Liverpool (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 0
(Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)
Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) Fourth Round
Anfield Stadium, Anfield Road, Anfield, Liverpool L4 0TH
Thursday, 1st October 2020. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, Gabriel Magalhães, Rob Holding, Sead Kolašinac; Joe Willock, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pépé, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka; Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, David Luiz, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette, Cédric Soares, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, Joe Willock
Yellow Cards: Cédric Soares, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 43%
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistant Referees: Adrian Holmes, Simon Beck
Fourth Official: Paul Tierney
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Here we are again, just three days after our last visit to Anfield; only now we lock horns with Liverpool in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. Traditionally, this competition has always been viewed as the “Aunt Sally” of domestic cup competitions, which is extremely unfair, because as we know, this can lead to a cup final hosted at Wembley Stadium and a possible placement in a European competition for the winning club next season. As expected, we have a few changes in the team this evening, but despite that, it still is an excellent line-up, all things considered. Everything to play for tonight, then. Let’s go!
Surprisingly, it was a bit of a messy start, really, with the ball being given away here and there, with both sides desperately trying to grab an early advantage.As early as the eighth minute, Nicolas Pépé ran to the byline, and after a mix-up in the Liverpool penalty area, the ball fell to Eddie Nketiah, and as he tried to take it around Adrian, he pushed the ball away from him. The home side appeared to wake up and put us under pressure now; Diego Jota came close with an awkward shot and a despite a period of Liverpool dominance, we managed to break out and Granit Xhaka supplied a couple of superb crosses into the Liverpool penalty area, but unfortunately his efforts came to nothing. The rest of the half settled down, and although both sides had their chances, the match became some kind of strange stalemate, with the only incident of note was when Liverpool demanded a penalty kick after Dani Ceballos tripped Diego Jota outside the penalty area a minute or so before the break. Thankfully referee Kevin Friend saw through their nonsense and waved them away, before blowing his whistle for half-time.
We made no changes during the interval and slowly and surely, Liverpool were winning the odd ball here and there, but it has to be said that in the chaotic ten minute or so period after half-time, Bernd Leno was immense. He stopped the home side from scoring on several occasions and single-handedly marshalled his defenders in front of him constantly. However, things started to change for us when Dani Ceballos was substituted for Mohamed Elneny twenty minutes before the end, and almost immediately, we came close to scoring on two occasions when Bukayo Saka and Rob Holding were desperately unlucky in not getting on the scoresheet. Ten minutes later, Eddie Nketiah really should have scored with a fantastic header, but unbelievably it went wide of the target by at least two yards. With five minutes of the match remaining, just a couple of minutes apart, Alexandre Lacazette replaced Eddie Nketiah, and Bukayo Saka was substituted for Ainsley Maitland-Niles in a final throw of the dice for Mikel Arteta. Liverpool sensed this, and literally threw everything at us, but thankfully our organised defence held, and as the time ebbed away, it was becoming obvious that we were all heading for the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
And so it’s penalties, and after a long, tiring match at Anfield, this is surely a situation that neither club must be looking forward to. James Milner sends Bernd Leno the wrong way to put the home team ahead, and Alexandre Lacazette also does the same thing to the Liverpool goalkeeper to equalise. Georginio Wijnaldum and Cédric Soares score the next two, whilst our hearts were in our mouths when Takumi Minamino scored for Liverpool, and sadly Mohamed Elneny saw his penalty saved to give advantage to the home side. Thankfully, Divock Origi’s penalty was saved by Bernd Leno and young Ainsley Maitland-Niles levelled the scores again. Curtis Jones and Nicolas Pépé made sure with their penalties to ensure that we are now into sudden death. An extremely nervous Harry Wilson saw his penalty saved well by Bernd Leno, and all eyes were now on our next man to step up to the plate. Joe Willock ran up, stroked the ball and Adrian was unable to stop the ball rolling over the line and as a result, we are through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup by beating Liverpool 5-4 on penalties at Anfield on a dark and dank Thursday evening.
Phew! We did it! And at Anfield too! This victory will certainly lift everyone here at the club, and the chance to go all the way to Wembley in this competition will surely propel the players to fight for places in the first team, and the desire to win matches in all competitions will now be greater, and the sheer will to win in the hearts of the younger players must undoubtedly go up several notches now. Our next opponents in this competition are Manchester City at home in the third week of December, and after tonight, who knows what this side is truly capable of? Well done everyone!
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, 4th October at 2.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.
Regardless of the fact that both clubs fielded weakened sides, a 0-0 is the type of result that fills me with confidence. Last year we went there, played against a much weaker Liverpool team and got involved in a game of basketball. Going to the big grounds, grinding out results and being hard to breakdown is something we`ve been unable to do for about 14 or 15 years. I was always confident Arteta would do a decent job with time and a bit of backing but its really surprised me how much emphasis he`s put on the defensive side of the game. We look like we actually enjoy defending and when we come under a bit of pressure we`re not folding like a cheap suit anymore. In time, we`ll improve our game in the attacking 3rd but as an old timer who`s followed The Arse for donkey`s years its great to finally see a bit of defensive organisation which will give us a solid platform to build on moving forward. Top 4 has to be the target this season, a bit of silverware will just be a bonus.