Liverpool have booked their place in the Carabao Cup final courtesy of a 2-0 win against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta’s side managed not to concede in the first leg despite playing for over 70 minutes – injury time included – with 10 men after Granit Xhaka was sent off for flying in on Diogo Jota.
Somehow, with a full complement, they lasted for just under 20 minutes before going a goal down, Jota getting the better of Takehiro Tomiyasu out wide, cutting inside and deceiving Aaron Ramsdale with a scuffed shot from the edge of the area.
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It was a gut punch for the hosts, who made an energetic start to the game and hit the crossbar through Alexandre Lacazette early on. Bukayo Saka had nipped in front of Andy Robertson to win a foul just outside the box, with Lacazette guiding the resulting free kick on target only for Caoimhin Kelleher to touch the ball onto the frame of the goal.
There were signs that their defence might not be as cohesive as it had been at Anfield, however. Liverpool thought they had gone ahead with 12 minutes on the clock when Fabinho nodded down to Joel Matip at a corner and his teammate stabbed the ball into the back of the net, but the linesman’s flag went up before VAR confirmed that Matip had been narrowly offside.
The second half was end-to-end as Arsenal pushed hard for an equaliser. Liverpool continued to look dangerous, though, with Ibrahima Konate hitting the base of the post with a header after coming on for Matip at half time.
The visitors wrapped up the win with just over 10 minutes to go, Jota running off the shoulder of Ben White and dinking over Ramsdale. While the goal was initially chalked off for offside, a VAR check showed that Jota was level and the decision was overturned. Cue wild celebrations in the away end, with Liverpool now set to face Chelsea at Wembley next month.
Arsenal, meanwhile, contrived to end the night with 10 men once again, Thomas Partey earning two yellow cards within three minutes of each other on his return from the Africa Cup of Nations.

TALKING POINT

Pointless red card for Partey. A surprise inclusion in Arsenal’s squad given that he’s only just got back from AFCON, Partey came into this game on the back of a disappointing tournament with Ghana. He earned high praise from Arteta for making himself available, however, with his manager telling Sky: “I’m really pleased… it shows his commitment.”
Arteta won’t be so pleased now, having lost another player to suspension. If Partey’s first yellow was an understandable show of frustration, his second was needless and leaves the team light in midfield for the visit of Burnley this weekend.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Diogo Jota (Liverpool). There are several Liverpool players who deserve a special mention here, not least Fabinho, Curtis Jones, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk. Where Fabinho made an inch-perfect tackle in the first half to deny Gabriel Martinelli which was worth an individual accolade in itself, Jones drew a constant stream of fouls with his movement in midfield, Aleaxander-Arnold assisted both goals and Van Dijk read the game with his usual fluency at the back.
In the end, though, the man of the match award has to go to Jota. Where luck was on his side with the opener, a slight mishit allowing him to get the better of Ramsdale, the second was a result of a beautifully timed run and an even better finish.

PLAYER RATINGS

Arsenal: Ramsdale 5, Tomiyasu 3, White 5, Gabriel 6, Tierney 5, Lokonga 5, Saka 6, Odegaard 6, Smith Rowe 5, Martinelli 6, Lacazette 5
Subs: Nketiah 4, Partey 1
Liverpool: Kelleher 8, Alexander-Arnold 8, Matip 6, Van Dijk 8, Robertson 7, Henderson 6, Fabinho 8, Jones 8, Gordon 5, Firmino 6, Jota 9
Subs: Konate 7, Minamino 6, Milner 6, Williams N/A

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

4’ ARSENAL HIT THE WOODWORK! Saka zips in front of Robertson on the edge of the area, drawing a foul. The home fans appeal for a penalty, but the contact was just outside the box. Lacazette steps up and curls the resulting free kick onto the crossbar. Kelleher may just have got a slight touch on it there.
12’ NO GOAL! Jota marauds forwards on the left and wins a corner. Robertson whips it in and Fabinho heads it down to Matip, who stabs the ball into the back of the net. He doesn’t celebrate, however, because the linesman’s flag is raised. VAR confirms that he was narrowly offside.
19’ GOAL! Not too shabby from Jota, that. He makes another foray down the left flank, selling a dummy to Tomiyasu before cutting inside and deceiving Ramsdale with a sliced shot from the edge of the area. The visitors lead.
58’ KONATE HITS THE POST! Liverpool win a corner and Konate rises highest, powering a header onto the base of the upright. Ramsdale saves a low shot from Jordan Henderson on the follow-up, but the flag goes up regardless.
79’ GOAL! Jota runs in behind White and dinks audaciously over Ramsdale, but the flag goes up. Replays show that Jota was just – just! – onside, VAR overturns the decision and Liverpool go wild.
89’ RED CARD! Having praised Partey’s commitment at the start of the night, Arteta will regret having brought him on. He leaves the field early after lunging in on Fabinho and picking up a second yellow.

KEY STATS

  • Liverpool’s victory means they have reached the League Cup final for the 13th time, the most of any team in the history of the competition.
  • As per Opta, despite only playing two games at the Emirates for Liverpool, Jota is already their leading scorer at the stadium with four goals.
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