Limp Liverpool Crash Out Of League Cup After Shootout Agony

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Liverpool exited the League Cup at the fifth round stage after a 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal at Anfield.

A drab and forgetful 90 minutes ended scoreless and the Gunners — through Joe Willock — won the shootout after Divock Origi and Harry Wilson missed their spot-kicks.

Jurgen Klopp elected to make a raft of changes from the Reds’ Premier League victory over the same opponents on Monday night, but Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk — surprisingly — were selected to start. Alongside van Dijk was Rhys Williams and the youngster did his burgeoning reputation no harm with a strong showing.

The other Williams, Neco, can be happy with his 90 minutes as he put the torrid internet abuse — from a gaggle of virgins — that accompanied his last showing in the League Cup behind him with an admirable performance.

Arsenal, meanwhile, picked a more experienced team with the likes of Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, and Leno — their first choice number 1 — all selected.

With all the changes for both teams, there was very little in the way of attacking rhythm or familiarity in the opening quarter.

The closest it came to a goal was when Eddie Nketiah attempted to round Adrian, but the Spaniard was equal to it and a frankly boring half of football continued without a goal.

While Arsenal were the better team for the opening 25 minutes, Liverpool — with midfielder Marko Grujic pivotal in central midfield — began to warm to their task and make their own mark on proceedings.

Bernd Leno — who would prove to be extremely busy throughout — kept the visitors in the affair with some strong first-half saves, but was fortunate — as were his team — to escape with his clean sheet intact when he pushed Diogo Jota’s header away only for Takumi Minamino to slam a rebound off the crossbar.

The Reds were much improved in the second half, with Jota and Grujic — in particular — their best players in a truthfully awful spectacle.

Liverpool manufactured a raft of half chances but each of these opportunities — a few of which came as a result of the clever movement of Jota — were saved by Leno, easily — when all the candidates are weighed up — the man of the match.

Clearly planned beforehand, Klopp withdrew both Salah and van Dijk — for Origi and Joe Gomez respectively — on the hour mark as the Reds pushed in search of a winner without their elder statesmen.

Curtis Jones, who added a rabona cross to his ever-expanding personal highlight reel, was a willing attacking option for the Reds and tried his luck from distance on a number of occasions but to no avail.

Had there been crowds in Anfield, they would have welcomed the final whistle and penalties because — one way or another — it would signal that the end of an awful contest was nigh.

James Milner, who started the game at left-back, Minamino, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Jones — just as he did at this stage of last season’s competition — were all successful from 12 yards out.

Adrian, who was solid throughout, meanwhile, also denied Mohamed Elneny from the spot.

But with Origi and Wilson missing, the English Champions exited a competition that was probably viewed as more of a hindrance than an opportunity to win more silverware.

Liverpool team: Adrian; Williams, R.Williams, van Dijk, Milner; Grujic, Jones, Wilson; Salah, Minamino, Jota.

Replacements: Gomez for van Dijk, Origi for Salah, Wijnaldum for Jota

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