Capital One Cup: Liverpool 1-1 Stoke City; Reds go through on penalties
Liverpool continued their stellar penalty shootout conversion rate to make sure they go through to the final of the Capital One Cup after edging out Stoke City at Anfield. Marko Arnautovic cancelled out Jordan Ibe’s first leg winner at the stroke of half-time, but no goal in the second half and extra time made sure that the winner would be decided on penalties. The competition’s most successful side, with 8 trophies, ensured the home crowd was not disappointed as they booked a spot in the final.
Mark Hughes chose to field former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch to lead the line alongside Jonathan Walters, while Jurgen Klopp handed Jon Flanagan his first start after an injury layoff that lasted 20 months. Christian Benteke was left on the bench once again as Roberto Firmino led the line for the home team.
Right from the start, the strategy by Klopp’s side was clear – Sit back and hit the Potters on the counter. The defence worked well and Liverpool managed to conjure up a few chances in the first 15 minutes by getting in some promising areas in the final third, but the killer pass was lacking from the home side, who were restricted to long shots. Nobody came closer to the goal for the Reds than Emre Can, whose long range effort sailed just wide of the goal.
Stoke had the majority of the ball, but failed to trouble Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. The first real chance of the match came at the half hour mark when Walters was found through on the left side after a long ball by Arnautovic, but the 32-year-old’s left-footed strike went across the goal as the Kop collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief.
A controversial goal levelled the tie on aggregate
With just seconds left in the half, Bojan and Walters combined well with the former putting the ball across the Liverpool box for a waiting Arnautovic to tap it past Mignolet. The Reds were, unlucky, to concede the goal as replays showed that the Austrian was clearly offside. That completely changed Klopp’s half-time talk as well as the Reds’ approach to the game in the second half.
After the break, the home team went all guns blazing, pressing the opposition like a hungry pack of wolves, but Stoke coped with it well. Neither team were able to create a lot of chances due to the watertight defences of the two teams. Benteke came on before the half hour mark for Liverpool as Klopp decided to give Mark Hughes’ men a different challenge.
The Belgian did well after coming on, holding the ball and bringing his teammates in the game, but the Stoke defenders stood resolute. Xherdan Shaqiri was brought on by Stoke while a couple other changes were made by both managers to alter the course of the match. However, the match headed into extra time without a shot on target for any team, except for the offside goal by Arnautovic.
Mignolet’s heroics send Liverpool to final
Extra time brought about a renewed, purposeful Liverpool as they kept the ball and had Stoke pinned to their box. Firmino was set up by Benteke, but Jack Butland went down early to save the Brazilian’s goal-bound shot. The break at extra-time saw the both teams change sides, with Liverpool attacking their favourite Kop end. Stoke, at this moment, were sitting back, absorbing all the pressure by Liverpool and waiting for penalties. They got their wish as the referee signalled the end of 30 minutes of extra time.
Stoke had won all of their last 5 penalty shootouts, while Liverpool were successful in 10 of their last 12 attempts. Mark Hughes had never reached the final while Jurgen Klopp had a 100% success rate of qualifying from the semis. Both the teams scored with their first kicks through Walters and Adam Lallana, but Crouch’s kick was kick saved by Mignolet while Can hit the upright. Ibrahim Afellay, Firmino, Shaqiri and James Milner converted their spot kicks to tie the game 4-4 as we went into sudden death.
Substitute Marco van Ginkel, who was lively in extra time, scored for the visitors, but Lucas Leiva restored parity. Barcelona youth product Marc Muniesa’s penalty was saved brilliantly by the out-stretched hand of Mignolet to give Liverpool match point. Joe Allen stepped up and swept the ball into the top corner to send the Reds through to the League Cup final for a record 12th time. They now await the result of the second semi-final between Manchester City and Everton, to find out who they will be facing at Wembley on February 28th.
Penalties score: Liverpool 6-5 Stoke City (Aggregate 1-1)
Man of the match: Mamadou Sakho