LIVERPOOL 6-5 STOKE
Liverpool are GOING TO THE LEAGUE CUP FINAL! After what was a frustrating 90 minutes and extra time for the home side, the penalty shoot out went in our favour and we won our second leg in the League Cup Semi Final, which means we’re off to the final!
Liverpool went in to this game with a 1 goal lead already, having scored once when we faced Stoke in the first leg of the Semi Final at their ground.
Liverpool were somehow prevented throughout the entire game of open play (in a total of over two hours) from scoring even once. We’d recently gone up against Norwich at Carrow Road and scored as many as five goals but the team that faced Stoke could not come up with even one this time we played.
Jürgen Klopp would put out a strong side, as strong as the one in the Norwich game. In defence, we would no longer have Nathaniel Clyne (he’s injured his knee) and Jon Flanagan would make his first starting appearance for Liverpool since May 2014. Welcome back! Other than that, Lallana started instead of Ibe but the rest of the team remained as it was (in the Norwich game).
Liverpool started well enough and had shots on goal in both halves, although that didn’t include any goals. We were attacking often enough to have scored if we took the opportunities we’d create and converted them, but it just didn’t happen. To be fair to Stoke, they were defending excellently. I don’t often like to praise our opposition but they deserve a little credit, they were honestly stopping Liverpool from scoring in this game and managed to do so for 90 minutes AND 30 minutes of extra time.
Of course, Liverpool did have that one goal advantage from the 1st leg so Stoke would have to equalise for the extra time and penalties to occur. The goal they scored came just at the end of the first half and it was OFFSIDE, although the linesman would not raise his flag to disallow the goal.
The quality of the picture here isn’t great, but it does make clear what’s going on. The cross is coming in from the Stoke player out on the right wing. You can see our defender Sakho stretching his foot out to defend the cross but he fails to intercept the ball, it has gone past him and is on it’s way to the striker – Marko Arnautovic. Arnautovic is standing on the penalty spot and is at least a yard past the last defender (which would be Sakho), when the ball is played to him. THAT IS OFFSIDE. Arnautovic scored an offside goal and had it been disallowed by the match officials, they wouldn’t have even made it to extra time – the aggregate scoreline after both sides not scoring would have been
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke. Instead, it was to be Liverpool 1-1 Stoke with this goal scored from an offside position making a difference to increasing Stoke’s chances of going to the League Cup Final. They would now get extra time and penalties.
Liverpool attempted to correct this for the rest of the game (the second half and extra time) and it was only when the penalty shoot out had ended and we had won that we could relax and say “well Stoke’s goal was offside anyway, they shouldn’t have been allowed to win this game unfairly”.
As for the penalties that would be taken, I’ll give you a run down of each and every penalty that happened and just how Liverpool became the winners. [SCORES WILL INCLUDE PENALTIES ONLY… starts at Liverpool 0-0 Stoke.]
Walters stepped up to take the first penalty for Stoke. He would hit it high and to the right. Mignolet dived the right way, but couldn’t stop it from going into the net. Liverpool 0-1 Stoke.
Adam Lallana would be first to take a penalty for Liverpool, a job with plenty of pressure to succeed. He hit the ball very powerfully and accurately down the middle of the goal and it went crashing into the net. The goalkeeper had dived to his right hand side, having no chance of saving it. Liverpool 1-1 Stoke.
Former Liverpool player Peter Crouch would now step up to take a penalty against his old club. Crouch would hit the ball to his left and Simon Mignolet would dive the right way, stretching far enough to his right to intercept the shot. What a save! The Liverpool fans I was watching the game with were chanting either “SIMON or “MIGNOLET” at this point. I was chanting “Simon”! Stoke 1-1 Liverpool.
Liverpool had a chance to take a lead over our opposition who had taken the first penalty now. Emre Can was next to take a penalty for Liverpool. He stepped up confidently and looked like he wanted to place the ball in the far left corner of the net. Instead, he ended up shooting the ball powerfully into the left goalpost. You don’t get to score “rebounds” in penalty shoot outs, even if the ball comes back to you and the net is wide open for you to score after the goalkeeper has dived the wrong way. If a ball hits the post, you’ve missed. Bad luck, Emre Can. Stoke 1-1 Liverpool.
Whelan would be next for Stoke. He did a little “stutter” with his feet to possibly distract or confuse Mignolet as he approached the ball, then shot to the right. Mignolet would still dive the right way but the ball was in the right hand side of the net. Liverpool 1-2 Stoke.
