Arsenal floored by Jota double as they end up with 10 men against Liverpool once more
League Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg
Arsenal (0) 0
Liverpool (1) 2 Jota 19, 77
Diogo Jota’s double for Liverpool put paid to Arsenal’s hopes of joining Chelsea in this year’s League Cup final.
A tremendously resilient defensive display in the first leg at Anfield a week ago, which followed a red card for Granit Xhaka, earned the Gunners a fine 0-0 draw, and they had every reason to believe they could finish the job on home turf.
There was no Mo Salah or Sadio Mane in the Reds’ ranks to contend with – they are away on Africa Cup of Nations duty – and the hope for Mikel Arteta and his men was that Liverpool would again look less dangerous up front than normal.
But they did not reckon on Jota, who stepped up to floor the Gunners with a goal in each half.
The first came when he cut inside Takehiro Tomiyasu on the left before scuffing a low shot past Aaron Ramsdale. The second came late in the second half when he raced onto a long ball over the top from Trent Alexander-Arnold and lifted the ball past the Arsenal keeper.
And just to compound a miserable night for the home side, Thomas Partey – only just back from the Nations Cup in Cameroon – was sent off for two quick yellows. His second was for a hopelessly late lunge on Fabinho.
It has not been a great few days for the Ghanaian, whose country were eliminated after the group stages in West Africa.
The evening did not look like it was going to end so badly at the outset when the Gunners’ start gave home fans every reason to be optimistic.
Gabriel Martinelli’s pace and trickery down the left had Liverpool fretting and when Bukayo Saka won a free-kick off Andrew Robertson just outside the area, Alexander Lacazette curled the dead ball onto the crossbar.
The intensity was there and the mood in the stands was vibrant.
Then came the first Jota goal to knock the wind out of Arsenal’s sails.
After the break, Lacazette missed a great chance to square things up when he latched onto a neat chip towards the edge of the area from Sambi Lokonga, but fired over.
It was, it turned out, the last big chance to save the day as the visitors started to create the better chances.
Kaide Gordon scooped a glaring chance over the bar from Jota’s pull-back. Then, half-time sub Ibrahima Konate thumped a downward header onto a post from an Alexander-Arnold corner swung out from the right.
Arsenal kept pressing but left themselves increasingly exposed at the back as they committed more men in attack and they were eventually undone when Jota sprang the offside trap to get in behind Ben White and lift the ball over Ramsdale.
A lineman’s flag seemed to have reprieved the Gunners, but a VAR intervention showed there was no offside and the goal stood. All that remained was for Martin Atkinson to end Partey’s night before it could even truly begin.
Gunners: (4-1-4-1) Ramsdale – Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney – Sambi Lokongo – Saka, Smith Rowe (Partey 73), Odegaard, Martinelli – Lacazette (Nketiah 73). Subs not used: Partey, Holding, Tavares, Nketiah, Alebiousu, Hein, Biereth, Oulad M’hand, Patino
Reds: (4-3-3) Kelleher – Alexander-Arnold, Matip (Konate h/t), Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson (Milner 75), Fabinho, Jones – Gordon (Minamino 64), Firmino (N Williams 85), Jota. Subs not used: Alisson, Gomez, Adrian, Tsimikas, Morton