Jurgen Klopp walked away from the crowd and pulled his snood up over his face. His actions were of a man who knew what was coming next would not be good and so it proved.
All night he had seen Bernd Leno, Arsenal’s goalkeeper, stubbornly keep his team at bay. Leno, in his garish yellow ensemble, was dressed like some kind of superhero, flying left and right to stop balls from racing past him. A penalty shootout was going to be right up his alley.
Liverpool couldn’t find a way past him in normal time, so why was it going to be any different from 12 yards? Klopp’s demeanour suggested he wasn’t awash with optimism and, for once, he had good reason to side with pessimism.
Bernd Leno was the Arsenal hero after saving two penalties to book them a spot in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup
The Gunners stopper denies Harry Wilson following a 90 minutes where he frustrated the Reds attackers at Anfield
Joe Willock slots home the winning penalty for Arsenal that saw them come from behind to win the shootout 5-4
Arsenal players celebrate the victory and they will now take on Manchester City at home in December’s quarter-finals
Divock Origi and Harry Wilson found themselves as the fall guys. Leno outwitted both of them and enabled Joe Willock, with a scruffy kick that squirmed under Liverpool keeper Adrian’s body, to propel Arsenal into the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
‘I told him (Leno) that I wasn’t happy with him after the game!’ Klopp said, finding some gallows humour. ‘I wanted to win and I did not see too much wrong with our performance but it just did not work out for us. You have to score and we didn’t.’
Klopp was right to say Liverpool had enough chances to win but credit must go to Arsenal, who made eight changes to the team that had been swept away here three days ago but showed resilience and courage to stick in when things were difficult.
Liverpool had taken the advantage in the shootout only to be pegged back immediately when Divock Origi had his shot saved
Takumi Minamino wasted Liverpool’s best chance to score during the first period when his rebound effort hit the crossbar
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (second right) endured a quiet hour before being substituted in the 61st minute of the tie
Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah missed an early opportunity to give his side the lead after being foiled by Liverpool’s Adrian
Liverpool: Adrian, Neco Williams, Rhys Williams, Van Dijk (Gomez 61), Milner, Grujic, Jones, Wilson, Jota (Wijnaldum 76), Minamino, Salah (Origi 61)
Subs not used: Fabinho, Robertson, Kelleher, Elliott
Booked: Minamino, Wilson
Arsenal: Leno, Cedric, Gabriel, Holding, Kolasinac, Willock, Xhaka, Pepe, Ceballos (Elneny 68), Saka (Maitland-Niles 86), Nketiah (Lacazette 82)
Subs not used: Tierney, Runarsson, Luiz, Nelson
Booked: Xhaka, Cedric
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Such was Liverpool’s intention to win, Mohamed Salah started. In his three years at Anfield, his only involvement in the League Cup was a three-minute cameo when Liverpool were trying to peg back Chelsea in a third round tie in September 2018. His inclusion here, however, did not pay dividends.
It was Arsenal who had the first sight of goal in the 20th minute but Eddie Nketiah was thwarted by Adrian’s perfectly-timed challenge, the goalkeeper pilfering the ball off Nketiah’s foot as he shaped to shoot. A fraction out and Arsenal would have had a penalty. They would get their chance later.
Liverpool thought they had a penalty in the 41st minute, when Diogo Jota wriggled away from Dani Ceballos, but full credit to referee Kevin Friend who made the perfect call, spotting that the infringement had occurred a fraction outside Arsenal’s area.
James Milner’s free-kick came to nothing and Arsenal managed to clear but Liverpool managed to recycle the attack and a super cross from Marko Grujic picked out Jota who had again sneaked in on the blind side but the Portuguese’s header was turned away by Leno. He then got some luck as Taki Minamino, somehow, crashed the rebound against the crossbar. It was a glaring miss.
Half-time did not kill Liverpool’s momentum. They started quickly again, hemming Arsenal back, and Leno again came to his team’s rescue in the 52nd minute when he got down quickly to save Virgil van Dijk’s toe poke that appeared destined for the bottom corner.
This was a sign of things to come. Arteta made eight changes to the team that had played here on Monday but altering Leno never crossed his mind and with good reason; Arteta believes Leno is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and he was about to get ample opportunity to show why.
Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos makes a sliding challenge on Liverpool’s Diogo Jota during a closely fought first half
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk jokes with team-mate Jordan Henderson after departing as a second half substitute
Jurgen Klopp was left frustrated on the Liverpool touchline as his side laboured in trying to break down the Gunners
‘I am really happy with his performance,’ said Arteta, whose side will face Manchester City in the last eight. ‘He was really helpful to get us into the next round.’
That was an understatement. First there was a plunging dive down to his left to push a drive from Grujic around the post. The Serbian’s shot was firm and true but Leno was equal to the challenge in the 58th minute, ensuring there was no rebound for those in Red who were closing in.
Better was to come in the 61st minute when Jota wonderfully controlled a raking pass from Curtis Jones and drilled a shot towards the top corner but, again, Leno turned the shot away. Jota, increasingly exasperated, puffed out his cheeks and wondered what he needed to do win this fight.
Arsenal sat back for much of the match, with manager Mikel Arteta masterminding another superb cup win for his side
Arsenal goalkeeper Leno punches away a ball played into the box in front of his defenders in an excellent performance
Leno made a series of excellent saves to keep Liverpool at bay in the fourth round tie especially during the second half
The two sides were facing off at Anfield for the second time inside a week following a Premier League meeting on Monday
Such was Liverpool’s dominance, there was that feeling lurking that Arsenal would make them pay for taking their chances and, really, that moment should have arrived in the 69th minute when Nicolas Pepe crossed for Rob Holding but, from point blank range, he headed straight at Adrian.
Arteta had squawked and chirped his way through the game, asking for every decision to be given to Arsenal, but he could only look on in disbelief as his team’s best moment had gone begging. He need not have worried. Leno was there to protect them, right to the very end.
‘We won this game and it’s very good for a goalkeeper and see laughing faces after a game,’ said Leno. ‘But I prefer to win this game without a penalty shootout.’
Maybe so. The buzz of doing it this way, though, will last that little bit longer.
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