Liverpool beat Stoke to reach Capital One Cup final

Liverpool set up a Capital One Cup final date with either Manchester City or Everton on February 26, after inching past Stoke City 6-5 on penalties in the semi-final second leg at Anfield.

Joe Allen scored the decisive spot-kick, after Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had saved two Stoke penalties in the shoot-out after the two sides could not be separated over 210 minutes of football over the two legs.

Stoke City won the tie 1-0, their first win at Anfield in all competitions since March 1959, but it was not enough to send Mark Hughes’ team to Wembley with the match ending 1-1 on aggregate following Liverpool’s 1-0 victory in the first leg at the Britannia Stadium three weeks ago.

Marko Arnautovic netted the only goal of the game in first-half injury time, although the Austrian may have been marginally offside as he drilled the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

But, in a poor match littered with mistakes, neither side was able to kill off the game until Allen held his nerve in the shoot-out following Marc Muniesa’s miss.

Jurgen Klopp, who has never lost a semi-final as a manager, now gets the chance to win a trophy in his first season as Liverpool boss following his appointment as successor to Brendan Rodgers in October.

The win in 90 minutes was Stoke’s first victory over Liverpool in seven attempts in the League Cup. They have drawn one and lost the other five.

The defeat is the first Liverpool have suffered in a League Cup semi-final leg at Anfield in 16 matches (W8 D7).

Mignolet has often been the villain of the piece in a season of uncertain form, but he was the hero with vital penalty saves from former Liverpool striker, Peter Crouch, and Muniesa.

The Belgian’s Achilles heel is his decision-making, and there were some raised eyebrows when he was recently handed a new five-year contract.

He rewarded the faith of Klopp, who has been steadfast in his support for the keeper, with the most significant interventions here and will hope to build on this dramatic revival of his fortunes.

“It was great, the atmosphere was special. It was a good game for my side against a difficult side to play,” Klopp, told Sky Sports.

“They changed their style today. It was Butland to Crouch so it was difficult to defend. We had a few problems, but they didn’t have too many opportunities.

“Their goal was double offside but, in the end, we had luck in the penalty shootout. Over the whole 120 minutes, the players, crowd and Liverpool deserved it.

“Wembley is a cool place to play football… but we go there to win. It’s not much fun to lose.”

Stoke manager, Mark Hughes, said:  “I thought we were by far the better team. We were behind in the tie and I’m proud of what the players produced.

“Nobody gave us a chance – why they would do that I don’t know. We’ve proved for a couple of years that we’re a good team. I think Liverpool were delighted to go to penalties and then it’s a lottery.

“In terms of a performance, I thought we merited a win.

“We got a win on paper – goodness knows how long it’s been since we won here – but the objective was to get to a Wembley final which we didn’t.”