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Liverpool 3-3 Leicester City (5-4 pens): Three talking points
23/12/2021 14:09:10

Liverpool reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals after a penalty shootout with Leicester City.

Jamie Vardy had handed the visitors an early lead against Jurgen Klopp’s much-changed side with a quick-fire double, both from counter attacks.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reduced the deficit six minutes latter with a cleanly-taken strike from Roberto Firmino’s cutback on the edge of the penalty area.

But the Foxes restored their two-goal cushion after James Maddison unleashed a 25-yard drive which left Caoimhin Kelleher powerless to stop it.

A spirited fightback after the interval saw the Reds halve their deficit again as substitute Diogo Jota rifled a close-range finish from Takumi Minamino’s pass.

Minamino eventually levelled up the tie in the fourth minute of stoppage time when he met James Milner’s deep cross with a half-volley in front of The Kop.

The Japan international missed his spot kick in the shootout after Caoimhin Kelleher had denied Luke Thomas to take the showdown into sudden death.

Liverpool’s third-choice stopper saved another effort, this time from Ryan Bertrand, before Jota dispatched to set up a last-four clash with Arsenal.

Here were the key talking points from Anfield:

You can never write the Reds off

Against seemingly all the odds, Liverpool’s League Cup love affair goes on.

Jurgen Klopp’s half-strength team appeared condemned to their fate after conceding three times in the opening half-hour on a bleak midwinter night.

There should have been no coming back from Leicester City’s comprehensive first-half dismanting which had subdued to Anfield crowd into relative silence.

Yet if anything distinguishes Klopp from his predecessor Brendan Rodgers, occupying the visitors’ dugout here, it is the Reds’ never-say-die attitude.

A raft of game-changing substitutions at the break helped admittedly, but they still had to dig deep to book a place in the last four of this competition.

Such is the nature of these ‘mentality monsters’ that even Takumi Minamino’s equaliser to send this tie to a penalty shootout felt like only a matter of time.

They really do never know when they are beaten.

Kelleher ready to step up as no.2

Caoimhin Kelleher’s wait to become Liverpool’s no.2 goalkeeper is finally over.

Shootout heroics alone did not define the 23-year-old’s credentials as a de facto backup to Alisson; he also produced some impressive in-game stops.

It was Kelleher’s sharp reflexes from point blank range which denied Jamie Vardy from racking up a seemingly inevitable hat-trick during the first half.

His fearlessness prevented a further onslaught following the interval, too, in thwarting Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s shot after he had made inroads on goal.

A string of solid cameo outings last season had placed the Republic of Ireland international in good standing although not enough to fully dislodge Adrian.

But with his fellow understudy sidelined by injury and set to be out of contract this summer, he made the strongest case yet for stepping into that breach.

Foxes’ freshness vindicates Klopp and co.

Player welfare has become a hot topic of late, with Klopp leading the charge.

The Liverpool manager, his assistant Pep Lijnders and Jordan Henderson all recently criticised the Premier League’s heavily congested Christmas fixtures.

Leicester’s energetic start to proceedings actually vindicated Klopp and company, with the visitors reaping the benefits of a 10-day rest period.

Granted, it was caused by a spike in Covid-19 cases yet it was still noticeable how much sharper Rodgers’ side appeared compared to their hosts.

Football’s decision makers will doubtless persevere with a relentless schedule designed to push elite-level players above and beyond their physical limits.

They would, however, be better served in heeding the warnings from Klopp and his brains trust when the Premier League meets on Thursday afternoon.

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