Liverpool 3-3 Leicester: Jota finishes job from the spot as Liverpool secure semi-final place
Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

It was Diogo Jota’s converted penalty that saw Liverpool through to the semi-finals of the League Cup but that doesn’t even tell half of the story. After an entertaining 3-3 draw in which Takumi Minamino’s 95th-minute goal brought Liverpool level with Leicester City, the subsequent penalty shoot-out saw Minamino spurn the chance to send Liverpool through only for Jota to secure their passage.

Leicester couldn’t have lost in a more frustrating fashion. Having took a 2-0 lead via a Jamie Vardy brace and then gone 3-1 ahead with James Maddison countering Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strike, Brendan Rodgers’s side looked to be dealing well with their host’s building momentum.

Even when Jota came off the bench to half Leicester’s lead, the visitors were almost home and dry but Minamino’s goal at the death brought about wild scenes and then penalties. The Japanese international couldn’t capitalise on Luke Thomas’s missed spot-kick but Jota didn’t make the same mistake when Ryan Bertrand squandered his penalty.

Story of the game

Rafts of changes are the norm for the League Cup nowadays but, even so, Liverpool’s 10 alterations showed just how stretched certain teams currently are with one thing and another. Only Tyler Morton kept his place from the Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Leicester, who were playing their first game in 10 days after Covid disruptions, made three changes.

Leicester served warning to Liverpool’s defence when Patson Daka’s left-footed shot required a strong right hand from Caoimhin Kelleher early on, but this rip-roaring first half had its first goal by the ninth minute. It stemmed from Daka’s movement and Maddison finding Vardy with a well-paced pass. The Leicester striker drilled his effort low and with confidence.

It was only four minutes later that the 34-year-old veteran scored his second.  Liverpool’s makeshift defence was culpable this time as Joe Gomez stepped up leaving Daka to ease in a one-on-one duel with Billy Koumetio before squaring for Vardy to tap in from close range. The advanced positioning of home side’s fullbacks wasn’t aiding their central defence which was being exposed by Leicester’s two-man strike-force.

However, Klopp’s men did settle and the goal that came in the 19th minute was much needed. Connor Bradley cushioned a header down for Roberto Firmino who worked space in the area. His push back to Oxlade-Chamberlain presented a shooting opportunity and the midfielder’s bending effort was beyond the diving Kasper Schmeichel.

Liverpool failed to capitalise, though, and Kelleher did well to quickly change direction to parry a Maddison attempt which deflected off Gomez. Whenever Leicester’s attackers gushed forward they appeared dangerous and that proved the case once more in the 33rd minute. This time, however, the attack looked to have fizzled out when the ball fell for Maddison, but his powerful shot down the centre of Kelleher’s goal from 22 yards out demonstrated that the 25-year-old can produce something spectacular out of nothing.

A Gomez error almost allowed Leicester another before the half was out but Vardy’s shot struck the base of the post. The only other half chance Liverpool created ended with Minamino lifting an effort over the crossbar and that led to Klopp undertaking a reshuffle at the break, adding more experience in the form of Diogo Jota and James Milner.

 

If Liverpool had renewed vigour then they still had to beware of their opposition’s penchant for swift counters and one such move ended in Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall having a shot palmed around the post by Liverpool’s goalkeeper. The contest was quickly transforming into a tactical affair with Leicester switching to a three-man defence which had to be on its toes to deal with a Jota flicked header.

Leicester, who were now sitting deeper and opting for more long balls, had their two-goal lead cut in half when Jota finished assuredly in the 68th minute following neat build up play involving Minamino. With the Anfield crowd now whipped up, Liverpool knocked on the door for an equaliser with Oxlade-Chamberlain firing over, Neco Williams finding the side netting and Naby Keita’s shot bringing an agile save from Schmeichel.

Liverpool’s mounting pressure was still going strong in the fifth minute of stoppage time but Milner’s cross from the right appeared hopeful. Yet, Wilfred Ndidi got underneath it and Minamino brought the ball down before firing it into the bottom corner to send the game to penalties.

Teams

Liverpool: Kelleher; Bradley (Jota 45), Gomez, Koumetio (Konate 45), Tsimikas (Beck 80); Henderson (Keita 59), Morton (Milner 45), Oxlade-Chamberlain; Williams, Firmino, Minamino.

Subs (not used): Marcelo, Quansah, Woltman, Gordon.

Leicester: Schmeichel;  Pereira (Albrighton 42), Soyuncu (Vestergaard 60), Ndidi, Thomas; Tielemans, Soumare; Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall (Bertrand 60), Daka (Iheanacho 55); Vardy.

Subs (not used): Stolarczyk, Nelson, Mendy, Lookman, Perez.

Referee: Andy Madley.

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