Liverpool are into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup for the fifth successive season after coming from behind to beat a plucky Leicester City team at Anfield on Wednesday night.
A thunderous strike from substitute Dominik Szoboszlai was ultimately the difference between the two sides after Leicester had taken a surprise early lead through Kasey McAteer. Cody Gakpo equalised soon after half-time, with Diogo Jota getting a Liverpool third near the end.
How the game unfolded
Liverpool were caught cold in the first few minutes when McAteer gave Leicester the shock lead. Kostas Tsimikas was punished for losing possession and the Foxes broke with lethal impact as Yunus Akgun put the goalscorer through one on one with Caoimhin Kelleher.
From there, the first half was one way traffic as the heavily rotated home side set about getting back into the game – the Leicester goal was fully peppered with attempts. Notably, in a flurry of chances from corners, youngsters Ben Doak and Jarell Quansah both had shots saved, before Doak also hit the bar. Conor Coady was then in the thick of it, clearing one off the line to deny his boyhood club.
Gakpo had a few attempts saved in the opening 45 minutes, but ultimately Liverpool, for all their dominance, didn’t do enough to test Leicester goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk.
It took the Reds only a few minutes of shooting towards the Kop after the interval to get back on terms. It was the double Dutch combination as Ryan Gravenberch managed to slip the ball through to Gakpo, who spun and fired low into the bottom corner with chance for Stolarczyk.
Liverpool somehow didn’t take the lead as the game neared the hour mark, with the Leicester goal living a charmed life as Gakpo’s header bounced down off the crossbar onto the line and out.
Seeking a winner, Jurgen Klopp flexed his squad depth by bringing on £145m duo Szoboszlai and Darwin Nunez with just under half an hour to play. It was the former who made the big difference almost immediately, afforded too much space from a Leicester perspective and unleashing an absolutely screamer that threatened to burst the net when it hit.
The Foxes appealed for a late penalty when substitute Abdul Fatawu appeared to be upended in the box, but with no VAR in this competition until the latter stages there could be no second look after it wasn’t given in real time. Moments later, fellow sub Wilfred Ndidi also threatened to dance his way through the middle until Stefan Bajcetic got just enough of a toe on the ball before a shot came.
Liverpool made extra sure of the win late on when Quansah chased down a ball out wide and drove into the box, for his pass to be nonchalantly flicked in by Jota’s heel. There was even still time for one more huge chance, but Harvey Elliott’s goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by Coady.
GK: Caoimhin Kelleher – 5/10 – Beaten by a good finish early on and then not busy at all.
RB: Curtis Jones (c) – 6/10 – Asked to play in an unfamiliar position. Wore the armband with pride.
CB: Ibahima Konate – 6/10 – Most of the game was played in front of him and he was able to freely pass the ball around.
CB: Jarell Quansah – 7/10 – Will take huge confidence from another polished performance, including a surprising driving run into the box to assist the third goal.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 6/10 – Knows he should have done better when Leicester scored early, although the rest of his performance showed he keen to make up for it.
CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 7/10 – Linked up well with Gakpo for the equaliser.
CM: Wataru Endo – 6/10 – Klopp has said that he needs time to adapt to the team’s style and these were vital minutes for him to help with that.
CM: Harvey Elliott – 7/10 – Guilty of some wayward shooting but frequently involved creatively.
RW: Ben Doak – 7/10 – Had some of his team’s better chances in the first half and clearly has a bright future. Looked sharp and eager to impress.
ST: Cody Gakpo – 8/10 – Clinical when it mattered to equalise after seeing a couple of first half chances saved. Led the line well in the end.
LW: Diogo Jota – 6/10 – Too much on the periphery of the game until his late goal.
SUB: Dominik Szoboszlai (65′ for Doak) – 8/10
SUB: Darwin Nunez (65′ for Gravenberch) – 6/10
SUB: Stefan Bajcetic (79′ for Jones) – 7/10
SUB: Luke Chambers (90′ for Tsimikas) – N/A
Subs not used: Adrian (GK), Van Dijk, Matip, Mac Allister, Diaz
Jurgen Klopp – 7/10 – Knew it was a risk to make as many changes as he did, but then also when to change things up – it was one of the subs who won it.
GK: Jakub Stolarczyk – 6/10 – Stood little chance against good Liverpool goals. Made other saves.
RB: Ricardo Pereira (c) – 7/10 – Defensively sound against Jota. Lacked attacking finesse.
CB: Harry Souttar – 6/10 – Admirably repelled danger.
CB: Conor Coady – 7/10 – Cleared a certain goal in each half.
LB: James Justin – 6/10 – A tough opening hour trying to keep the electric Doak quiet.
CM: Yunus Akgun – 6/10 – Great work to win the ball, break quickly and set up the opening goal.
CM: Hamza Choudhury – 6/10 – Didn’t see much of the ball to try and do anything with it but worked hard to try and keep his team in the game.
CM: Cesare Casadei – 5/10 – Struggled to make his mark on the game. Off relatively early.
RW: Kasey McAteer – 7/10 – Made no mistake in his big moment.
ST: Kelechi Iheanacho – 5/10 – Service was always going to be difficult to come by, although he did give Anfield a giggle when a slip in midfield saw him end up on his backside.
LW: Marc Albrighton – 7/10 – Put in a hard shift that didn’t neglect defensive duties.
SUB: Wilfred Ndidi (57′ for Casadei) – 7/10
SUB: Abdul Fatawu (64′ for Albrighton) – 7/10
SUB: Patson Daka (64′ for Iheanacho) – 5/10
SUB: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (64′ for Akgun) – 6/10
Subs not used: Hermansen (GK), Faes, Vestergaard, Winks, Mavididi
Enzo Maresca – 7/10 – His team was set up well and wasn’t too far off potentially pulling a famous upset out of the bag.