Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool (0-2 agg): Jota double sends Reds into EFL Cup final

By Sports Desk January 20, 2022

Diogo Jota fired Liverpool into the EFL Cup final with his double securing a 2-0 victory over Arsenal, who finished the semi-final second leg with 10 men.

Liverpool will take on Chelsea at Wembley in their 13th EFL Cup final, though it will be their first appearance in the showpiece since 2016. 

Jota squeezed in the opening goal in the 19th minute, bringing an end to a bright Arsenal start that saw Alexandre Lacazette hit the crossbar. 

Liverpool had the tie wrapped up when VAR overturned an offside decision after Jota lifted in his second, with the Gunners' frustrations compounded by a 90th-minute dismissal for Thomas Partey.

Arsenal went close to taking the lead when Lacazette's free-kick was tipped onto the bar by Caoimhin Kelleher during an impressive opening quarter of an hour for the hosts. 

However, Joel Matip had a goal ruled out for offside before a sweeping Liverpool attack ended with Jota scuffing an effort beyond Aaron Ramsdale from 18 yards against the run of play. 

Lacazette spurned a great chance from Albert Sambi Lokonga's excellent pass four minutes after the restart. 

Kaide Gordon wasted an opportunity to punish him when he blazed over and Konate – who replaced Matip at half-time – crashed a powerful header into the foot of the upright before the hour mark. 

Arsenal controlled possession in the closing stages but Jota put the game to bed in the 77th minute, with the VAR deeming he had been played onside from Trent Alexander-Arnold's excellent pass by Gabriel Magalhaes.

Partey only arrived back from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ghana on Thursday and picked up two yellow cards in three minutes to cap a disappointing day for the Gunners.

What does it mean? Liverpool too good for Gunners 

Arsenal had their moments and played well, but Liverpool were just too solid for them and they failed to register against Jurgen Klopp's side in the fifth straight meeting of the teams in all competitions. 

The Gunners have now won just one of their past 18 matches against the Reds, with this representing their first home EFL Cup loss to the Merseyside side. 

Chelsea await in the final, where Liverpool will hope to become the first team to win the competition nine times. 

Diogo goal crazy 

Jota now has five goals in his past four games against Arsenal in all competitions – four of them have been at the Emirates as a Liverpool player, making him the club's leading goalscorer at the stadium.

Gordon makes history 

Gordon was named in the starting line-up and became the first Liverpool player aged 17 or younger to feature in the semi-final or final of a major competition. He was not heavily involved and missed a great chance to mark the occasion with a goal early in the second half. 

What's next? 

Arsenal entertain Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday, when Liverpool are back in London to take on Crystal Palace. 

Related items

  • Real Madrid reign again as Ancelotti, Courtois and Vinicius leave Liverpool down and out in Paris Real Madrid reign again as Ancelotti, Courtois and Vinicius leave Liverpool down and out in Paris

    Carlo Ancelotti must have been considering it. He must have been thinking that this would not be Vinicius Junior's night.

    The hour mark was approaching, the Brazilian boy wonder had barely made an impact on this Champions League final, and on the bench there was semi-final hero Rodrygo, straining for a chance.

    Heck, there was Eden Hazard too, and even Isco and Gareth Bale. For old time's sake, did they ever cross Ancelotti's mind.

    There had been a first-half flicker from the 21-year-old Vinicius, when he got the better of Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate with a stealthy piece of skill in the penalty area, but Jordan Henderson read the danger and gladly conceded a corner.

    But that had really been the first and last time in the first 58 minutes of play that Vinicius caused Liverpool any real consternation. He had a team-low 29 touches of the ball at that point, but then Federico Valverde's low cross from the right presented him with a 30th, a tap-in at the far post. The phantom menace became the match-winner.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold, needing to initially cover Karim Benzema, appeared to almost forget about Vinicius, but there he was, lurking, and he could not miss.

    Billed as a Ballon d'Or shootout between Benzema and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, this final largely ignored that script. If anybody put in a performance worth of such an honour here, it was Madrid's outstanding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made nine saves, the most on record in a Champions League final since 2003-04.

    Watched by Ronaldo, the great Brazilian whose health scare before the 1998 World Cup final at this very stadium was followed by France romping to glory, Vinicius stayed on the pitch until stoppage time, when Ancelotti opted for Rodrygo's fresh legs.

