Liverpool (p) 5-5 Arsenal: Curtis Jones the hero as penalty shoot-out decides frenetic Cup tie

The game started at a pace fitting of how it transpired, with the first goal coming within five minutes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in an inviting cross towards Rhian Brewster, who didn’t have to apply a finish as Shkodran Mustafi did the work for him.

The own-goal signalled the start of a period where the Reds sought to test the German, perceiving his vulnerability as the key to extending their lead. Brewster almost made Mustafi look silly as he attempted to play out from the back, with the threat of further goals potent. 

Bukayo Saka was a constant out-ball for the Gunners during the first period, with his pace stretching a relatively young Reds’ rearguard. He was involved in the Arsenal equaliser, with his shot being rebounded by Caoimhín Kelleher into the feet of a potentially offside Lucas Torreira who dispatched with ease. No VAR, and the goal was given. 

Arsenal took the lead six minutes later, with a quick free kick to Ainsley Maitland-Niles resulting in his cross being blocked by James Milner, only for the ball to eventually spill to Gabriel Martinelli who slammed home.

The Brazilian youngster notched his second on 36 minutes, with a poor Harvey Elliott pass finding the resurgent Mesut Özil who provided the pass to Saka, who squared to Martinelli to score. Elliott, who was at fault for the previous goal, atoned by winning a slightly dubious penalty for Liverpool. Milner inevitably dispatched the spot-kick, though questions lingered over the degree of contact. 

In a reverse of the Elliott dynamic where he went from zero to hero, Milner did the reverse. So often the hero for the Reds given his coolness from the spot, Milner committed a rare error to allow Arsenal to restore their lead. A poor pass released Maitland-Niles who tried to skip past the Liverpool keeper, where Özil was on hand to apply a sublime back-heel to Maitland-Niles. 


The next sequence was simply surreal, with a triumvirate of outstanding goals culminating with Arsenal being 5-4 up. On 58 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the ball from the aforementioned Maitland-Niles and unleashed a piledriver past the unwitting Emiliano Martínez. Arsenal looked typically shaky, and cult-hero Divock Origi stunned the Gunners by scoring smartly after a smart past from Curtis Jones. 

On 70 minutes Joe Willock made a swashbuckling run which demonstrated why he is so highly rated. His dipping effort went into the top corner with Kelleher helpless. A frantic period ensued where neither team looked defensively solid or familiar, as to be expected in such unsettled lineups. 

Liverpool’s Anfield record is much-lauded, as the Reds refused to surrender. They continued to push forward, with Brewster failing to capitalise on the chance to get an equaliser with a free-header.

Five minutes of injury time were duly added, and as the fourth minute approached Liverpool showed that the never-say-die attitude runs throughout the club. No matter the lineup, Jürgen has installed a resilient mentality in each and every player.

Divock Origi has an incredible affinity with comebacks, and he came to the fore here. Neco Williams put it an excellent cross for Origi, who effectively shinned the ball with distinction into the net. No extra-time, straight to penalties as the Reds repeatedly pulled back an Arsenal side famed for their soft centre.

In the penalty shootout, Héctor Bellerín scored with distinction into the top left corner, with Milner predictably equalising for the Reds. Mattéo Guendouzi almost has his shot saved by Kelleher, though his precision sees the goal scored.

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Adam Lallana, who had a poor evening, slightly atoned by scoring his penalty expertly. The pressure then fell to Martinelli, who faced a wall of boos to score against the Liverpool stopper.

Brewster then defied his inexperience to puff his cheeks out and send Martinez the wrong way, leaving the shootout finely poised. Dani Ceballos then stepped up, with the substitute having his shot excellently saved by Kelleher. The shot was a good height for the Irishman, but he still had to pull out a strong save.

Origi then scores his third (in total) goal of the evening, racheting up the pressure on the busy Maitland-Niles who was absolutely nerveless in his conversion.

Curtis Jones: Scouser, boyhood Liverpool fan, had the chance to put Liverpool in the quarter final. He did just that, and played out a dream he will have had so many times as a Liverpool lad.

Onto the quarter finals Liverpool. What a team. Euphoria in the magic Anfield cauldron.

Cash Boyle

Assistant editor. Lifelong Liverpool fan. Never a doubter but certainly now a believer.

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