Gary Lim: Klopp may pay price for his cockiness
Unless German fixes problems, the Reds are hardly favourites in final
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
STOKE CITY 1
(Marko Arnautovic 45+1)
- 1-1 on aggregate after extra time, Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties
The euphoria was still enveloping Juergen Klopp when he was asked which team he prefers to meet in the League Cup final.
The Liverpool manager, fresh from his side's dramatic 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory over Stoke City yesterday morning (Singapore time), grabbed the chance to issue his war cry.
"Manchester City or Everton, I don't care, we will win the cup," Klopp said.
His confidence must have stemmed from the fact that his injury-hit side had just survived a gruelling long-ball campaign by a Stoke side designed to punish them via the aerial route.
His misguided optimism could have been fuelled by the drama and emotions generated by a nerve-wracking shoot-out.
But, for the second game in a row, the cracks that course through Liverpool's squad are obvious from plain sight.
Last Saturday, Adam Lallana saved the Reds with his late heroics in a 5-4 win over Norwich.
Yesterday, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet emerged as the unlikely saviour, stopping two penalties in the shoot-out to help his team book their spot in the final.
It is easy and convenient though, to forget Liverpool were outplayed and beaten 1-0 on their own patch to allow Mark Hughes' men to level the aggregate score at 1-1 and take the match into extra time.
It was just as alarming to watch Liverpool's attack so devoid of ideas and their backline so fidgety.
Hughes' game plan was simple, shrewd and archaic all at the same time.
He planted the 2.03m-tall Peter Crouch - a former Liverpool player who turns 35 in two days - amid the hosts' defence to sow the seeds of chaos.
The uncertainty of Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure in the heart of defence, and Alberto Moreno's continual inability to raise the defensive side of his game combined to provide plenty of heart-stopping moments for the home fans.
It took a last-ditch block by Sakho to prevent Jonathan Walters from giving the visitors the lead.
Marko Arnautovic's opening goal, on the stroke of half-time, brutally exposed Liverpool's very static defence.
During extra time, Marco van Ginkel came within the width of the post of avoiding his side's eventual shoot-out misery.
Liverpool's offence couldn't muster the same level of threat at the other end.
Roberto Firmino's industry in the false No. 9 role was admirable, but he was let down by the lack of penetration by those around him, in particular Lallana, Emre Can, James Milner and Jordan Henderson.
SHOT ON TARGET
It wasn't until extra-time that the Reds mustered their first shot on target from open play, which Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland saved from Firmino.
The longer the crocked Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge - Liverpool's two most inventive players - take to return to action, the longer the team's embarrassingly blunt displays in the final third of the field will continue.
And where was Henderson, the captain tasked to inspire and lead by example but substituted before the hour mark, when the going got tough?
The final will take place on Feb 28.
By now, the identity of their final opponents, whether Everton or Man City, would have been confirmed following the two team's second-leg clash at the Etihad Stadium this morning.
Klopp's comment in front of the cameras yesterday is just the motivational talk his opponents need ahead of the final clash.
But he isn't entirely wrong either.
It doesn't matter who they face at Wembley, because a repeat performance of the shambolic show yesterday morning will guarantee them a defeat.
There are fractures down Liverpool's spine that cannot be simply glossed over. Klopp has a exactly a month to put things right.
Manchester City or Everton, I don’t care, we will win the cup.
— Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp
Juergen brings a calmness to people, certainly around Melwood. He gives a lot of hugs out as well which is good. That works for Liverpool.
— Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre
Klopp won’t be fooled by the euphoria at the end of the Norwich game (last weekend) or tonight, they were poor tonight and got out of jail at Carrow Road.
— Ex-Reds defender Jamie Carragher
I think we deserved it, we were the better side over the two legs.
— Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet
It’s right up there with the best moments I’ve had in a Liverpool shirt, no matter what happens in the future.
— Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen
BY THE NUMBER
5 semi-finals Reds boss Juergen Klopp has won all the five semi-finals he has contested as a manager.
4 penalty shoot-outs Liverpool have won four of their last seven penalty shoot-outs.
The Reds' past League Cup finals
1978: Nottingham Forest 1 Liverpool 0 (after a replay)
1981: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1 (after a replay)
1982: Liverpool 3 Tottenham 1
1983: Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1
1984: Liverpool 1 Everton 0 (after a replay)
1987: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1
1995: Liverpool 2 Bolton 1
2001: Liverpool 1 Birmingham 1 (Liverpool won on penalties)
2003: Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0
2005: Chelsea 3 Liverpool 2
2012: Liverpool 2 Cardiff 2 (Liverpool won on penalties)
OVERALL: Won 8, Lost 3