It was “a masterclass of finishing” according to the Lincoln manager, Michael Appleton, and Jürgen Klopp would not disagree. His Liverpool team delivered the lesson, after all, and Arsenal will be in their sights twice next week at Anfield following this exhibition at Sincil Bank.
Curtis Jones curated the rout with a performance that comprised touches of class, prodigious work rate and two exquisite goals. There were many of them. Takumi Minamino also scored twice as the Premier League champions eased into round four and what will be a third meeting of the season with Mikel Arteta’s team, who beat Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield last month.
“The Arsenal week!” as Klopp put it. “Thank God we are at home twice.”
Lincoln may have had hope after an unbeaten start to their campaign, and Liverpool made 10 changes from Sunday’s win at Chelsea, but the gulf between League One and a newly assembled Premier League side was evident immediately. The visitors were two outstanding goals to the good before Lincoln had orchestrated an attack, although it was to their credit that they never folded and indeed improved after falling 5-0 behind early in the second half.
Klopp’s collection of young talent, the debutant Rhys Williams, the new signing Kostas Tsimikas, seasoned squad players and Virgil van Dijk were so dominant in the first half they used it for shooting practice. The fiercest competition was between those wearing Liverpool’s shocking new away strip, and which one of them could score the finer goal.
Xherdan Shaqiri auditioned first with a stunning free-kick. The intent was clear as the Switzerland international sized up the set piece at a testing angle but Alex Palmer was powerless to stop it flying in his top corner off the underside of the bar. Shaqiri, making only his second Liverpool appearance since January following injury, struck the ball with such power and accuracy that the Lincoln goalkeeper and wall were rendered irrelevant. It would be Klopp’s favourite of the night. “They were all nice goals but Shaq’s was unbelievable,” he admitted.
Van Dijk’s surprise inclusion was due to a shortage of central defensive options. But there was insurance in Klopp’s thinking. Alongside him stood 19-year-old Rhys Williams, who spent last season on loan at Kidderminster and was part of Liverpool’s FA Youth Cup-winning squad in 2019. There could be no better guide for Williams’s debut than the Netherlands’ captain, and Van Dijk was not overworked before being replaced by Fabinho at the interval.
Liverpool were gifted a second by Lewis Montsma, the Dutch model/defender who miscued a clearance straight to Harvey Elliott amid the visitors’ intensive pressing. Elliott’s attempted pass to Divock Origi was intercepted by Montsma but there would be no reprieve. His touch fell to Minamino who swept a delightful shot around Palmer from 20 yards.
Lincoln’s first attempt on goal arrived with the tie already beyond them, Adrián tipping away James Jones’ angled shot. Timothy Eyoma then headed over from Max Melbourne’s inviting cross.
The other Jones on display, Curtis, showed them how to really finish. Origi headed Rhys Williams’ raking ball to the Liverpool midfielder, who stepped inside Harry Anderson before curling another unstoppable shot inside Palmer’s left corner. Minutes later he repeated the trick, collecting Elliott’s pass and gliding away from Jorge Grant before sending a similar effort past the Lincoln keeper via a deflection.
The second half brought no immediate respite for the hosts. Only 20 seconds had elapsed when the Liverpool press again broke Lincoln’s attempt to play out from the back. Palmer saved at the feet of Elliott but the rebound looped up for Minamino to roll in his second.
It was to Lincoln’s credit that 5-0 sparked a reaction and not a deeper collapse. Adrián saved from Anthony Scully and Eyoma sliced horribly wide from Grant’s free-kick. Tayo Edun did grab a consolation when he received Scully’s cross and placed a cool finish inside the bottom corner.
Liverpool quickly restored their five-goal lead when a cross by the new signing Diogo Jota was cleared to Marko Grujic. The Serb midfielder, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Hertha Berlin, drove a shot through a crowded penalty area but past Palmer’s grasp too easily.
Montsma headed home a second for Lincoln when Adrián completely missed Grant’s corner and the defender towered above Fabinho to convert. Origi completed the scoring in the final minute with a powerful drive after Minamino led a rapid counterattack.