A stunning fightback booked Liverpool’s place in the EFL Cup semi-finals against Leicester City on Wednesday night. Jurgen Klopp was forced to field a much-changed starting eleven for the contest at Anfield, and after watching his side 0-2 and 1-3 down in the first half, the manager must have been fearing the worst.
But making the most of the five substitutes rule, Liverpool were reborn after the break and notched twice – the equaliser coming in the 95th minute from Takumi Minamino.
That sent the tie to a penalty shootout, where Caoimhin Kelleher made himself a hero with two top class saves – earning the Reds a semi-final date with Arsenal.
But it had all started so badly for the hosts. Billy Koumetio, making a rare start at the heart of the defence, and he and Joe Gomez really struggled with the pace and direct style of Jamie Vardy, who helped himself to a brace of goals in the opening 13 minutes of the game.
Liverpool were awoken from their slumber and it wasn’t long before they were back in the contest. Good work from Bobby Firmino led to a pass to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and he powered home a shot that gave Kasper Schmeichel no chance.
But it wasn’t long before the Foxes exerted their dominance once more, and James Maddison restored their two-goal cushion when he rifled a sublime long-range strike past Kelleher.
Klopp rang the changes at half time, bringing on Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate and James Milner for Koumetio, Conor Bradley and Tyler Morton, and that trio – as well as Naby Keita, introduced in the 59th minute for Jordan Henderson – enabled the Reds to work their way back into the contest.
It was Jota that would reduce the arrears, linking up well with Minamino before firing into the corner, and from there it was one-way traffic as Liverpool laid siege to the Leicester goal.
Just went it seemed as though time was going to get the better of them, James Milner wriggled free out wide and slung over a cross that was met by Minamino, whose first touch and finish sent the Kop into raptures and the tie to penalties.
Ironically, the Japanese ace turned villain thereafter, missing his spot kick, but he would have breathed a huge sigh of relief as Kelleher produced a colossal display, keeping out two Leicester penalties and watching on as Jota notched his to complete a famous comeback victory.
The adrenaline coursing through the Anfield terraces might be needed on Boxing Day, when the Reds welcome Leeds United in a frightfully early 12:30 kick off. Let’s hope those involved don’t go too crazy on the cheese and port on Christmas Day….
Liverpool Team News
There was a rare stroke of luck for Liverpool on the illness and injury front this week – a major relief given how unlucky the Reds have been with absentees of late.
In most circumstances, the isolation period following a Covid test has been cut from ten days to seven, and so – assuming they feel well enough – Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones could all feature against Leeds.
The game will probably come too early for Thiago, who tested positive on the 19th, while Andy Robertson is suspended and Nat Phillips injured.
But Klopp will surely be full of festive cheer after getting his defensive lynchpin and midfield general back for the hectic Yuletide fixture list.
Leeds United Form
After a fantastic first season back in the Premier League, the wheels have started to come off at Leeds United.
In fairness to Marcelo Bielsa, he has been beset with injuries and illness this term – something that Klopp can sympathise with.
Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford, Pascal Struijk, Rodrigo…. all are on the injury list for the Yorkshiremen.
Unsurprisingly, they have struggled as a result, and just one win in six seems them hovering above the relegation zone. Three defeats on the spin have seen them concede an eye watering 14 goals.
Liverpool vs Leeds United Betting Tips
As with the Newcastle game a couple of weeks ago, it’s almost impossible to see anything other than a Liverpool victory here.
Odds of 1/7 tell the whole story on that front, but Liverpool to win to nil is an edifying prospect at 23/20 – remember, Van Dijk and Fabinho should start for the Reds, while Leeds’ main attacking threat is absent.
Indeed, there’s also scope for Dutching the 2-0 and 3-0 correct scorelines at 9/1 and 8/1 respectively – if Liverpool score early, consider adding 4-0 in-running as well.