MATCH REVIEW: LIVERPOOL 0 STOKE CITY 1 (AGG 1-1, LIVERPOOL WIN 6-5 ON PENALTIES) | The Anfield Wrap

Football - Football League Cup - Semi-Final 2nd Leg - Liverpool FC v Stoke City FCLIVERPOOL were dreadful. Liverpool were abject. Liverpool are in the final.

Could stop it there but Robbo likes there to be more words.

Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of them.

Joe Allen’s yellow card deserves a mention. What a yellow card it was. One for the mantlepiece. When we come to give out booking of the season, a long underrated award, then Joe’s will take some beating. Leiva against Spurs is suddenly a lot less secure.

Leiva’s needle was magnificent. Indeed the manager deserves enormous credit for making it. Liverpool were on top at that stage but Leiva was tiring. He got his breather and he read the game very well from back there.

The manager deserves enormous credit for the spirit he has injected into this side. Their focus and attitude is excellent. Remember this when you read the next paragraph.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkptJDMXMG8

The first half approach and selection was dire from the first minute of the half to the last and the manager has to take significant responsibility for that. There is an alarming comparison to be made with last season’s League Cup semi-final if you forget two things:

1. How well we played in the first leg.
2. We are actually in the final.

Over the two legs Liverpool deserve to be in the final. Stoke lacked legs and intensity, which was shown tonight.

Liverpool started the first leg and finished the second significantly the stronger. It all serves as a reminder that this two games a week thing is rock hard and The Reds are better at it than Stoke could be and worse at it than the Manchesters et al.

Match ratings: Liverpool v Stoke City

Liverpool were dreadful. Liverpool were abject. But Liverpool are in the final.

And stop there. Just stop there. Because while this is a review of a football match, there is the bit thereafter. Because The Reds were so happy. They were just so, so happy.

There are cynics for whom these players will never be good enough, never be Liverpool enough, never be their favourite era of pop enough. And there are idealists who want the club to focus on one thing, the absence that hurts more than any other. The big silver thing that always makes me think of the crucifixion. Always makes me think of the crucified Christ.

There are those who have watched too much football. Those who have been round too many blocks.

Football - Football League Cup - Semi-Final 2nd Leg - Liverpool FC v Stoke City FCBut The Reds are so happy. We’re so happy. And they’ve been going through this. A right back who plays 105 minutes having not played 45 for over 600 days. A diminutive centre mid substitute who scores the key penalty who too many have pilloried too cheaply.

A goalkeeper who has been all over the show but got a Liverpool moment and wrung the life out of it. A centre mid gone centre half who has been booed on at this ground who has devoted his career to this club who has ran and worked and dived into the crowd for this club. A centre mid gone centre half who is as much one of us as any player can be. A Liverpudlian, pure and simple.

He was, they were, so happy. So, so happy and you can’t begrudge them it. However good they are and tonight they weren’t good, they are entirely committed to Liverpool.

Listen: Immediate post-match reaction on ‘The Pink’ show

They want to win for their manager and their football club and one another and for me and for you. It’s a simple enough notion. It’s a beautiful notion. The only one that works.

They now get to go and do it at Wembley.

Up the dreadful Reds. Up the abject Reds. Up our gorgeous, happy Reds.

Great set of lads.

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