intensity and greater purpose to our play. That allowed us to get better control."
Johnson's men were unable to ensure lightning struck twice as Liverpool avenged their surprise defeat at Oldham 12 months ago, yet the Football League's manager was proud of their approach.
"We worked our socks off first half, we broke well and got ourselves into areas where we had shots," he said.
"We had corners, free-kicks...so we certainly weren't just parking the bus. I thought our boys showed energy, particularly when we went 1-0 down. For a 20-minute period you may not have known who was the Premier League side.
"We passed and moved and had a good couple of chances. We felt it was a penalty, we haven't seen it (again) yet but that may have changed the game.
"They can go home, look at themselves in the mirror and say that they've competed on a massive stage in front of world-class players and world-class fans. They can enjoy the fact that they've produced their best game."
Johnson only brought Anton Rodgers on once Liverpool had killed the game off with a second goal, yet the 32-year-old denied there was any sentiment in his introduction.
"He deserved it," claimed Johnson.
"I didn't do it because it was Anton Rodgers, he's played in the cup and the games before and he was magnificent in the game against Wolves - probably one of the best displays all season when we beat them 2-0 away.
"I wanted to go with a group that deserved to play at Anfield, he certainly deserved his minutes."
Rodgers v Rodgers
It was manager dad Brendan Rodgers who went home the happier of the two. Liam Blackburn looks at the two men's afternoons in the Reds' 2-0 win.
Influence on the game:
Rodgers senior cannot have been happy with what he saw in the first half and it was his decision to make a double substitution at half-time which turned the tide in Liverpool's favour.
The move to push Steven Gerrard further forward also paid dividends for the hosts as he began to have more of an impact.
Oldham boss Lee Johnson called for substitute Anton Rodgers to come on as soon as his side had fallen two goals behind. Playing as a deep-lying central midfielder, the Latics player showed a couple of nice touches and was always keen to move the ball forward with purpose.
Brendan Rodgers hauled off both Victor Moses and Luis Alberto but Spanish striker Iago Aspas can consider himself rather fortunate to have remained on the field following a poor first 45.
However, the Reds boss' faith was rewarded as Aspas broke the deadlock with a hooked half-volley at the back post.
Johnson himself made a double switch early in the second half but Anton Rodgers had to wait until seven minutes before the end to join the fray. He got a great reception from the Kop, though, who clearly put family ties before any rivalry on the pitch. He soon showed a quick turn of pace to evade Jordan Henderson too.
Family bragging rights:
The father and son duo had talked in the build-up to this clash about how Brendan Rodgers was extremely competitive. After losing to Latics in this competition last year, he was mindful of fate playing a part this time, suggesting his son was the League One club's dangerman. He will have been pleased that did not prove to be the case and there was a warm embrace between the pair on the pitch at full-time.