Liverpool beat Stoke on penalties to make it to the Capital One Cup final
Stoke won on the night, but the two-legged tie went to penalties as the sides could not be separated after extra time00:07 Wednesday 27 January 2016, 0:07 27 Jan 2016
Liverpool are headed to the Capital One Cup final after a tight game that went to penalties at Anfield.
The two-legged affair saw Liverpool take an advantage to their home ground, but they failed to add to that in regular time in front of an expectant crowd.
Jurgen Klopp's side went behind to a goal on the stroke of half-time from Marko Arnautovic, although there was a suspicion of offside from the Austrian when the ball was played across the box to him. However, the Stoke striker player to the whistle and calmly stroked the ball past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal moments before the referee blew for half-time.
Image: Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images
Liverpool came out in the second half looking to make amends for that lapse which lead to the goal, not to mention looking to register their first shot on target of the game, having created nothing of note in the opening 45 minutes.
Once again, Liverpool looked suspect from set pieces, as Stoke caused panic in their box on a number of occasions from free kicks and corners. However, Mark Hughes' side failed to make the most of that uncertainty and convert the chances they created into goals.
The game never really exploded into life in the second half either, but the home side did start to create a few opportunities at least. Roberto Firmino struck the post, while the introduction of Benteke as a physical presence up front produce one good opportunity for the returning Jon Flanagan, but there were just too many bodies in the way for him to get a shot away.
As the game continued, it was Klopp's side who went pressing for the equaliser but they were unable to find it as the clock ticked over the 90 minute mark.
Despite Liverpool continuing that trend and dominating the first half of extra time, it was Stoke who created the best chance as Peter Crouch nodded a ball down to Marco Van Ginkel, who had just come on for the injured Charlie Adam. He was through in the box, but could only find Mignolet's post as he narrowly missed the chance to kill off Liverpool.
Image: Nick Potts / EMPICS Sport
The second half created little of note for either side, so it was left to penalties to decide who would be headed to the showpiece final in Wembley on the 28th of February.
Simon Mignolet, despite having a somewhat shaky game again under the high ball, stepped up to keep his nerve and make two saves during the shootout, denying Peter Crouch and later, in sudden death, Marc Muniesa, to give his side the win.
Speaking after the game, Klopp talked about how important the fans were to the winning effort, saying "it was the best atmosphere since I'm here [...] it was a special game".
He added that it had been a tough road to this point, but his side had deserved their win: "In a penalty shootout, with all the games in our legs over the last month, the players deserved it, the crowd deserved it and Liverpool deserved it".
Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/Press Association Images
A dejected Mark Hughes said that "I thought we were by far the better team today [...] I'm really, really proud of what the players produced tonight", but was disappointed with the fact that they were unable to add to their lead.
While he acknowledged that the first goal was offside, he stated that "I think it was a reflection on the balance of play, we deserved to be at least one to the good [...] but you've got to convert your chances and add to that, and we didn't do that".
Hughes added that "in the end, if I'm honest, I think Liverpool were delighted to get to penalties, and then it's a lottery".
While it won't be Klopp's first trip to Wembley, he noted that it "it will be special for sure [...] when you're there it's only really good when you win, and if the players have the same attitude like they had today, then we have a good chance of winning a cup".
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