LONDON • Liverpool have denied approaching Carlo Ancelotti about the possibility of replacing manager Brendan Rodgers.
But the pressure continues to pile up on Rodgers after his side were taken to penalties by fourth-tier Carlisle United in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Liverpool, who had failed to win their previous five games in all competitions, eventually secured a 3-2 shoot-out win at Anfield to reach the fourth round.
Carlisle, the lowest-ranked team in the competition, had held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw following extra time, with Derek Asamoah having cancelled out Danny Ings' 23rd-minute opener. That gave the home fans a chance to boo their team three times - after normal time, extra time and the game.
Rodgers' selection reflected the precarious position he is in: his starting XI cost more than £130million (S$283 million). Yet, they rarely looked 65 places better than Carlisle in English league football.
Carlisle had just five shots but two were on target, and one found the back of the net.
Liverpool registered 47 shots during the 120 minutes. But the frequency of shots from distance also reflected the team's inability to break down a League Two defence that had conceded 17 goals in eight games - the joint-highest in all four divisions of English football.
Even when Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana were given the chance to convert from 12 yards, they failed. Fortunately for Rodgers, James Milner, Emre Can and Ings made no mistake.
Still, heroics from Adam Bogdan were required and the back-up goalkeeper denied Danny Grainger, Luke Joyce and Bastien Hery.
His blocks saved Liverpool from one of the most ignominious nights in their history.
"There were big sighs of relief in that dressing room," Liverpool first-team coach Gary McAllister said. "We've been asking the players to step forward and take a wee bit more responsibility to take the shot on and we had that. We just didn't worry the 'keeper enough."
In their last 21 games, Liverpool have scored more than once on just three occasions, an indication of how badly their attacking game has broken down.
For Ancelotti, a three-time Champions League winner, the temptation must have been to wonder what he had done to deserve being linked with a club in a poor state.
Whatever the push factors that seem to be forcing Rodgers out of Anfield, the pull factors needed to entice a top-class replacement are harder to identify.
Problems were not confined to the performance level.
Defender Dejan Lovren was taken off on a stretcher seconds before the end with what appeared a serious injury to his right ankle, although first-team coach Gary McAllister said the Croatian's problem is "hopefully not as bad as it first looked".
Roberto Firmino also departed injured in the first half.
Meanwhile, striker Christian Benteke, who missed Wednesday's game, is expected to be sidelined for a fortnight with the hamstring strain he suffered against Norwich City.The summer signing will miss a reunion with Aston Villa at Anfield tomorrow plus the Europa League tie at home to FC Sion next Thursday.
He is also a doubt for the Merseyside derby at Everton on Oct 4.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN