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Liverpool players celebrate winning the penalty shootout.
Liverpool players celebrate winning the penalty shootout.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Poetic justice as Liverpool prevail and more Capital One Cup talking points

Plus, silver linings for Irish duo and hope for Liverpool’s much-maligned stars.
Jan 26th 2016, 11:39 PM 9,549 5

1. Poetic justice after offside goal

LIVERPOOL AND STOKE have met three times this season and on each occasion, the match has ended 1-0 — a curious stat, particularly giving the 6-1 hammering Mark Hughes’ men gave the Reds on the final day of last season.

Tonight was expected to be as tight as the previous two games during the campaign and so it proved.

For the most part, both sides cancelled each other out, with just four of the 27 shots on target over the 120 minutes, which highlighted the lack of creativity and quality attacking play for the game’s duration more than anything else.

Ultimately, it was a mistake on the part of the officials that decided the game in normal time, with Marko Arnautovic clearly offside as he tapped home Bojan Krkic’s pinpoint cross on the stroke of half-time.

Owing to the manner in which they conceded, Liverpool will therefore be forgiven for thinking they were due a bit of luck when the game went to penalties.

2. Silver linings for Irish duo

Britain Soccer League Cup Liverpool's Alberto Moreno, left, challenges for the ball with Stoke's Glenn Whelan. Source: Jon Super

It won’t come as much consolation to them given that it is Liverpool who are going to Wembley, but the two Irish internationals who started tonight — Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan — both impressed with their performances.

Walters, with his power, movement and footballing intelligence, caused the Liverpool defence problems all night, and produced a lovely touch in the build-up for the game’s only goal.

Whelan, meanwhile, gave his usual tireless display, closing the space regularly, putting in some good tackles, and generally protecting the back four and restricting Liverpool’s attack to half chances at best.

The visitors, in general, will be disappointed to be going home empty-handed following a diligent and disciplined display that had all the hallmarks of the kind of grit with which Stoke have gained a reputation for in recent years.

Both Ireland internationals even slotted home well-taken penalties in the shootout, but their contributions proved irrelevant ultimately.

Less positively from an Irish perspective, after an unconvincing substitute appearance at the weekend against Leicester, Marc Wilson was again left on the bench despite the absence of the injured Ryan Shawcross, with 23-year-old ex-Barcelona man Marc Muniesa preferred at centre-back.

3. Can Mignolet and Benteke push on from here?

It was a night of redemption for Liverpool, as what has been a largely underwhelming season so far has suddenly been given a more positive sheen amid the prospect of a cup final appearance at Wembley in just under four weeks’ time against either Man City or Merseyside rivals Everton.

Two players in particular who benefited from this outcome were Christian Benteke and Simon Mignolet.

Mignolet has recently been awarded a five-year contract to widespread disbelief among Liverpool fans, who have been largely unimpressed with the Belgian international since his move to the club from Sunderland in 2013.

However, the 27-year-old stopper came good when it mattered most, making an impressive save to deny Muniesta in the shootout, thereby paving the way for Joe Allen’s well-taken winner.

Benteke, meanwhile, though he didn’t score in normal time, coolly slotted home one of Liverpool’s six successful spot kicks.

More importantly though, the striker — who Jurgen Klopp has been reluctant to start at times — gave Liverpool a noticeable lift when he replaced Jordan Henderson on 58 minutes.

The Reds looked reinvigorated by the £32.5 million summer signing’s presence on the field and carried more of an attacking threat following his arrival.

Both aforementioned players have had somewhat disappointing seasons thus far, yet their encouraging displays tonight could perhaps serve as the catalyst for better times ahead.

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Paul Fennessy

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