Leeds United’s return to Anfield held potential for greatness: a win against a top-notch Liverpool side would announce to the world that Leeds had indeed arrived back on the footballing stage. Instead, a valiant performance and a late capitulation left Liverpool with the spoils and Leeds fans taking consolation in their side’s effort rather than celebrating an appearance in their first League Cup semi-final since 1991.
Still, Garry Monk’s side had plenty to be proud of when the final whistle blew on a 2-0 defeat on Tuesday night. For 75 minutes, Leeds was even with the second place team in the Premier League, if not better. They came out hot and ready to play, unlike previous cold starts in the EFL Cup, and they maintained that composure long enough to impress any who watched, even if the final result wasn’t there.
Leeds got the ball rolling with the first chance of the game, as Stuart Dallas fed a 4th minute pass through to a streaking Hadi Sacko. The winger’s shot wasn’t to the moon per usual, but straight at Simon Mignolet who parried the blast aside. Leeds were here to play.
4’ Dallas gets the ball to Sacko who puts the first shot on target tonight. THATS RIGHT. Saved though. 0-0.— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) November 29, 2016
Throughout the first half, Leeds kept up a frenzied pace, hustling, charging for tackles, and getting to 50/50 balls. Liverpool was frustrated, but they found a chance in the 12th minute off a great pass into the box. Gini Wijnaldum put a volley on target, but Marco Silvestri made an athletic diving save to deny the Liverpool midfielder, and the game stayed tied at 0-0.
Eunan O’Kane came off with an injury in the 28th minute, and Kalvin Phillips came on. At that point the game was even, but in the 33rd minute, Liverpool nearly opened the scoring. Off a terrible Leeds United mistake, an Emre Can toe-poke went just wide of a sprawling Silvestri.
In the 39th minute, Kemar Roofe looked to be set for a counter attack, but he was wrongly whistled for offside, after Souleymane Doukara found him offside in his own half.
Divock Origi had another chance before the half-time whistle, speeding around Phillips, but he fell as Kalvin got close, and Jurgen Klopp’s calls for a free kick were brushed aside.
The game entered halftime 0-0, but the story of the first half was in the stands as Leeds United supporters were louder than Liverpool’s on multiple occasions.
Leeds entered the second half needing to make another substitution, as Liam Cooper came off for Luke Ayling, limiting Garry Monk’s options moving forward.
Leeds continued to look the better side at the beginning of the second half, and the best United chance of the game came in the 53rd minute. Kemar Roofe took a shot from distance that didn’t quite curl enough, bouncing off the far goalpost and missing an opener by millimetres.
That Roofe shot and Sacko’s early chance put the "should-be-scoreline" level at 2-2. I’m making this up as I go along, folks. #MOT— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) November 29, 2016
Chris Wood found his way into the game as the third substitute in the 62nd minute, and the Leeds pressure continued, with Charlie Taylor earning a corner in the 65th. Kyle Bartley got a head to it, but it went wide, as he couldn’t convert. Roofe had another shot in the 66th, as Liverpool seemingly couldn’t handle the pace an pressure of the Leeds United attack. (Yes, that was true.)
Woodburn coming on for Stewart, but not sure that solves Liverpool's holy crap slow defence that can't stop the counter.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) November 29, 2016
In the 70th minute, the game began to turn. Wijnaldum broke free for another chance in the 72nd minute. Silvestri came out to cut off the angle and Gini put it just off the far post, similar to Roofe’s shot earlier.
And then, the dagger came. In the 75th minute, Liverpool’s quality came through and a beautiful cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold landed right between Luke Ayling and Silvestri, where Divock Origi found a way to put a foot to it and knock it in. Silvestri probably should’ve come out for it, but what’s done was done, and Liverpool led 1-0.
76’ Liverpool with the long awaited moment of quality, great cross, Silvestri w/ the mistake to not come out and grab it. Liverpool up 1-0.— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) November 29, 2016
Five minutes later, Liverpool put the game to bed. The Leeds defence fell asleep for just a moment on a Liverpool counter, and youngster Ben Woodburn put in his first for his club to increase the lead to 2-0.
At 17, Woodburn became the youngest to ever score for Liverpool, making it a memorable night for him, and one to regret for Leeds fans.
From there, the teams played out the rest of the game with a few chances falling to Sacko, Doukara, and Wood, but none of them too threatening. The game finished 2-0, and Liverpool move on to the EFL Cup semi-finals. Their draw is tomorrow night.
Leeds fans were loud throughout, as “Marching on Together” echoed through Anfield at the first minute and the last, and their lads in White gave them something to be proud of: a strong effort on both offense and defense, 75 minutes with hope of advancing, and a memorable evening that will surely provoke dreams of promotion and regular appearances at Anfield in the 2017-18 Premier League season.
Now, Leeds move on to focus on the Championship, with Aston Villa coming to Elland Road on Saturday. We’ll have more on the EFL Cup in the next day or two here at Through It All Together, but for now, take solace in these...
Hard one to take. Chances didn't go in when they needed to. But that was magic for 75 minutes. Plenty of credit due. #lufclive— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) November 29, 2016
On another day we could have been celebrating a win tonight, great work and desire. Young lads outstanding in the middle #lufc— RightInTheGaryKellys (@RITGK) November 29, 2016
Everything we asked for, good performance and now don't have two games that we don't have the squad for #lufc— Dirty Leeds Scum (@DirtyLeedsFC) November 29, 2016
Taken two things from that game: 1) Premier League would immediately benefit from #LUFC's presence and 2) it could actually happen this year— Amitai Winehouse (@awinehouse1) November 29, 2016
Agree with Garry on that one. MOT.