Crazy, was Jürgen Klopp’s take on talk of Liverpool winning an unprecedented quadruple, yet crazy remains possible. The Carabao Cup winners advanced into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time under Klopp with their 11th successive win in all competitions.
Norwich went unexpectedly close to forcing extra time but found little consolation in losing to Liverpool for the fourth time this season.
The Carabao Cup aftershow party was more complicated than it should have been. Liverpool were comfortably in the ascendency courtesy of a Takumi Minamino brace, the Japan international underlining how strength in depth has supported Klopp’s team on all fronts this season, until Lukas Rupp’s goal brought late anxiety to Anfield.
Liverpool had to “fight to bring it over the line,” their manager admitted. “And that’s just fine.”
Klopp explained: “We had to make 10 changes because of playing 120 minutes and a 40-minute penalty shootout on Sunday. It was an exhausting night mentally and physically and we needed to make changes to have a chance tonight. It was a tough game but we expected that.”
Jordan Henderson was the only survivor from Sunday’s starting lineup against Chelsea. James Milner made his 50th FA Cup appearance and demonstrated his value to Liverpool yet again by stepping in at right-back.
Liverpool controlled the tie with Curtis Jones curling an early shot on to the top of Tim Krul’s crossbar. Dean Smith’s team threatened sporadically in the first half. Teemu Pukki had a decent opening after a sharp turn and run by Przemyslaw Placheta but dragged his shot wide of Alisson and the far post.
Norwich had defended with discipline and organisation but were undone when Liverpool switched play swiftly from right to left through Henderson and Jones. Kostas Tsimikas chipped a cross into a crowded penalty area where Diogo Jota dummied for Divock Origi, who showed neat control and the awareness to pick out the unmarked Minamino. The Japan international could not and did not miss, beating Krul with a powerful close-range finish. It was the 750th goal of Klopp’s 360-game Liverpool reign.
Minamino claimed his and Liverpool’s second when Klopp’s masters of the set piece struck again, albeit with the aid of Ben Gibson. The Norwich captain got his head to a corner from Tsimikas but succeeded in glancing it on to the Liverpool forward. Minamino, again unmarked, had time to take the ball down before beating Krul with a precision shot that swerved from the outside of his right boot and in off the inside of the near post.
The Liverpool goalscorer was an unused substitute at Wembley but has made an impressive contribution to both domestic cup runs. Minamino scored four goals in Liverpool’s victorious Carabao Cup campaign, including the vital stoppage-time equaliser against Leicester in the quarter-final, and also scored in the FA Cup fourth round win over Cardiff. He may get a second bite at Wembley on Liverpool’s current form. “Taki was a massive part of the run to the Carabao Cup final and that he didn’t play in the final would have been hard on him,” said Klopp. “But when he looks back he has just won the Carabao Cup for Liverpool and that’s a really good thing. The two goals were great but all the rest he did tonight was top class.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost maintained Liverpool’s record of scoring three in every game against Norwich this season when, having wriggled his way into space outside the area, his low shot cannoned off the foot of a post. Klopp had replaced Jones with Harvey Elliott at the interval after the midfielder had a slight thigh problem.
Smith was also forced into a substitution when Placheta fell awkwardly over the advertising hoardings at the end of the first half after a tussle with Tsimikas. The winger required lengthy treatment during the interval. His replacement, Josh Sargent, had an excellent chance to inject hope into Norwich’s night but, diving to meet a deep cross from Dimitris Giannoulis, the USA international headed wastefully wide.
The second half was an otherwise pedestrian affair until Rupp suddenly threw Norwich a lifeline. Sargent’s run and pass through central midfield created the opening and, with Joe Gomez backing off, Rupp swept a finish past Alisson from 20 yards.
The substitute Jonathan Rowe was close to equalising with five minutes left when he broke away from Milner only for Alisson to tip away his rising drive towards the top corner.
“We had to ask serious questions as we didn’t want this game to run away from us at 2-0,” the Norwich manager reflected. “We made some changes, we wanted to be aggressive and be on the front foot and make a cup tie of it. We’ve had four or five good chances and it’s very rare you can say that against Liverpool. We had to put in a display for the 1,200 who came here for an 8.15pm kick-off and won’t be getting home until the early hours.”
Source: The Guardian