Ahead of our EFL Cup semi-final tie away at St Mary’s to face Southampton, I have rewinded our last 5 semi-finals first leg ties in this competition.
[Note: It was rebranded from the Capital One Cup to the EFL Cup earlier this year: it is still the same competition]
So, without further ado..
5: Stoke 0-1 Liverpool [January 2016, Britannia Stadium]
Liverpool were paired up against Stoke City in the draw for the Capital One Cup semi-finals, avoiding a tie against local rivals Everton or Manchester City in the process.
This first-leg tie preceded the 6-1 demolition job at St Mary’s – where Divock Origi bagged himself a hat-trick, with his partner in crime, Daniel Sturridge, bagging a brace for himself. Jordan Ibe also got himself on the act.
Going into this game, Liverpool were undoubtedly favourites – this was Jurgen Klopp’s first three months in charge of the club, and his first semi-final (of many, hopefully) at the club.
Albeit the consensus was that he was taking over the reins of a side lacking in any squad depth or quality left by Brendan Rodgers, the German was eager to substantiate any claims that he could generate immediate success at the club.
The first leg would be played at the Britannia – a ground at which Liverpool had struggled at in previous years [especially in the league], due to Stoke’s physical & tactical prowess, once spearheaded by Tony Pulis.
However, in their previous league meeting in the Britannia, Liverpool exhorted any demons, stemming from the 6-1 defeat on the final day of the 2014/2015 season, with a solid 1-0 win.
And they did that again here, with a solitary Jordon Ibe goal enough for the Reds to take a one goal lead to Anfield for the second leg.
The only negatives, where the game was concerned, was yet MORE injuries, with Dejan Lovren & Philippe Coutinho the victims, this time around.
Otherwise, a well-earned win.
4: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea [January 2015, Anfield]
After cruising past then-Championship outfit Bournemouth, the Reds had a tougher proposition this time, in the semi finals of the Capital One Cup.
Chelsea were the favourites to progress to the final – under Jose Mourinho, they were top of the Premier League, and talk was brewing of a possible quadruple.
Liverpool, however, had suffered one of their worst league starts in 50 years, but were on their way to what would be their best patch of form in a very disappointing season.
Moving onto the game – Mourinho did exactly as he did on the ground in April 2014. He parked two double decker buses at the back, preventing any cracks to open up for the likes to Sterling to exploit.
Liverpool dominated proceedings, but saw themselves fall 1-0 behind at the interval thanks to an Eden Hazard penalty.
We should have been given a penalty just before half time, when Diego Costa [who intimidated Liverpool teammates in both legs] clearly handled the ball whilst on his backside.
But, finally, Liverpool breached the Chelsea buses – Raheem Sterling, fresh from his slumber, produced a fine finish past Courtois to ensure Liverpool were still in with a shout for the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City, were again, favourites for this game. A few days later, in the league, Manchester City had given Liverpool a spanking at the Etihad, winning 3-0.
Heading into this, the Reds were jammed in 6th place in the Premier League [something we’d became accustomed to then, unfortunately], whilst City had a three point lead at the top, over Manchester United.
However, it was time to forget our Premier League exploits for a day, as we tried to make strides, in what had been an rollercoaster of a season, mitigated by draws.
The fans were itching for the club to reach their first final in all competitions for 5 years, and possibly end a 6 year wait for silverware.
Many tipped the former to triumph in the first leg, at the Etihad though, given the Citizens’ superb form in front of their own supporters [despite United beating them in the FA Cup a few days before]
The football, though was about to do the talking. And, how we defied our critics.
Steven Gerrard, our leader, coolly dispatched a penalty in the 12th minute, following Savic’s foul on Daniel Agger.
After Gerrard scored the early pen, City then began to exert pressure on our goal, trying to find a way through with Sergio Aguero, but a gusty defensive display went a long way in ensuring we left the first leg tie, with our lead still intact.
We were even closer to our first Wembley appearance since that heartbreaking afternoon in 1996, under King Kenny.
2: Liverpool 1-0 Watford [January 2005, Anfield]
This was our first semi-final under Rafael Benitez, which proved to be a springboard for the Carling Cup final, which we devastatingly lost, to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea,
We were drawn against Championship proposition Watford, who were only two seasons away from the Premiership, as it turned out.
The consensus was that Liverpool would brush Ray Lewington’s Watford away – but the Hornets made life difficult for Rafa Benitez’s side at Anfield.
They were unexpectedly organised, went for the game, and created several chances. But a Steven Gerrard drive [later corrected as a Neil Taylor own goal] was enough for us to take a slender lead for the second leg at Vicarage Road.
Wasn’t the most convincing of wins, but it passes for me.
1: Sheffield United 2-1 Liverpool [January 2003, Bramall Lane]
The last one, you have to go back nearly 14 years to recall.
Liverpool had topped the Premiership by early November, but their form floundered under Gerard Houllier, as we went 12 games without a win, leaving us battling for 4th place instead of the holy grail.
But, the Worthington Cup, at least was a different story.
The previous season, we had been beaten by First Divison’s Grimbsy Town at home – but this time around, we had beaten the likes of Southampton & Ipswich, before winning a seven goal thriller away to Aston Villa in the quarter final.
However, despite their dismal league form, the Reds were seen as favourites to progress to the final at Cardiff, against Divison One opposition Sheffield United, managed by Neil Warnock.
And Liverpool looked set to take a 1-0 lead going into the second leg at Anfield, thanks to youngster Neil Mellor’s opening, but Michael Tonge’s double gave Sheffield United a surprise victory, and a lead going into the second leg, which they were unable to protect.
Written by @SteLindellLFC