Curtis Jones and Liverpool beat Arsenal on penalties after 5-5 thriller
Andy Hunter at Anfield
Wed 30 Oct 2019 22.00 GMT
There were more goals scored in normal time than in the penalty shootout and Liverpool advanced to a quarter-final their manager suggested they might never play. Yes, it was another of those ridiculous Anfield nights. It started with an own goal and finished with an 18-year-old from Liverpool, Curtis Jones, converting the decisive spot-kick in front of the Kop. The fulfilment of his dream was a nightmare for Arsenal.
Unai Emery could point to Caoimhin Kelleher’s penalty save from Dani Ceballos in an otherwise flawless shootout as the fine margin that often separates teams at this level. It would not be entirely true. His team traded 10 goals with Liverpool, ranging from ugly to stunning and including everything in between. They traded dreadful mistakes and blows from beginning to end of an enthralling cup tie too. But only one side possessed the belief that the game is never over and it was not the team that led from the 26th minute until the 94th, that led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 in stoppage time. The faces in the Liverpool starting lineup had changed – all 11 of them from the win against Tottenham on Sunday in fact – but the strength of character to go to the last had not. Liverpool have a winner’s mentality throughout their squad. Arsenal lost theirs a long time ago.
Divock Origi pegged back Arsenal for a fifth and final time with a flying volley from Neco Williams’ fine cross. Jones swept home Liverpool’s fifth and final penalty to secure a place in the last eight after James Milner, Adam Lallana, Rhian Brewster and Origi had scored past Emiliano Martinez. Héctor Bellerín, Mattéo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were also on target in the shootout for the visitors. Only Ceballos failed to beat Kelleher, Liverpool’s third choice, 20-year-old goalkeeper, and Klopp was left to savour not only the result but an experience for a team featuring five home debutants he could never have dreamt up in coaching school.
“I don’t know when I had so much fun at a football game,” said the Liverpool manager, who threatened not to play the quarter-final that clashes with the Club World Cup in Qatar if “a proper date” is not found.
Liverpool’s starting lineup had an average age of 23 years and 122 days and, despite a hugely encouraging start, a more experienced Arsenal team ruthlessly exploited the errors that crept into the home side’s display. Teenage summer signings Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg were among five Anfield debutants while the 18-year-old Williams impressed on his full Liverpool debut at right-back.
Williams, a Wales under-19 international, played a fine pass behind Sead Kolasinac for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to cross towards Rhian Brewster at the near post. Shkodran Mustafi got there first yet conspired to miss the ball with his outstretched right leg and divert it past his own goalkeeper with his left knee.
Arsenal, with Mesut Özil back in from the cold and floating to telling effect behind Martinelli, drew level from their first meaningful attack. Martinelli instigated the equaliser with a powerful surge down the left and low cross that eventually found its way to Bukayo Saka via Özil and Maitland‑Niles. Kelleher saved but Torreira snapped up the rebound from close range. VAR would have disallowed the goal for offside. Torreira revelled in its absence.
The visitors overturned the deficit when Liverpool fell asleep at a free-kick. Torreira released Maitland-Niles down the right as home players stood watching and, from his second attempted cross, Van den Berg miscued towards his own goal. Kelleher saved but once again could only work the ball back into the danger zone and Martinelli converted into the roof of the net.
Arsenal were clinical with their chances. Liverpool were supremely generous in offering them up and fell further behind when Elliott turned a Williams pass carelessly inside to Özil, who released Saka clear down the left with a fine first touch.
The cross arrived low and perfectly for Martinelli to score his seventh goal in seven appearances with an emphatic shot over the exposed Kelleher. Emery’s team sensed daylight and welcome respite but the fun was only just beginning.
Liverpool’s wayward passing and uncertain defending tested Anfield’s patience but they were offered a route back minutes before the interval when Elliott tumbled over Martinelli’s outstretched foot inside the Arsenal area. Andre Marriner had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, seconds after dismissing a penalty appeal for handball by Bellerín, and Milner sent Martínez the wrong way from 12 yards.
Milner of all people was responsible for Arsenal regaining a two-goal advantage when his weak backpass was pounced upon by Maitland-Niles who, after an improvised flick from Özil, scored easily.
Liverpool had it all to do once again. The comeback recommenced with a thumping 25-yard strike from Oxlade-Chamberlain, who found the top corner having beaten Maitland-Niles to a Lallana header.
Parity was restored when Jones, a replacement for the injured Naby Keita, found Origi on the edge of the Arsenal area and the striker turned Rob Holding brilliantly before beating Martínez with a thunderous shot. And back came Arsenal.
The tie was ridiculously open and so too was Liverpool’s midfield when Joe Willock breezed through and found the top corner from almost 30 yards. With seconds remaining the Arsenal defence switched off and Origi volleyed home Liverpool’s fifth. Klopp’s team, inevitably, held their nerve.
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