History boy Woodburn helps Liverpool into semi-finals

Ben Woodburn became the club’s youngest goalscorer in the quarter-final defeat of Leeds United

Liverpool’s  Ben Woodburn celebrates scoring his team’s second goal against Leeds United at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn celebrates scoring his team’s second goal against Leeds United at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

 

Liverpool 2 Leeds United 0

A small slice of history helped Liverpool into the League Cup semi-finals for the fourth time in six seasons as Ben Woodburn became the club’s youngest goalscorer in the quarter-final defeat of Leeds United. The Wales youth international beat Michael Owen’s record by 99 days as he steered Jurgen Klopp’s side into the last four at the age of 17 years and 45 days.

Liverpool were run close by Garry Monk’s Championship team, who struck the inside of a post and had the clearer chances until Divock Origi and Woodburn struck in the space of five minutes, but their hard-luck story and the hard-fought cup tie will be forgotten amid the young winger’s place in the Anfield record books.

Klopp had been conservative with his changes compared to the win over Tottenham Hotspur in round four - merely eight from Saturday’s win over Sunderland but 11 against Spurs - as limited options up front shaped the Liverpool manager’s selection. With Philippe Coutinho facing around five weeks out with ankle ligament damage, a period confirmed by his manager before kick-off, plus Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana also unavailable through injury, Sadio Mane retained his place alongside Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum in a fluid attack. Monk made four changes to the Leeds team that beat Rotherham on Saturday and the benefits of a relatively settled side showed immediately.

After a period of silence for the 75 people who died in the plane crash in Colombia, including members of the Chapecoense football team, the game opened with an intensity befitting a cup quarter-final. Leeds posed the early threat, giving Liverpool’s three-man central midfield no time on the ball and looking for the first time pass behind Lucas Leiva and Ragnar Klavan at every opportunity. The tactic almost produced an early lead when Stuart Dallas lofted a perfectly weighted chip over the Liverpool defence to Hadi Sacko. The striker, just onside, raced clear on goal but a combination of a slight touch from the recovering Alberto Moreno and a fine save from Simon Mignolet diverted the striker’s low shot out for a corner.

Mignolet also saved from Kemar Roofe before Liverpool created a meaningful attack as the Championship club contained their Premier League hosts throughout the first half. Liverpool lacked their usual fluency in the final third, understandably given the changes and the absentees, but their threat increased gradually as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mane began to prosper down the right flank.

Young Liverpool midfielder Ovie Ejaria created his side’s first opening with a fine pass that picked out Wijnaldum’s run through a disciplined Leeds defence. The Dutch international steered his shot towards the top corner but goalkeeper Marco Silvestri produced an excellent save on his return to the team in place of Rob Green. Alexander-Arnold, so impressive when handed his full Liverpool debut in the last round, almost found Lucas unmarked inside the area with a deep cross but the Brazilian was unable to connect.

Liverpool’s best chance before the interval was presented to them by a rare lapse in the Leeds rearguard. Kalvin Phillips, a replacement for the injured Eunan O’Kane, played a back pass towards Silvestri who hesitated over leaving the ball for Kyle Bartley. The central defender did likewise and Emre Can nipped in to poke the ball beyond the Leeds keeper but also just wide of the far post.

Leeds captain Liam Cooper was also withdrawn at the interval but disruption did not curb the visitors’ ability to unsettle Liverpool’s defence whenever they broke forward. Klopp’s team played with greater urgency after the restart but over-elaboration from Origi and Can inside the area continued to test Anfield’s patience.

It was Monk’s team who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Roofe almost punished a mistake by Kevin Stewart in stunning style. In keeping with much of the tie, Leeds were quicker to react when Stewart collected Alexander-Arnold’s pass outside his own penalty area and was instantly hassled off the ball by Phillips. It broke to Roofe who curled a first-time shot over Mignolet and raised his arms in celebration, as did Monk, only to see it strike the inside of the far post and rebound to safety.

Bartley headed wide from a Charlie Taylor corner and Roofe was denied again, this time by Mignolet, as the threat from Leeds intensified. But they were made to pay for the missed opportunities. Wijnaldum served Leeds notice when he struck the inside of a post after Mane sent him clear on the right of the box. With Liverpool’s next attack, the deadlock was broken. Silvestri was caught in two minds when Alexander-Arnold whipped a dangerous cross towards his near post and, with the keeper rooted to his line, Origi slid in behind Luke Ayling to convert at full stretch.

Liverpool’s second may have glossed over the margin of victory but Woodburn had no complaints. The teenager replaced Stewart with 23 minutes remaining and was given a moment to cherish when Origi and Wijnaldum combined inside the Leeds area to present him with a free shot from close range. The Wales youth international obliged with an emphatic finish into the roof of Silvestri’s net and the semi-finals beckoned for Liverpool. Guardian Service

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