Football Features

EFL Cup semi-final draw: Liverpool’s Carabao kings inspire comeback win over Leicester

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:45, 22 December 2021


Liverpool’s quest to retain their crown as the EFL Cup’s most successful side continues as they beat Leicester City after a thrilling game at Anfield.

Over the past few years Liverpool have had to watch on as Manchester City drew level with them on eight EFL Cup victories, without a trophy in the competition since 2012. And for a while it looked as though that wait would continue for another year.

Given how congested the fixture list is over the festive period, Jurgen Klopp used Wednesday’s game as a chance to rotate given his fringe players and some young stars valuable playing time.

Four of Liverpool’s starting XI were under the age of 21 including three teenagers. Billy Koumetio was also making his first start, 12 months after his debut and only appearance for Liverpool in their draw with Midtylland at the end of the 2020/21 Champions League group stage.

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At half-time, the Reds were 3-1 down to a wonderful strike from James Maddison and a Jamie Vardy brace, the ninth and 10th goals Liverpool had conceded against the veteran. Ibrahima Konate and Diogo Jota were brought on at the break and the latter pulled a goal back for Liverpool but it was an unsung EFL Cup hero that rescued a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Takumi Minamino had started the game for Liverpool, as he had in each of the previous EFL Cup rounds against Norwich City and Preston North End. And he proved to be old reliable for Liverpool, scoring a dramatic injury-time equaliser to take the match to penalties.

The late strike was Minamino’s fourth in the EFL Cup this season, having netted twice against Norwich and once against Preston, with only Eddie Nketiah and Marcus Forss (both five) netting more so far. Given his form in the competition this season, when Minamino stepped up to take a penalty to send Liverpool through you’d have bet your house on the Japanese winger scoring.

But Minamino went for power rather than placement and his strike clipped the top of the crossbar to sail into the fans behind the goal. It wouldn’t be a problem for Liverpool though, as their other EFL Cup star produced his party trick.

Caoimhin Kelleher rarely gets game time for Liverpool, understandably, as it’s Alisson who stands ahead of him but when asked to step up in an EFL Cup shootout he has done. Kelleher had already saved a penalty in the EFL Cup this season, denying Christos Tzolis from the spot in the 3-0 win over Norwich City. And he repeated that feat against Luke Thomas in the shootout which gave Minamino the initial chance to win the tie for Liverpool.

Although it was Jota who scored the winning penalty, Kelleher was the undeniable hero, keeping Ryan Bertrand’s spot-kick out to put Liverpool on the brink. The Irishman has now been in two EFL Cup penalty shootouts for Liverpool, having also kept goal in the thrilling 5-5 draw with Arsenal in the 2019/20 fourth round. Then, after conceding five in normal time, Kelleher saved from Dani Ceballos in the shootout to send Liverpool through to the quarter-finals.

Neither Minamino nor Kelleher may play in the semi-finals if Klopp wants to win the competition, but they should be heralded for their role in getting Liverpool there.

EFL Cup semi-final draw:

  • Arsenal vs Liverpool
  • Chelsea vs Tottenham

The first legs are scheduled to be played on the week commencing January 3, 2022. The return fixtures are scheduled to be played on the week commencing January 10, 2022.

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