Diogo Jota’s late strike was enough to send Liverpool through to the last four of the FA Cup, as they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 on Sunday evening.
The Portuguese forward’s 19th goal of the campaign sets up a mouth-watering semi-final encounter with Manchester City.
The hair-raisingly electric atmosphere contributed heavily to frantic and largely end-to-end opening exchanges. Both sides threatened their opposition in the first ten minutes, with Joe Lolley and Jota probably regretting not making more of their promising early opportunities.
A chaotic beginning, however, was soon followed by Liverpool domination as the visitors’ learned to deal with and counteract the hosts’ relentlessly high-octane pressing game.
Steve Cooper’s men still managed to deny the Reds their 114th goal of the campaign before half time though, despite Roberto Firmino seeing the best chance of the opening period go begging.
The Brazilian seemingly had too much time on his hands after latching onto Jack Colback’s misjudged backpass, bizarrely looking unassured as he strolled towards Ethan Horvath’s goal before seeing his chipped effort blocked by the American goalkeeper.
A few nervy moments for Liverpool in the minutes following the restart might have momentarily provoked the home fans to imagine some Forest-friendly newspaper headlines, and they almost became reality with 15 minutes remaining.
Philip Zinckernagel was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity about seven yards out from goal as Forest broke forward in numbers, only to somehow tap Brennan Johnson’s perfect cross wide of Alisson’s post.
They were made to rue that moment just two minutes later.
Liverpool ensured the original script would be followed in the 77th minute, as Jota peeled off his man at the back post to clinically lift a leg and prod home Kostas Tsimikas’ beautiful curling cross.
There was no shortage of drama following the opening goal, either. Home fans were furious when a VAR review denied them a spot kick with five minutes to go and, after seeing the slightest of contact between the hand of Alisson and the boot of Ryan Yates, you’d have to say – you’ve seen them given.
Yates subsequently failed to direct a free header in the six-yard box either side of a grateful Alisson, sealing his side’s fate.
The 1-0 defeat brings an end to what has been an inspiring FA Cup journey for Championship Forest, while Liverpool go on to battle it out with City as they hunt a quadruple.
Alisson (GK) – 6/10 – Was up to the task whenever called upon. The most relieved man in the stadium as a VAR review might have ruined the visitors’ night, though.
Joe Gomez (RB) – 7/10 – Put in a handy defensive performance while also providing a large threat with some blistering surges into the final third.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 6/10 – Struggled a little in the early stages of the contest but grew into the game and proved a solid presence.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 7/10 – Was well occupied by Keinan Davis for the majority but remained as strong and resolute as you’d expect.
Kostas Tsimikas (LB) – 8/10 – Read play to great effect, managing eight ball recoveries, and notably provided a stunning assist for Jota’s late deadlock-breaker.
Fabinho (DM) – 7/10 – Pivotal to the visitors, showing excellent composure to keep things calm and ticking along as well as screening the back four with typical imperturbability. Sacrificed for more creativity in the second half.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (CM) – 6/10 – Showed great tenacity and looked a real creative threat in the first half, but was replaced on the hour-mark having faded out of the action after the interval.
Naby Keita (CM) – 6/10 – A few loose touches here and there but was generally tidy, getting into some good areas to help build play while also haring around to register four tackles.
Harvey Elliott (RW) – 5/10 – Popped up all over the shop, always searching for the progressive option, but struggled to put his stamp on the game.
Roberto Firmino (ST) – 6/10 – Should have broken the deadlock before the break but was an important creative spark for his side, dropping off into space and linking play throughout.
Diogo Jota (LW) – 8/10 – Busy and wiry in attack and eventually produced the goods once again. A clinical finish to send his side through to the semi-finals.
Jordan Henderson (CM) – 7/10 – His level head seemed to allow Liverpool to regain their composure reassert their control on the game.
Luis Diaz (LW) – 6/10 – A livewire from the second he entered the field of play.
Takumi Minamino (RW) – 5/10 – Saw a fierce effort well blocked but didn’t manage to inject much more than that.
Thiago (CM) – 6/10 – Spread the ball around effortlessly -shock.