Liverpool sneak past Stoke into Capital One Cup final on penalties
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 26, 2016
Liverpool 0-1 Stoke AET
1-1 on aggregate, Liverpool win 6-5 on penalties
- Arnautovic survives offside appeals to score Anfield opener
- Liverpool pegged back on aggregate in first-half stoppage time
- Firmino hits base of post shortly after interval
- Potters sub Van Ginkel also fires against woodwork
- Crouch has penalty saved in shootout
- Can puts spot kick onto post
- Mignolet saves from Muniesa and Allen puts Reds into final.
Capital One Cup penalty pain for Potters
Marko Arnautovic’s controversial late first-half strike gave Stoke City a first away win over Liverpool since 1959, but their Capital One Cup semi-final tie had to be decided on penalties.
The Potters fell short in the shootout, with Simon Mignolet turning Marc Muniesa’s spot kick around the post at 5-5 allowing Joe Allen to convert and send the Reds through.
A quiet first-half saw Stoke revert to the more direct approach they were known for during the days of Mark Hughes’ predecessor, Tony Pulis. Chances were at a premium, but industrious movement from Jonathan Walters posed the home defence problems.
First seeing an effort deflected over for a corner, the Republic of Ireland forward latched onto a long punt upfield and shot across the bows of Simon Mignolet.
Emre Can screwed a long-range attempt wide with the hosts’ only opening before the break with Liverpool looking lacklustre, while a Bojan Krkic flicked on a free-kick down the other end just evaded Potters centre forward Peter Crouch.
Arnautovic equalises on aggregate
Arnautovic brought Stoke level on aggregate in first-half stoppage time, firing home when Mamadou Sakho failed to cut out a Bojan centre. The goal stood despite justifiable offside appeals from the Reds.
Roberto Firmino, deployed to great effect as a false nine since Jurgen Klopp took charge at Anfield, lashed against the base of Jack Butland’s near post when teed up by Reds skipper Jordan Henderson shortly after the interval.
The Potters were lucky to see a poor clearing header from a corner not punished by the Brazil international. Klopp made a positive change around the hour, withdrawing Henderson for Christian Benteke to ensure Liverpool had a physical threat of their own.
Sakho saw action in both boxes, first blocking an Arnautovic effort and then nodding wide from a free-kick. Jon Flanagan, making his first Reds start since May 2014, failed to get a shot away when he had a clear sight of goal.
Woodwork and keeper saves decide tie
With the scores level on aggregate, the second leg went to extra time. Firmino shot straight at Butland before Potters sub Charlie Adam having to be taken off.
Replacement Marco van Ginkel also shot against the base of the post before half-time in the additional half hour. A tie that had penalties written all over it from the moment Arnautovic netted indeed went to a shootout.
Crouch saw his spot kick saved by Simon Mignolet, but any advantage Liverpool had was quickly cancelled out by Can’s effort hitting the post, with 10 of the first 12 penalties going in.
At 5-5, Mignolet tipped round the post from Muniesa and Joe Allen rifled in the winning kick. Klopp continues to hold a chance of scooping silverware, but was very lucky here and his side looked very poor despite the Kop’s encouragement.
Although they will need to be much-improved at Wembley, Coral make Liverpool even-money favourites to lift the Capital One Cup on February 28th.