Liverpool have secured a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the City Ground to give Jurgen Klopp a Wembley date against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City
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Liverpool set up a Titans clash with Pep Guardiola Manchester City in next month’s FA Cup semi-finals by defeating a well-known rival from yesteryear after a fantastic and nerve-wracking battle at the City Ground.
Nottingham Forest was this season’s giant murder story FA Cup and Steve Cooper’s well-organised side came so desperately close to the biggest scalp of them all after giving Liverpool, seven-time winners of the competition, an almighty scare at tea-time on Sunday.
These two won five consecutive European Cups together back in the late 1970s and early 80s and at times you didn’t know which team was which. But Liverpool rode their luck, they clung on and, just two minutes after the scariest of all, Diogo Jota emerged with a 78th-minute win to end Forest’s fairy tale.
Incredibly, that was Jota’s 19th goal in all competitions and the Portuguese striker saved Liverpool’s mix-and-match line-up from extra time, a potential penalty shoot-out and cup upset. Liverpool boss Klopp lifted the club’s first national trophy in a decade when he lifted the Carabao Cup last month and now has more silver in his sights.
You must beat City as these two giants could face each other in the FA Cup, Premier League title race and Champions League. It was far from Liverpool’s best performance, Klopp made seven changes and the players who came in didn’t watch the races as they were far from their usual fluid, cohesive high standards.
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Instead it was all about fine margins and heartbreak in a rousing, brilliant cup atmosphere at the City Ground as Forest dared to dream but missed his big chance. The opening fell to the wonderfully named Philip Zinckernagel, but the Forest midfielder turned wide after 76 minutes… and two minutes later, Jota put the ball home for the visitors.
It was so tight and so close. Forest pushed themselves to the limit, the team who beat Arsenal and Leicester en route to the quarter-finals had another upset in their sights.
But in the end, Liverpool defied it all and emerged victorious. Incredibly Klopp has been this far in the FA Cup because he has prioritized the Premier League and Champions League and after winning both you can’t beat him too much.
However, it’s great to see Klopp stepping into the traditions of the world’s greatest cup competition, especially as winning and trophies are becoming a habit. Liverpool were the better side in the first half but just couldn’t find their way through as Roberto Firmino shot through but was slowed down by Forest keeper Ethan Horvath.
Forest clung on rather than threaten but they grew into the game as the game progressed and you could feel Liverpool’s frustration and Klopp heralded the changes with four substitutes after 64 minutes, as Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Luiz Diaz and Takumi Minamino came.
Liverpool could sense the danger – and they had an almighty escape just two minutes before going on. Yates spread the ball wide, Brennan Johnson brought in a low cross from the right and it was on a plate for Zinckernagel, only for the Forest midfielder to fire wide.
Two minutes later the tie was over. Kostas Tsimikas converted a cross from the left, Jack Colback shut down in the penalty area and Jota charged in from behind and hammered the ball home. It was ruled by the smallest VAR margins on the side. Forest had two more moments. Yates screamed for a penalty after claiming he was brought down by Alisson and then went straight for the Liverpool goalkeeper. But that was clutching at straws as the damage was done
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