Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has vowed to win the Capital One Cup and deliver a trophy in his first year in the Anfield hotseat after edging past Stoke in last night's semi-final courtesy of a tense sudden-death penalty shoot-out victory.
Oft-maligned Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet turned centre-half Marc Muniesa’s spot-kick around the post before midfielder Joe Allen kept his nerve to send eight-time winners Liverpool to a 12th League Cup final.
An enterprising Stoke had earlier taken the tie to extra-time courtesy of Marko Arnautovic’s first-half strike but a first League Cup final since 1972 proved elusive. Liverpool will play the winners of tonight’s tussle between Manchester City and Everton on 28 February as they bid for their first trophy since 2012.
“Manchester City or Everton, I don’t care, we will win the cup,” said Klopp.
“If you have the opportunity to win a trophy, you should not waste time, you should take it. You should try everything to get it. You need the players for this and they are ready to fight.
“We are in the final and we will be ready and try everything to get silverware for the Liverpool museum. It would be great. But we have to do a few things until then and try to be prepared the best we can.
“Wembley is a cool place to play football but when you are there it is only really good when you win. We only go there to win and if the players have the same attitude, the same readiness and the same passion then we have a big chance.”
Liverpool had progressed from seven of their previous eight League Cup semi-finals but were abject for most of the contest as Stoke registered their first victory in any competition at Anfield since March 1959.
Republic of Ireland forward Jonathan Walters fired a warning across the Liverpool bow in the 22nd minute when he dragged a shot wide of Mignolet’s far post after escaping the attentions of the hosts’ backline and latching onto an Arnautovic pass.
Stoke levelled the tie in first-half stoppage-time as a clinical, free-flowing move involving Walters and Bojan ended with the former Barcelona playmaker crossing for Arnautovic to calmly side-foot past Mignolet – a fifth goal in his last 10 appearances.
In-form forward Roberto Firmino struck the base of Jack Butland’s post three minutes into the second period, while Reds centre-half Mamadou Sakho denied Walters with a lunging block shortly after the hour mark.
On-loan Chelsea midfielder Marco Van Ginkel struck the outside of the post in extra-time after taking a flick from former Liverpool target man Peter Crouch on his chest. But Muniesa’s penalty miss was to be decisive after Crouch and Emre Can had also failed from the spot.