Liverpool on the Spot to Clinch Final Place in Shoot-out Drama

Published: 27th January 2016 08:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th January 2016 08:00 AM   |  A+A-

It was Joe Allen who struck the decisive penalty of 14 in a Capital One Cup semi-final shootout that took Liverpool to Wembley under Jurgen Klopp, and kept alive the possibility of a trophy in the German's first season at Anfield.

Stoke City won the tie on the night thanks to Marko Arnautovic's goal but with the score level at the end of extra-time, and an away goal for each side, it went to penalties and then to sudden death before a miss by Stoke defender Marc Muniesa gave second half substitute Allen the chance to win the tie. It keeps alive Klopp's record of never having lost a semi-final and means that there could yet be an all-Merseyside Cup final for the first time since 1989.

Not since 1959 and both clubs' days outside the top flight have Stoke City managed to conjure a victory away at Liverpool but they reached 90 minutes last night one goal to the good and with the tie level on aggregate.

Awaiting the winner was a trip to Wembley, "Anfield South" as one banner in the Kop proclaimed it, and a place in the Capital One Cup final on Feb 28, although this only really felt like a cup tie once we had reached the second half. Marko

Arnautovic scored the goal that drew Stoke level following Jordon Ibe's first-leg winner at the Britannia Stadium, although neither side could put this tie away.

For Jurgen Klopp, the greatest concern was a side who seemed incapable of fashioning good chances or sustained pressure, even when he switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 in the second half with Christian Benteke summoned from the substitutes' bench to try to make a difference. That said, Liverpool dealt with the directness of Stoke better than might have been expected given their recent struggles against Norwich City.

Mark Hughes's team were defensively sound, some nerves from Marc Muniesa notwithstanding.

Liverpool came strong in the final stages of the 90 minutes with Klopp gambling more than Hughes, bringing on Benteke and then Joe Allen in place of Kolo Toure. Liverpool switched again, moving Lucas Leiva back into defence and trying to raise the stakes.

There was a team selection from Hughes that showed he had paid

attention to Liverpool's defensive weaknesses in recent weeks: a recall for Peter Crouch, who has become the peripheral figure in the bold new era at Stoke, with their Barcelona academy graduates and mercurial wingers.

Crouch did what he does best when his team are away from home and under pressure - he wins the ball in the air, and it was not until Liverpool stationed Lucas in front of him that they won a single challenge.

Yet for all that, there was precious little width about Stoke in the first half and not a single inviting cross for Crouch to attack in the Liverpool area. That was what he did best in his own Anfield days.

Until the final moments of the half, Stoke, chasing a one-goal deficit from the first leg, struggled to create chances. Jonathan Walters broke through on to a long ball from Erik Pieters but ran his shot wide.

For all their good movement in the middle of the pitch, Liverpool did not create a single notable chance. Benteke started on the bench in favour of Roberto Firmino, operating as an unorthodox centre-forward. Emre Can had a good shot that went wide on 34 minutes but even without their injured captain, Ryan Shawcross, Stoke looked relatively comfortable in defence.

The breakthrough came on the break for Stoke and the goal was scored by Arnautovic. Lost out on the left wing and given little time by Liverpool right-back Jon Flanagan, the Austrian had done very little

before he helped to win the ball in midfield on a Stoke breakaway.

The ball went out right to Bojan Krkic, who had been playing more centrally in the first half, and his cross in behind the retreating Liverpool defence was clipped crisply in at the near post by Arnautovic.

He had been fractionally offside, but offside nonetheless, when the ball was played. The goal should have been ruled out. He finished well and the tie was level.

After half-time, the pitch of the game changed and it felt more like a cup tie in its final stages. The home crowd sensed a bit more purpose about their side and a period of pressure early on ended with Firmino hitting a post after Crouch's clearing header had been pushed the Brazilian's way by Jordan Henderson.

Yet Liverpool still looked susceptible to the ball played quickly in behind them, when Walters chased one on 54 minutes that Simon Mignolet had to leave his area to clear. Then Mamadou Sakho had to block the follow-up shot and once again Liverpool were under pressure. On the left wing, Arnautovic had stirred for Stoke and was in the game.

Klopp responded by bringing on Benteke before the hour, in place of Henderson. The Liverpool captain still looked discomfited by his recent injury. Without him, the home side switched to a more orthodox four-man midfield and Firmino supporting his Belgian team-mate in attack.

There was a Sakho header at the back post that was off target on 68 minutes but otherwise there was not much change in Klopp's side's attacking threat.

Hughes brought on Charlie Adam for Bojan after 70 minutes, raising to three his quota of former Liverpool players in the away side.

There was another chance for Liverpool from Alberto Moreno's cross from the left but Benteke never quite got on the end of it and when it fell for Flanagan in the box he could not get the ball into a shooting position quickly enough. As the home side pushed at the end of normal time, there was a breakaway from Stoke led by Ibrahim Afellay, who was fouled by Flanagan.

With Xherdan Shaqiri on for Stoke in the late stages of the game, it was Liverpool who looked the most likely to make the breakthrough. A corner in time added on at the end of the 90 minutes, however, led to another Afellay-inspired counter-attack and one long free-kick into the Liverpool area that led to a series of two corners. Liverpool survived and the tie went into extra time.

Hughes was obliged to take off the second half substitute Adam when he was injured in the first period of extra-time. His replacement, Marco Van Ginkel, on loan from Chelsea, had the best chance of that first 15 minutes, running onto Crouch's flick in the area and holding off Lucas and hitting the post.

By the start of the second period, Stoke were hanging on. They were the more tired of the two sides and it was Liverpool in control in the final stages but unable to score the goal that would decide it

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