Liverpool booked their place in the League Cup semi-final for the first time since 2017 with a victory via a penalty shootout against Leicester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will take on Arsenal in the new year with the first leg of the semi-final to be played on the 4
The second leg will commence on the 11
th-12 th January unless there is a late change that sees the semi-final become only one game which at the moment seems unlikely.
It was a dramatic, feisty end-to-end cup game which ended up with Diogo Jota scoring the decisive penalty.
Anfield was at its moody electric best in the second half which helped push the players to achieve an impressive comeback.
Brendan Rodgers named a very strong side compared to Jurgen Klopp who named a few youngsters with Connor Bradley, Billy Koumetio, Tyler Morton and Neco Williams all being handed starts.
It looked to have paid off for Rodgers as within 13 minutes his side had scored two thanks to a brace from Jamie Vardy.
His first goal was a powerful strike down to Caoimhin Kelleher’s right as the Irishman got a hand to it.
His second came from a bursting run from Patson Daka who squared it to him for a simple tap-in.
Simple being what it was for Leicester in those opening 15 minutes, far too simple.
However, Liverpool made sure they let The Foxes know they were there in the 19
th minute thanks to a powerfully driven shot from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the box after some good hold-up play from Roberto Firmino.
It was game on.
Then half-an-hour in it was game off again.
James Maddison picked the ball up about 25 yards away from the goal and screamed it past Kelleher to send the away end into ruptures.
The away end which shamelessly sang ‘feed the scousers’ at least 20 times during the 90 minutes.
Not so long after that excellent strike a Joe Gomez mistake let Jamie Vardy through on goal as Anfield collectively held its breath to watch his strike rocket off the post and Gomez eventually clear.
Enthusiasm was down as Liverpool looked weak and uneasy every time Leicester went forward.
Then three changes were made at the interval.
Ibrahim Konate, James Milner and Diogo Jota came on.
These changes certainly had the desired effect, they gave Liverpool control of the game and when Klopp’s team have that then the opposition are in trouble.
Trouble is what Rodgers gave his own side with poor in-game management, which every Liverpool supporter will be fully aware of, as he brought on Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand to go defensive.
Meanwhile Klopp brought on Naby Keita.
As soon as those changes were made on the hour mark the ball was in Liverpool’s court and just eight minutes later Jota done what he does best.
Takumi Minamino played a precise through ball to him and he took aim at Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.
The ball flew past the Danish international.
Liverpool were truly back in the contest.
But they never make it easy and that is the best thing.
Just when you think it is finished, just when you think the last chance has come and gone, just when you think a possibility of a piece of silverware has slipped through the fingers something absurdly hectic happens.
James Milner swung a hopeful ball in, and Minamino took it expertly on his chest before finding the bottom right corner to send Anfield into oblivion.
The whole ground was bouncing, apart from the away end who had stopped singing the grim song mocking poverty at this point.
Minamino was loving it as he continued his extraordinary goalscoring record in this season’s League Cup.
The ground has just about calmed down then it was time for penalties.
Drama, nerves and more nerves.
There is always a hero and there is always a villain.
Milner, Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain dispatched their spot-kicks without an issue.
Left-back Luke Thomas stepped up for Leicester’s fourth.
That was when the hero was made as Kelleher dived to his left and parried the ball away.
Advantage to the boys in red.
Keita scored to make sure there was an advantage then Kelechi Iheanacho fired his penalty in.
But the villain of the story is always around the corner and this time it was very nearly the man who had got Liverpool to penalties.
Minamino’s penalty clipped the top of the bar and went sailing into the crowd.
It was a head in hands moment for the Japanese international.
However, a hero is always a hero, and they always prevail which is exactly what Kelleher did as he saved Bertrand’s following penalty.
The Irishman has the knack of being the saviour, maybe it just is that Irish luck.
Jota stepped up next, it was all on him, this was to send Liverpool through.
Calm as you like the Portuguese slotted home and celebrated in front of the silent away end.
Anfield was bliss.
After the game Klopp was as happy as ever and in an interview, he said about his squad: “I love them. I loved them before but I fell in love again!”
Every Liverpool fan will have felt the same.
The joys of the League Cup.
It is a great little competition which provides nights that no one will ever forget.
Football, it is so much to so many, let’s hope this was not one of the last times Anfield will be full this season.