    Ancelotti, that is, who is now a four-time Champions League winner, the first coach in the history of the competition, in this or its previous guise as the European Cup, to reach that tally.

    He has trusted Vinicius all season long, backed a blossoming talent and been richly rewarded by the youngster, and his winner in such a game of high prestige marks another step forward in a career that could see him finish among the all-time greats.

    There were plenty of greats inside the Stade de France, many in the stands. Needless to say, the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf, Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro did not have to tolerate any of the nonsense outside the stadium that forced this game to be delayed by 36 minutes, that left reports of children in tears, of pepper-spraying police, media being mistreated, and of panic on the streets of Paris.

    The Galacticos were joined in the VIP seats by Rafael Nadal, midway through his crusade for a 14th French Open title.

    Madrid now have 14 Champions League and European Cup titles, and Ancelotti, who delivered La Decima in 2014, has delivered two of those after the two he landed with his beloved Milan.

    A double of LaLiga and the Champions League is theirs, while Liverpool must settle for their own twin triumphs from the FA Cup and EFL Cup. The quadruple was beyond them, and Liverpool blew themselves out in the first half here.

    After knocking out Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and now sinking Liverpool in the trophy match, Madrid reign once more.

    Vinicius reigns – the first South American aged 21 or younger to have 10 or more goal involvements in a Champions League campaign since Lionel Messi for Barcelona in the 2008-09 season.

    His four goals and six assists in Europe came from a personal all-competitions haul of 22 goals and 16 assists in 52 games for the season. At 21 years and 320 days, Vinícius is the fifth youngest player to score in a Champions League final.

    Ancelotti reigns – "I am a record man," he told BT Sport at full-time.

    Benzema reigns – it was not his night but could have been.

    The Frenchman had a goal ruled out for offside just before half-time, after a three-and-a-half-minute wait for a VAR verdict. Deciphering that moment was as challenging as the task of unravelling the Agatha Christie footballers' wives court saga, and it caused almost as much soapbox frothing on social media.

    Come the final whistle, and Madrid's celebrations of their 1-0 victory, that moment was an afterthought.

    At full-time, former Liverpool and Madrid striker Michael Owen said of Jurgen Klopp's Reds: "I still think they're the team to beat... the most fearsome team in Europe".

    Owen was in Paris, at pitchside even, but must have missed the news. Madrid reign again.

  • Madrid's miracle men topple Klopp's mentality monsters to make more history in Paris Madrid's miracle men topple Klopp's mentality monsters to make more history in Paris

    And so at the end of a gruelling 63-game season, mentality monsters Liverpool met their match against the miracle men of Real Madrid.

    For the best part of an hour in Paris, Carlo Ancelotti's side looked off the pace and seemingly in need of some inspiration. Yet Madrid did what Madrid do. 

    Just ask Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City exactly how that feels.

    Unlike in the previous three rounds, no comeback was required on Saturday thanks to Vinicius Junior's 59th-minute strike and a string of incredible Thibaut Courtois saves.

    The pair, who along with Karim Benzema have been key in Los Blancos' run to the final, will now forever be synonymous with their side's 14th continental triumph.

    That is double the number of European Cups or Champions Leagues won by the next most successful side, with Milan on seven and Liverpool just behind, still stuck on six.

    Back in the city of the first of their triumphs, you can be sure that this will not be the last for the true kings of Europe.

    Not for the first time this season, Ancelotti's men were slow getting out of the blocks, perhaps not helped by a delay to kick-off of more than 30 minutes.

    That was down to crowd congestion, as UEFA put it, with one half of the ground swathed in white 45 minutes before the scheduled start time and the Liverpool end a patchy red.

    Those Liverpool fans who didn't make it into the ground on time would have missed a dominant first-half display from their side.

    The Reds had more shots on target in the first 22 minutes than they did in the entire of the 2019 final, which ended in victory against Tottenham.

    Madrid had not even registered a shot or a touch in the Liverpool box by that point, and the Premier League side's dominance only grew as the warmth in the Paris air turned to a slight chill.

    By half-time, Jurgen Klopp's side had aimed as many shots on target as in their previous two finals combined, including the defeat to Madrid four years ago in Kyiv.

