Liverpool left late to book a Wembley semi-final against Manchester City but Diogo Jota’s 78th-minute goal was enough to end Nottingham Forest’s valiant FA Cup run.
he City Ground has been a graveyard for Premier League sides this season, with Arsenal and Leicester both eliminated by the entertaining and exciting side of former Reds Academy manager Steve Cooper.
And while lesser-fledged teams may have cracked in the scorching atmosphere, Jurgen Klopp’s team weathered an early storm and, albeit almost too long, bided time before Jota’s 19th of the season secured a 1-0 win.
The game was marked by a three-minute pause before his close-range shot as Philip Zinckernagel should have provided the biggest shock of all time here, only to shoot wide and only beat goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Not many teams get second chances like that and it turned out that after scoring the crucial first goal against Arsenal to put the pressure on Premier League leaders City in midweek, Jota struck again.
This was the first clash between the sides in 23 years and the wait for a thrilling encounter was worth it when Forest, looking to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 1991, came flying off the blocks, spurred on by a bouncing and confident City Ground were fired crowd.
Liverpool kept a strong backbone with Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Jota keeping their places from midweek and they needed it in the early stages.
Van Dijk was usually a beacon of calm and, knowing what was coming, the visitors tried to take the edge off the situation and eliminate their opponents in the early stages.
Only Joe Worrall’s well-timed tackle denied Jota a good shot, while Kostas Tsimika’s volley went just over.
But for all their passion, Forest, who left 97 spots empty in memory of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster during an FA Cup semi-final between the two teams, really only had one shot from Ryan Yates, deflected wide to to show their efforts.
Fabinho went wide from an Alex Oxlade corner against Chamberlain, while Roberto Firmino squandered the best opportunity of the half in a one-on-one, his decision for a cheeky demolition proved wrong when Ethan Horvath saved.
In between, Van Dijk showed Forest how they would have to step up a notch when threatening the visitors as Djed Spence, the rampaging right-back who had caused so much damage in the previous rounds, seemed to have space to run into the penalty area only to be comfortably guided past the ball by the Dutch captain.
Half-time ended with Liverpool without their two first-choice full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold (hamstring) and Andy Robertson (illness), having gained control in midfield but not in the last third as assistant right-back Joe Gomez overran.
Forest started the second half with renewed vigor and Spence’s first real foray into the area won a corner but no more.
Hovath made a comfortable save from Jota before Klopp made a quadruple substitution in the 63rd minute, sending on midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson and strikers Luis Diaz and Takumi Minamino.
With Forest’s tiring legs, the game seemed destined for Liverpool but it was the hosts who should have clinched victory with 15 minutes remaining.
Van Dijk vacated his position in central defense to carry the ball into midfield, only to lose the ball and the hosts countered with a two-on-one that saw Zinckernagel shoot wide and only Alisson was beaten.
He paid three minutes later when Jota scored his second important goal of the week from a Tsimikas cross at the far post.
There were some late scares for the visitors when Alex Mighten went down under a challenge from Alisson but referee Craig Pawson saw no foul and VAR agreed and then Cafu fired in added time as Forest was eliminated, beaten but unbent.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/jota-goal-sinks-nottingham-forest-as-liverpool-set-up-fa-cup-semi-final-clash-with-man-city-41468623.html Jota goal sinks Nottingham Forest as Liverpool prepare for FA Cup semi-final game with Man City