Liverpool beat Leicester on pens; face Arsenal in semis

Liverpool beat Leicester on pens; face Arsenal in semis

Caoimhin Kelleher had saved from Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand in the penalty shootout. Minamino had blazed his chance of glory over the bar, but Diogo Jota was not about to do likewise.

He buried his effort, and Liverpool, against all the odds, were into the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Who says Jurgen Klopp doesn’t care about this competition? The Reds boss’ relationship with the League Cup has been mixed, but his celebrations at the end, those familiar fist pumps in front of the Kop and the megawatt smile, told their own story. This meant something. This felt good.

They had looked dead and buried after 45 minutes, their young and much-changed side ripped apart by a Leicester team that had virtually all of its big-hitters playing, and looked intent on making a statement.

Jamie Vardy scored twice inside 13 minutes, twice profiting from the home side giving the ball away in bad areas, and though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled a goal back swiftly enough, when James Maddison dipped a 25-yarder past Kelleher, 12 minutes before the break, it looked like it could get messy.

Indeed, had Vardy not struck the post when presented with the chance of a hat-trick by Joe Gomez soon after, it may well have done.

As it was, they got to the break at 3-1 and Klopp made changes. On came senior players in the shape of Ibrahima Konate, James Milner and Diogo Jota. Off went the rookies, Billy Koumetio, Tyler Morton and Conor Bradley.

Those three, teenagers all of them, had suffered in the first half, their every mistake seized upon by experienced and ruthless opposition. They will not have felt great, but they will be all the better for their brush with Vardy, Maddison and Youri Tielemans here, for sure.

Klopp, perhaps fearing a thrashing, acted swiftly at the break, and the result was a vastly-improved second-half display, and with it a far more entertaining contest.

Jota made it 3-2, his 12th goal of the season dispatched as cleanly as the ones which preceded it, and suddenly Anfield was rocking.

Diogo Jota Liverpool 2021-22

Konate crunched into Marc Albrighton, Klopp clashed with Maddison and Leicester looked rattled.

Oxlade-Chamberlain stood out, bristling with energy and intent, determined to take responsibility whenever possible. He took his goal superbly, passed the ball well and with purpose, and can be happy with his night’s work.

So too Roberto Firmino, who got through 90 minutes for the first time in nearly two months and Naby Keita, a second-half substitute for Jordan Henderson. The Guinea international was outstanding, driving with the ball, linking the play and providing one of the moments of the night with a nutmeg on the increasingly-frustrated Maddison.

Good signs, indeed, for Klopp, who needs as many players firing as possible as the fixtures pile up and the presence of coronavirus continues to loom large.

In this kind of form, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain represent a perfect Christmas present.

 This will have hurt Leicester, and in particular their manager. Brendan Rodgers, who knows better than anyone that you are never safe at Anfield.

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