Despite a stupid late goal from nothing, Liverpool were on cruise control for most of the match tonight, and courtesy of a Takumi Minamino brace, advanced relatively comfortably to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a customary win over Norwich City. We do a quick dive into the winners and losers and make Jürgen Klopp cross by mentioning the Thing that shall not be named.
The Cup King:
Critical in the Reds’ run to the League Cup title, Takumi Minamino played zero minutes at Wembley this weekend. A clever gambit, in the end, as the Japanese attacker continued his red hot domestic cup form with rested legs tonight, scoring both of Liverpool’s goals, including a sizzling half-volley winner that clattered in off Tim Krul’s near post five minutes from half-time.
With seven goals in eight appearances, Minamino has now scored a goal every 84 minutes in the Carabao and FA Cup, while his two league goals puts him on nine total, fourth in Liverpool’s scoring charts on the season. After struggling to get regular minutes and spending six months on loan at Southampton, the 27-year old has done a terrific job of making the most of his playing time this year, with tonight no outlier.
Where Taki struggled with defenders closing him down aggressively last year, he now holds them off, shielding the ball better and rarely losing possession. He still lacks the raw physicality to consistently go past Premier League caliber defenders on his own, but his runs off the ball are far more purposeful now and his finishing more confident.
He may not be higher than sixth choice in Liverpool’s embarrassingly stacked attack, but regardless of what happens in the next three months, he will have played a crucial role in the Reds collecting at least one trophy, and one wouldn’t bet against him continuing to do so in the run-in.
The Child: Coming off a five-month absence due to a dislocated ankle, Harvey Elliott had not looked quite as electric on the pitch as he did at the start of the season, when his combination of energy, intelligence and composure. Certainly, the stunning goal against Cardiff was a reminder of just how talented the 18-year old is, but Inter outbattled him and he failed to make much of an impact in the Carabao Cup final — despite expertly dispatching his penalty in the shootout.
Tonight, though, Marvellous Harv was back, drifting into any available space to receive the ball, then swiftly turning and playing an aggressive pass into a dangerous space. When Liverpool turned the screw and should’ve put the game well out of reach to open the second half, Elliott was at the heart of everything, and it was exhilarating to watch.
A dribble, a tackle, an interception, a through ball, a shot and three shot assists to go with a conservative estimate of half a dozen progressive passes in just 45 minutes of football is tremendous output for any central midfielder, and Liverpool’s little diamond showed us once again that he’s a force to be reckoned with, not only in the future, but the right here and now.
The Quad: Jürgen Klopp won’t like me saying this, but... the quadruple is still on, lads. After collecting their first trophy of the season at the weekend, the Reds boss was driven to exasperation by journalists asking him about winning another three, when he very clearly would prefer to focus only on the task most immediately at hand.
Us fans, though, can dream. And will. Tonight’s win takes Liverpool within three games of an FA Cup trophy, the first of Klopp’s tenure, and the second of four potential collectibles this season, and we’ll keep beating this drum until it either happens or is no longer a possibility. These Reds are absolutely phenomenal, mustard, the dog’s bollocks, and four titles, while prohibitively unlikely, remains in play still.
The Sheet: Despite utterly dominating proceedings and keeping Norwich at arms reach throughout, Liverpool gave up a very silly goal with 15 minutes to go, and every defensive player on the squad will be livid about how it came about, with Alisson getting beaten from range, in no small part due to Joe Gomez blocking his view of the shot without actually getting in the path of the ball.
Given defenders’ love of clean sheets, this one is going to sting a little despite the win, hopefully enough that it gets everybody extra fired up about protecting their goal when West ham come to visit on Saturday.
What Happens Next
That’s right, it’s a short rest once again, as the Hammers, one of only two teams to beat the Reds this season — albeit extremely shadily assisted by a hapless officiating crew — come to town on Saturday night. David Moyes’ men have struggled to maintain their hot start to the season, but remain in fifth place and will look to reaffirm their attempt at breaking in the Champions League spots, while Liverpool will be out for both revenge and the three points needed to keep up with the league leaders.