We don’t much care about the League Cup, but it does occasionally produce nights like this, and goodness gracious was this a great fun time for the whole family. Leicester took the lead early and cruelly against a makeshift Liverpool intent on giving them chances to break, and despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled one back with a trademark strike, a belter from James Maddison restored their two-goal lead at the break.
Jürgen Klopp made some substitutions at half-time, though, and, seemingly more intent on winning the night than yours truly could ever muster, put a number of first-team regulars out on the pitch in an effort to do just that. It paid off in the — very, very — end, as Takumi Minamino tied the match deep into injury time.
A penalty shootout ensued, Caomihin Kelleher wrote himself into the history books as the youngest ever goalkeeper to win two shootouts for the Reds, and Liverpool march on to the semi-finals where they will — of course — face off with Arsenal.
DIOGOAL: Diogo Jota has scored 12 goals in all competitions for the Reds this season, making him the club’s second highest goal scorer, and nothing looks like it’ll to stop him from keeping that place. The 25-year has been merciless in front of goal, popping up in dangerous spots and displaying a cool head when needed, and of all the players to make a difference tonight, he was the standout, going close on more than one occasion in addition to scoring the second goal.
We also appreciate the ruthless but nonviolent levels of shithousery Diogo brings, immediately rushing over to the away fans — who had been singing reprehensible songs about Scousers all night — to aggressively celebrate after tucking away the decisive penalty.
The League Cup King: Divock Origi has had a well-earned reputation for causing havoc in the League Cup, but he may have found his match now. In five Carabao Cup games, Takumi Minamino has scored six goals and produced two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 56 minutes.
He may have missed his penalty tonight, and to be honest didn’t have his best game in a red shirt until the moment came when he absolutely had to, but that is an outrageous return.
Takumi isn’t really forcing his way past any of the front four at this point — not many players in the world would — but every time the League Cup comes around, he produces a reminder that he has the ability to at the very least push them for minutes.
The Anfield Reserves: For League Cup games, the club allows a lot of non-regulars to attend, and boy did tonight’s crowd perform like they weren’t going to get another chance. Anfield was spectacularly loud and rambunctious throughout, regardless of the scoreline at any given time, and in the second half in particular, impacted events on the game like an Anfield crowd should.
Leicester completely lost their heads in the roiling atmosphere, and had control of a game in which they were cruising wrested away from them by the fifty thousand in the stands. Apparently Anfield on League Cup nights is a force to be reckoned with as well now.
The Kids: Jürgen Klopp produced a monumentally mishmash side to start the match, including a full senior debut for Billy Koumetio and a right side consisting of Conor Bradley and Neco Williams. While the yutes and reserves did well enough against the opposition in the middle of the park, they were swiftly and harshly punished for naivety and indecision in the big moments, and Koumetio, Bradley and Morton were all substituted at the half.
This is not to pass some final judgment on the players in question, but more a useful reality check for them that there are levels to this game and carving your way into the first team of one of the three best clubs in the world is very, very difficult, demanding more work than they may expect.
It also serves as a reminder to fans that despite the Trents and Curtises, there is a reason those lads making it is such a big deal; there are simply extremely few players good enough for this team, and the odds of many of them coming from our own ranks are very long.
Big Brenny: Not for the first time, a Brendan Rodgers side failed to cope with the intensity of the atmosphere at Anfield in a cup tie. It’s just a lot more fun this way.
Despite fielding his entire preferred first team against what can at best be called a second-string Liverpool, and despite leading for nearly the entirety of its runtime, his side fell completely apart in the second half and when Minamino smacked home the equaliser, nobody could claim it was undeserved.
What Happens Next
It’s crimbo szn, so no games for a few days, then Liverpool host Leeds on Boxing Day. While the Reds have struggled with availability due to injuries, illness and covid in recent matches, few teams in the league have had it as bad as the Peacocks, who look set to miss nine first team players when two face off on Sunday.