Diogo Jota's brace sees Liverpool book their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea as Jurgen Klopp's side seal a comfortable 2-0 semi-final second leg victory over 10-man Arsenal
Jurgen Klopp has brought Liverpool far greater glories than anything available in this competition but an appearance in a domestic cup final should be cherished on Merseyside just the same.
It is one of the modern game’s strange anomalies that Liverpool have won just one Wembley cup final in the last 15 years.
In that time, the Manchester clubs have won 12 between them and last night’s beaten opponents have won four. So a success is overdue for Liverpool and now, against Chelsea next month, they will have the opportunity.
MMATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
ARSENAL (4-1-4-1): Ramsdale 5.5; Tomiyasu 5.5, White 5.5, Gabriel 6, Tierney 6; Lokonga 6; Saka 6, Odegaard 6, Smith Rowe 6 (Partey 74min, 6), Martinelli 6.5; Lacazette 6 (Nketiah 74, 6)
Booked: Lacazette, Tomiyasu, Partey
Sent off: Partey
Manager: Mikel Arteta 6
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Kelleher 6; Alexander-Arnold 6, Van Dijk 6.5, Matip 6 (Konate 46, 6), Robertson 6.5; Henderson 7 (Milner 75, 6), Fabinho 7, Jones 7.5; Gordon 6.5 (Minamino 63, 6), Firmino 6 (N Williams 84), Jota 8.
Scorer: Jota 19, 79
Booked: Jones, Minamino
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 8
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6.5
They deserve their place too and will probably start that game as slight favourites. After playing so poorly in drawing last week’s first leg 0-0 against Arsenal’s 10 men, Klopp’s team were much improved here at the Emirates.
Arsenal started the night well but could not contain early momentum. Once Diogo Jota scored an opening goal that Aaron Ramsdale should have saved in the 19th minute, Liverpool were in control and from then on their goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher didn’t have a serious save to make. J
ota, the Portuguese forward, was Liverpool’s best player and scored the decisive second goal with 16 minutes to go. Initially ruled out for offside, the goal was given after a VAR check showed Jota to have been the right side of Arsenal defender Gabriel.
For Arsenal it was a desperately disappointing night. Not only did they show themselves once again to be a fraction below the level required against the best teams, they saw Thomas Partey sent off for two late bookings.
The midfielder had only been on the field 15 minutes as a sub, having arrived back from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the day. Why Mikel Arteta included him at all is something perhaps only the Arsenal coach understands.
The first game had possessed all the intensity and vitality of a funeral procession. This one was different from the start.
This competition always feels a little more vital when it reaches the back end of winter and both managers’ selections reflected that. Strong, if not exactly full strength.
Early on the momentum was Arsenal’s. Perhaps encouraged by how competently they had coped with Liverpool a week earlier, they were ambitious.
Liverpool — dressed in a yellow away kit — were not allowed to settle and were slightly fortunate to come through the opening quarter of an hour without conceding.
Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazette came closest to scoring in the fourth minute, curling a free-kick towards the corner where it was touched on to the bar by Kelleher.
There was another scare for the visitors when Kelleher got lost under a high cross that looked at one stage as though it might drop into the goal.
It was impressive by Arsenal but they could not keep it up. Indeed the whole feel of the half changed when Liverpool went ahead almost out of nothing in the 19th minute.
Joel Matip had the ball in the net six minutes earlier but had strayed offside when looking to meet Fabinho’s header from a corner.
When the goal did arrive it was beautifully created but also rather soft. Roberto Firmino’s flick was clever and set Trent Alexander-Arnold away in to space.
When the full back passed left to Jota, there was still work to do. But when the forward tricked Takehiro Tomiyasu and headed towards the top of the penalty area, he struck a right-foot shot that lacked power but somehow beat Ramsdale low to his right.
It was a poor one to concede by the Englishman, even though replays showed his line of sight was blocked by two covering defenders and, as such, he had been caught with his weight on his left foot as though expecting the shot to arrive on that side of his goal. Anyway, Liverpool were ahead and immediately began to play with more confidence.
They did not create any more real chances in the half but for the most part controlled possession and territory. Arsenal did show occasional glimpses of menace. Fabinho, for example, had to poke the ball away from Gabriel Martinelli as he threatened to surge past Virgil van Dijk and then Andrew Robertson had to be sharp to block Bukayo Saka’s shot from the right side.
The pattern of the game didn’t change a great deal for much of the second half. But Liverpool missed two big opportunities before the hour and that kept the contest alive.
Young forward Kaide Gordon, 17, missed a simple chance in the 51st minute. Jota created it with a dart down the left and, after he left Ben White behind, he laid the ball back perfectly only for Gordon to shoot over with his left foot. He should have scored. Ibrahima Konate then headed against a post from a corner and Fabinho also had a clear opportunity to shoot soon after only to choose a pass.
Arsenal were hanging on a little but were still in it and Lacazette crashed a shot over the bar in the opening moments of the second half. But Jota clinched it with a lovely goal. A ball from Alexander-Arnold played him clear to lift the ball over Ramsdale.
He seemed aghast at being called offside and replays showed he was the right side of the VAR line.
Scroll down to see how it all unfolded with Sportsmail's live runner...