Liverpool 0-1 Stoke (6-5 on pens): Reds progress to Wembley after shoot-out drama
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 27/01/16 11:38am
Simon Mignolet saved two Stoke penalties as Liverpool won a dramatic shoot-out 6-5 to reach the final of the Capital One Cup.
Marko Arnautovic - despite appearing to be in an offside position - netted on the stroke of half-time, which was the only goal of the game and an aggregate score of 1-1 took the tie all the way to penalties.
Missed spot-kicks by Peter Crouch and Emre Can took the shootout to sudden death where Marc Muniesa was denied by a wonderful Mignolet save and Joe Allen netted the winning penalty.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will return to Wembley for the first time since leading Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 Champions League final, where he could meet Merseyside rivals Everton, who play Manchester City on Wednesday evening holding a 2-1 advantage from the first-leg.
Stoke, down 1-0 from the first-leg at the Britannia Stadium, included Peter Crouch in their starting line-up as they tried to target the home side's weakness at defending high balls.
In an even opening 45 minutes the hosts were undone seconds before the interval with a move through the middle of the pitch which picked out Bojan Krkic and, with left-back Alberto Moreno nowhere to be seen, he slid a pass across to the unmarked Arnautovic who side-footed home despite replays indicating he was offside.
Jon Walters and Bojan both had chances for the visitors but Liverpool seemed reluctant to shoot with Adam Lallana and James Milner both guilty of passing inside the penalty area, although Can and Jordan Henderson had attempts from distance.
Early in the second half Roberto Firmino forced Jack Butland to tip his shot onto the near post with his foot, but Stoke quickly gained control and exerted considerable pressure, with Mamadou Sakho throwing himself at a Walters shot an example of the desperation.
Striker Christian Benteke replaced Henderson but it was Sakho who wasted a good Milner free-kick by heading wide, with Benteke failing to meet Moreno's cross under pressure from Erik Pieters.
The hosts managed just one shot on target as the match went into extra time, where substitute Marco van Ginkel hit the post just before the end of the first period and forced Mignolet into a save in the second whereas Liverpool failed to test Butland.
The game slipped inevitably to penalties, where Mignolet starred and Allen struck the winner to earn Liverpool a place in the final.