Benteke was up next. He maybe had noticed what Whelan did and decided to try a stutter before he confidently placed the ball with his right foot to the left side of the goal. The Stoke goalkeeper may have been confused or distracted by it as he had dived the wrong way. Now the score was Liverpool 2-2 Stoke.
Afellay was next for Stoke. He’d strike the ball confidently and powerfully. Simon Mignolet even dived the right way and got his hand to it, but it was so powerful that it smashed past the fingertips of Mignolet and into the top left corner of the net. Liverpool 2-3 Stoke.
Roberto Firmino was next to take a Liverpool penalty kick. He looked confident and placed the ball to his right. The goalkeeper had dived completely in the wrong direction and Firmino had placed the ball in the net before the goalkeeper’s body hit the pitch. Score was now Liverpool 3-3 Stoke.
Xherdan Shaqiri was next. The World Cup 2014 Swiss star placed the ball powerfully and accurately to the left hand side of the goal. Mignolet had been pretty sure that he was going to shoot in the other direction as he was on the far side of the goal to the ball as it went in. Once you’ve committed to diving in a direction, there’s no time to change your mind about it though. Liverpool 3-4 Stoke.
Liverpool would now see James Milner get to take a penalty. Milner was calm, very cool and collected. The pressure was building now but Liverpool’s number 7 would just step up, hit the ball to the right hand side of the goal and the Stoke goalkeeper dived completely the wrong way. Liverpool 4-4 Stoke.
Stoke’s next penalty taker was Marco Van Ginkel, who is actually just on loan from Chelsea. The Chelsea player would step up and score. He hit his shot right. Mignolet dived the wrong way. No stopping it from going in. Liverpool 4-5 Stoke.
Next penalty taker for Liverpool? Lucas! I remember shouting “we love you Lucas” before the penalty had even been taken. It was because he’s not a renowned penalty taker. The fans needed to boost his confidence, give him self belief. He’d carefully place the ball to the right hand side of the goal. It didn’t look very fast and if the goalkeeper had been going in the right direction, he’d maybe have had a chance of saving it. However, that wasn’t a problem. Lucas had scored, making it Liverpool 5-5 Stoke.
What happened next in two more penalties was just amazing.
Stoke would choose Spanish player Marc Muniesa to take their next penalty. He strike the ball to the right. This time, Mignolet guessed the correct direction and was able to leap through the air and save the ball in a spectacular acrobatic fashion. Cheers all around and love for Simon Mignolet ensued, but Liverpool would still have to take their next penalty and score it to ensure victory.
So, who’d have the massive responsibility to take what could be the winning penalty kick of the shoot out? JOE ALLEN, that’s who! He’s been on top form recently, scoring a late equalizer against Arsenal to save us from defeat and grabbing a last minute point in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw.
Could he be a hero again? COULD HE EVER! Allen stepped up confidently, despite the great pressure. He’d shoot his shot powerfully and accurately into the top right corner of the net, making it Liverpool 6-5 Stoke.. It was a great penalty and Allen was the hero that took the final penalty in our shoot out victory. We were the winners of this long and hard fought fixture and now, we’re on our way to Wembley.
Want to know who was the best in this game? Well, I supposed I could pick any of the people who scored a penalty for Liverpool and out of them all, Joe Allen perhaps had the hardest task of securing our win with the very last penalty. However, SIMON MIGNOLET was extremely brave to have been the one person who had to be involved with all of Liverpool’s defended penalties. He managed to save at least two of Stoke’s attempts to score in the shootout, with the Marc Muniesa penalty being the most important one to have saved as it was a lead up to Allen’s victorious match winner. I highly doubt that Danny Ward (or even Adam Bogdan if he was chosen for the squad) could have done so well in the shootout. It was intense pressure and we came out as victors in a League Cup Semi Final, which means we get to play in the League Cup Final. That’s credited largely to our goalkeeper, his contribution was most valued.
Now Liverpool are guaranteed of their place in the League Cup Final, we still need to wait and see if Everton can use their 2-1 aggregate lead to beat Manchester City and reach the Final as our opponents or if Man City will find something spectacular to somehow overcome the 1 goal lead Everton have and claim their place in the Final. That fixture is soon to be played by the two contenders for Liverpool’s opponent in the Final.
As manager Jürgen Klopp said “It’s a North of England Final”, but if Everton happen to win their second leg of the Semi Final, it will be a Merseyside Derby (League Cup) Final. I honestly hope that happens.
Liverpool’s run of cup games does not end here, either. We’re soon to play a 4th Round FA Cup game against West Ham. If Liverpool can keep their winning streak going, we’ll progress to the next round of that cup too. I’m confident we can and I hope you feel the same way.
Walk on with hope in your hearts, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.