Anfield, Carabao Cup - Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0 (Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)
Arsenal are through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after defeating Liverpool on penalties on a forgettable night at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta made plenty of changes from the sides’ game on Monday - nine and eight respectively - and it showed, with a cagey first half lacking cutting edge.
Eddie Nketiah squandered a good Arsenal chance early on, trying to round Adrian when found in space, eight yards from goal. It was their only chance of note in the first 45 minutes.
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Liverpool’s best chance came on the stroke of the interval, after a Hollywood save from Bernd Leno sent the ball into the path of Takumi Minamino, but the Japanese could not adjust he feet quick enough and sent the ball crashing into the crossbar.
The hosts improved in the second half and called Leno into action several times, but Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Marko Grujic were all denied by the German. Rob Holding had Arsenal’s best chance, but headed straight at the Liverpool goalkeeper.
Penalties were needed to separate the sides and to see either goalkeeper beaten and Harry Wilson's miss cost the home side the tie.
Both teams scored four of their five initial spot kicks, before Wilson's miss in sudden death set up Joe Willock to send Arsenal to the quarter-finals. Adrian got a hand to his penalty, but could not keep it out.
Arsenal will host holders Manchester City in the next round.
Gritty win another feather for Arteta’s cap. Arsenal have beaten a number of top-six rivals since Arteta took charge, with this win his third over Liverpool. People will ascribe asterisks to each of those wins - this was in a cup competition, the league triumph last season came after the Reds had won the title and the Community Shield is a glorified pre-season friendly - but Arteta needs something to point at and label progress. Winning the FA Cup is one example, three wins over Klopp is another.
How impressive this victory was in and of itself is debatable. The positive slant would be that Arsenal were decent at the back, keeping a clean sheet and limiting Liverpool to few opportunities. They could even had won it in extra time, had a Holding’s header been a yard either side of the goalkeeper or if they had made more of a couple of decent opportunities to break via a long ball over the top of the Liverpool defence, as was the source of their goal against the same opposition three days ago.
On the other hand, Arsenal were under pressure for most of the second half and their best player was the goalkeeper. Playing out from the back worked on occasion, but it also backfired - and that happened more times than a nice overlap was produced. The direct ball was on precisely because Liverpool were intent on pressing Arsenal as they believed it was their best source of creating chances, and they were probably right - the replacement forwards just couldn’t take them.
As Arteta’s marquee wins continue to add up, it is hard to argue with them and the idea that Arsenal are moving in the right direction. But this victory, a fortunate one over an under-strength Liverpool, is best not being used as a key piece of evidence in favour of the Arteta revolution.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Bernd Leno (Arsenal). He made plenty of saves in the second half, and while all were the sort you would expect a first-choice goalkeeper to make, that has not been a given for many top-six clubs of late. Solid if unspectacular, he was the embodiment of the rose-tinted version of this Arsenal display and made a couple of all-important stops come the shootout.
8’ - SAVE! Arsenal create the first good opening of the game, with Pepe getting in behind on the left. He cuts the ball back to Willock, who squares to an unmarked Nketiah, eight yards out, but Nketiah want too much time and tries to round Adrian, only for the goalkeeper to get a hand on the ball. It eventually falls to Cedric, who blazes over.
45’ - OFF THE BAR! Liverpool should be ahead! A deep cross is met by Jota at the back post, Leno makes a Hollywood save and sends the ball in the direction of Minamino, but - adjusting to volley - the Japanese cannot move his feet quick enough and rattles the crossbar.
53’ - SAVE! Milner's corner is knocked back into the danger area by Grujic and flicked goalwards by Van Dijk, but Leno reacts quickly to save low and to his right.
70’ - SAVE! A short corner is worked back to Pepe and Holding meets his cross - only to head straight at Adrian.
SHOOTOUT - Leno saves from Wilson! Arsenal will go through if they score!
SHOOTOUT - Willock scores! It was a poor penalty, and Adrian got a hand to it, but the ball dribbles over the line and Arsenal advance to the quarter-finals!
Liverpool: Adrian 6, Milner 7, Van Dijk 7, R. Williams 6, N. Williams 5, Jones 6, Grujic 5, Wilson 5, Minamino 5, Salah 5, Jota 6. Subs: Gomez 6, Wijnaldum 5, Origi 5.
Bernd Leno makes a save
Image credit: Getty Images
Arsenal: Leno 8, Cedric 6, Holding 6. Gabriel 7, Kolasinac 5, Xhaka 5, Willock 5, Ceballos 4, Pepe 5, Saka 5, Nketiah 5. Subs: Elneny 6, Maitland-Niles 5, Lacazette 5.
- This is Arsenal’s first clean sheet at Anfield since 2012.
- It is also Arsenal’s first win at Anfield in 10 attempts.
- Arteta played in that 2-0 victory for the Gunners in 2012 - their last away win versus Liverpool.