Liverpool's FA Cup title defense is over. Fifth-tier Wrexham, under its Hollywood owners, is still alive and well in the famous old competition.
On a dramatic day of late goals, Liverpool became the latest high-profile club to exit the FA Cup as the defending champions conceded a goal in the second minute of stoppage time to lose 2-1 at Brighton in the fourth round.
It’s only January but Liverpool is already out of the FA Cup and League Cup, languishing in ninth place in the Premier League and its only realistic chance of silverware this season is in the Champions League — where a last-16 matchup against Real Madrid awaits next month.
“I feel sorry for the fans ... We let them down again," Liverpool defender Andy Robertson said.
Sheffield United left it even later than Brighton — much to the despair of Ryan Reynolds.
The movie star, who co-owns fifth-tier Wrexham with fellow Hollywood actor Rob McElhenney, flew in to watch the match at the atmospheric Racecourse Ground with one of his daughters and was put on an emotional roller coaster in a 3-3 draw against the visitors from the second tier.
Sheffield United scored its equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time to force a replay, meaning Wrexham — the lowest-ranked team left in the competition — will be in the draw for the last 16 being held on Monday.
MITOMA DAZZLES AGAIN
Japan winger Kaoru Mitoma produced a brilliant piece of skill for Brighton's winner against Liverpool by feigning a shot to deceive two defenders and then driving a close-range finish into the roof of the net.
Mitoma, who played for Japan at the World Cup, is proving a revelation in his first season at Brighton, scoring or setting up a goal in eight of the team’s last 11 games.
His latest strike earned Brighton a come-from-behind win, backing up a 3-0 thrashing of Liverpool in the Premier League two weeks ago.
This was a closer contest than in the league, with Harvey Elliott’s 30th-minute opener for Liverpool canceled out by a flicked finish from Brighton defender Lewis Dunk nine minutes later. Dunk said he knew little about his finish, which came off a speculative shot from Tariq Lamptey from outside the area.
Eleven Premier League teams have been eliminated before the fifth round. League leader Arsenal was eliminated by Manchester City on Friday, joining nine other top-flight clubs — including Chelsea and Newcastle — who were ousted in the third round.
Liverpool came close to winning a quadruple of major trophies last season, triumphing in both domestic cups, losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid and finishing second to Manchester City in the Premier League by a point.
This season is proving very different.
“We have to improve, body language, a couple of boys have to do much better," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. "But the last game here we couldn’t have won. I think today nobody would have been surprised if we had won the game.”
Brighton was without Moises Caicedo after the Ecuador midfielder publicly declared his desire to leave amid reported interest from Arsenal and Chelsea.
NO REPEAT SHOCK
Stevenage wasn’t able to reproduce its exploits from the third round.
The fourth-tier team that delivered one of the most stunning wins in the last 64 — beating Premier League club Aston Villa away — was beaten 3-1 by second-tier Stoke.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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