Liverpool knock out Leicester after shootout
Diogo Jota fired home the decisive penalty as Liverpool came back from two goals down to reach their first Carabao Cup semi-final since 2017 thanks to a thrilling shootout victory against Leicester at Anfield.
Introduced as a half-time substitute with his side 3-1 down, Jota breathed life into the home side when he belted Takumi Minamino’s pass into the corner.
Minamino then took the contest to penalties when he controlled James Milner’s cross and fired it past Kasper Schmeichel, who had already denied Jota an equaliser with a brilliant reaction save.
The Japanese star, so often overlooked by manager Jurgen Klopp, had the chance to be the hero but fired his penalty over the bar after Caoimhin Kelleher had denied Luke Thomas.
But Ryan Bertrand’s miss immediately afterwards gave Jota the chance to win it in sudden death and the Portuguese kept his nerve to steer Liverpool into the last four and a meeting with Arsenal.
Liverpool’s strength in depth
Klopp’s triple half-time substitution was the response to some porous defending that led to two Jamie Vardy goals and what should have been a hat-trick for the veteran forward, who fired against a post with only Kelleher to beat.
Vardy’s first, from James Maddison’s pass, was a lesson in finding space before the striker’s shot found the opposite corner. His second just needed prodding into an empty net as Patson Daka ran beyond the Liverpool defence and squared for his team-mate.
In addition, Maddison drove a fierce 25-yard effort into the roof of Kelleher’s goal, taking full advantage of a ricochet off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Liverpool man was responsible for the home contribution to a breathless opening 33 minutes when he rifled in a first-time effort from Roberto Firmino’s lay-off.
As Liverpool tried to fight back from 3-1 down, Caglar Soyuncu made a superb block to deny Firmino at the start of the second period.
Where Vardy found space in the first half, Soyuncu denied the Brazilian, who was about to shoot from barely eight yards.
Sadly for the Turkey defender, it was his last involvement as he immediately signalled discomfort, which manager Brendan Rodgers will hope is not a recurrence of the hamstring injury he has only just recovered from.
Soyuncu’s exit was the trigger for Liverpool to turn the match on its head.
Jota was a particular nuisance, drawing an outstanding save from Schmeichel that would have pulled the hosts level after he had halved the arrears.
Wilfred Ndidi’s pace denied Roberto Firmino a clear run at goal but it was his failure to read a routine Milner cross that brought Liverpool the injury-time equaliser.
From there, Klopp’s side took their the chance to reach the last four of a competition that dominated by Manchester City in recent years – but will this term be fought out without the holders, as another four of England’s biggest clubs do battle instead.