LIVERPOOL: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said that he was crossing his fingers for an all-Merseyside League Cup final after his team overcame Stoke City on penalties in the last-four.
Stoke won Tuesday’s semi-final second leg 1-0, leaving the tie 1-1 on aggregate following extra time, but after Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had saved from Peter Crouch and Marc Muniesa, substitute Joe Allen netted the decisive spot-kick in a 6-5 shootout win.
Liverpool’s cross-town rivals Everton take a 2-1 lead to Manchester City as the second semi-final concludes on Wednesday and if Roberto Martinez’s men manage to preserve their advantage, Wembley will stage the first all-Merseyside final in 27 years on February 28.
“I heard about it being the biggest thing, but only if you beat them,” Klopp told reporters at Anfield after Tuesday’s match.
“I cannot have any influence. We will watch the game tomorrow and Man City being a goal down, it is possible.
“We take what it is. For sure it is a north of England final and if everything comes together in a good way, it is a derby at Wembley.
“That will be great for the whole city. This city will have deserved it because it is a great place for football and how Blues and Reds live together in a normal life is how football should be.
“But if you meet each other, you should want to beat each other. In a derby, do everything that you can do to beat them.
“If the whole of Liverpool goes there it will be good, but then we should look at our houses — there will be an empty city!”
Leading 1-0 courtesy of Jordon Ibe’s first-leg winner at the Britannia Stadium, Liverpool saw their advantage wiped out in first-half stoppage time at Anfield when Marko Arnautovic swept home a cross from Bojan Krkic despite appearing to be in an offside position.
Both sides hit the post thereafter — Roberto Firmino for Liverpool, substitute Marco van Ginkel for Stoke — before Mignolet’s saves in the shoot-out, which Klopp said he had been too nervous to watch.
Mignolet has been criticised after some unconvincing recent displays, but he thwarted first Liverpool old boy Crouch and then Muniesa — Emre Can sending his penalty against the post in between — before Allen settled proceedings by planting his spot-kick into the top-right corner.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, bidding to guide his club to a first League Cup final since they won the tournament in 1972, felt that his team had been “dominant” and were unfortunate to finish up empty-handed.
The 1-0 final score on the night represented Stoke’s first win at Anfield since March 1959 and Hughes paid a warm tribute to his players, who had eliminated holders Chelsea in the fourth round.
“Hopefully we will get the credit we deserve,” said the former Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea striker.
“We came here behind in the tie and it was a case of being really positive and having a game-plan. I am proud of what the players produced. To a man I can’t fault any of them.
“In general play we got the goal, which won us the game but not the tie. I think it was offside, marginally, but it was the least we deserved.
“We just couldn’t get that second goal and I think Liverpool would be honest to say they were grateful to get to penalties. You know when you get to a shootout, there is a danger you may go out.
“I thought we were more likely to score, but unfortunately we are not the ones going to Wembley.”
Stoke, currently ninth in the Premier League, visit Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday and Hughes joked: “The FA Cup is a bigger competition anyway!”