    Crucially, though, Courtois had kept out each of them, including a fine stop from Sadio Mane, helping his shot onto the post.

    That was the seventh time Liverpool had hit the woodwork in the Champions League this season – the most of any side – yet the first signs of the tide turning arrived just before the break.

    Benzema, kept quiet for large parts, fired the ball in after a mix-up between Alisson and Ibrahima Konate, only for the officials to deem the France striker to be offside.

    It was a hugely contentious call, one that took three minutes for VAR to review, although it will now represent a mere footnote when looking back at this game in years to come.

    Vinicius – and Courtois – ultimately proved the difference, despite Liverpool throwing all they had at their opponents. The Belgium international made the most Champions League final saves (nine) of any goalkeeper on record (since 2003-04).

    And so, for the eighth final running, the side that scored first went on to win, a run stretching back to Madrid's comeback victory against Atletico Madrid in 2014.

    Digging deep is nothing new for Madrid, then, and again in Paris – albeit perhaps not quite to the same extent as witnessed in previous rounds – their grit and character was on show.

    A side who had trailed for 178 minutes in the semi-final, and 243 minutes in total in this campaign (21 per cent of their minutes played), came through this most difficult of runs.

    Let it not be forgotten that the LaLiga winners saw off the champions of France, the champions of England and the erstwhile champions of Europe en route even before facing Liverpool and toppling them, too.

    It will be particularly special for Ancelotti, who becomes an outright record four-time winner of the Champions League, but this success was about a team who refused to be beaten and again had the ability to grind out a victory just when required.

    Never has a Champions League triumph been so hard-fought and yet so deserved.

  • 'I played a great game and that was the difference' – Courtois revels in Champions League heroics 'I played a great game and that was the difference' – Courtois revels in Champions League heroics

    Thibaut Courtois revelled in making the difference as his fine goalkeeping performance guided Real Madrid to a Champions League final victory over Liverpool on Saturday.

    Madrid had their backs to the wall from the offset at the Stade de France as Liverpool attempted as many shots on target in the first half (five) as they did in their previous two Champions League finals combined (two in 2018 and three in 2019).

    That first-half display included two fine Courtois stops against a close-range Mohamed Salah effort and Sadio Mane drive, but the Belgium international saved his best for after the interval.

    Courtois expertly denied Salah three times in the second half, the last of which was particularly impressive as he dived to his right to tip away, with Vinicius Junior nudging Madrid ahead at the other end.

    The rearguard of Madrid held firm to secure a 1-0 win and record-extending 14th Champions League title as Courtois ended with a record nine saves in the final of the competition, since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

    Courtois has led the way among goalkeepers in the competition this season, making the most saves (59) and boasting the highest save percentage of goalkeepers to make five stops or more (80.56).

    The 30-year-old, speaking after the game, reflected on a productive outing on both a personal and team level.

    "I said yesterday in my press conference when Madrid plays finals they win it," he told BT Sport.

    "And I'm on the good side of history, I saw a lot of tweets coming my way that I will get humbled today and it was the other way round.

    "I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name – I don't think I have enough, especially in England.

    "I saw a lot of criticism even after a great season that I was not good enough. I'm really happy and proud at the performance of the team, we stuck to it and when I needed to be there I was there for the team.

    "We beat the best clubs in the world, together with us, you see the year City and Liverpool had, unbelievable seasons, they fought till the end in the Premier League.

    "Liverpool won two cups, today they were really strong, I think I played a great game and that was the difference – we had one chance and we scored it."

    Aside from a dominant personal performance, Courtois believes Madrid have shown they are the best side in Europe.

    "So many years, so much work, coming to the club of my life, yesterday I already said that Madrid wins and it is like that," he told Movistar. 

    "Many from Liverpool and other people criticising me but we have shown who is the king of Europe.

    "I've felt very good this year, I've managed the last few weeks well, and once you make the first stop then you're focused, and I took chances from Mane and Salah.

    "Nobody could take away my desire to win a Champions League. For my loved ones who have passed, I was going to win a Champions League."

    As for his best save, Courtois added: "Especially Salah's, I looked for it from distance, and I knew where the ball was going. It's crazy, I don't believe it.

    "The referee added five minutes without anything happening, but hey, we held on."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.