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Reds to take on Chelsea in repeat of 2022 Carabao Cup final after surviving nervy ending


MOMENTS involving Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and referee Simon Hooper don’t always end well.

So, when Diaz found the net in the 11th minute and Hooper pointed to the centre circle for a restart, at least we were spared any bewildering controversy.

Liverpool are through to the Carabao Cup final after a 1-1 draw with FulhamCredit: Getty
Liverpool won 3-2 on aggregate and will play old foes Chelsea at WembleyCredit: Alamy

The only wait was for a red flare, thrown from the away end, to fizzle out.

Diaz’s strike at Spurs in September, incorrectly ruled out for offside, will forever remain as the worst VAR mistake in English football history.

Tonight, the Colombian scored his seventh goal of the season to extend Liverpool’s one-goal advantage from the first leg.

While Issa Diop got the Fulham crowd dreaming of only the club’s second ever final with an equaliser, Marco Silva’s side – despite having a real go at the end – were unable to force the match into extra-time.

So, while it was not the most comfortable of evenings for Jurgen Klopp, he will be satisfied considering how many players he had missing.

Mo Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip were all absent yet still, they booked their date at Wembley

Top of the Premier League and through to the final of the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on February 25, And they also remain in both the Europa League and the FA Cup.

This not only tells you about the strength of Liverpool’s squad but the way summer replacements, such as Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch, have slotted into the midfield so seamlessly.

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Jarrel Quansah, who delivered a world class pass for the goal, was making only his 12th full appearance yet looks as though he has been playing next to Virgil van Dijk for years.

Harvey Elliott left Fulham at an early age so it was no surprise he was booed with every touch last night, but this was his 93rd Liverpool appearance and he is only 20. Little wonder he left the pitch with a smile.

Liverpool’s fixtures will continue to pile up if they remain in all their competitions. Klopp will keep moaning, naturally. 

But while the likes of Henderson, Milner, Mane and Firmino are no longer around, this team is developing a similar kind of mentality and the last 10 minutes or so at Craven Cottage were a real test. 

Ultimately, Marco Silva’s Fulham team really needed an early goal if they were going to make Liverpool sweat.

Luis Diaz opened the scoring in the 11th minuteCredit: Reuters
The Colombian has been on fire this seasonCredit: Getty

Midfielder Joao Palhinha placed both hands on his head  in frustration when volleying a corner from Andreas Pereira over the bar.

Palhinha was unmarked so he should have probably done better and he was left to rue that chance when he was unable to stop Diaz from scoring a few minutes later

Quansah delivered that stunning pass from his own half, Diaz beat Timothy Castagne fair too easily in the air before seizing onto the loose ball.

Diaz struck the ball just as Palhinha challenged yet Leno should have saved but instead, could only push the ball onto the inside of the post.

Diaz wasted a good chance by sidefooting a tame shot at Leno after Gravenberch strode through the home midfield unchallenged.

Issa Diop pulled one back for Fulham with 15 minutes leftCredit: Getty
The hosts were unable to find another goal despite huffing and puffingCredit: Reuters

Raul Jimenez, having forced a decent one-handed save from Kelleher, then claimed he should have been awarded a penalty after the slightest of tugs on his shirt from Gravenberch but Hooper got the decision right.

And while Fulham recovered after suffering that early blow, they were still not really hurting Klopp’s team enough.

Pereira’s shot hit the post after Kelleher failed to make a proper connection on a punch yet with 14 minutes left, Fulham finally found a way past Liverpool’s no 2 keeper.

Harry Wilson powered impressively past Liverpool right-back Conor Bradley and his cross – following a slight deflection off Quansah – was met by Diop who used his thigh to turn the  ball past Kelleher.

For a few minutes, Liverpool’s players lost composure and Fulham felt they had a real chance of turning this around. 

Kelleher looked unsure in goal and it was a shame the home team could not have tested him a few more times.

Yet Liverpool, who have moved on impressively since that controversial night in north London four months ago, were able to avoid a late drama.

Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for more final success against ChelseaCredit: AP
Marco Silva will be proud of his side’s effortCredit: AFP

And while Fulham fans will disagree, Liverpool v Chelsea should be a decent final. Not including the Community Shield, the Reds will be looking for their seventh title under Klopp.

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino is now looking to land his first piece of silverware and if he is to do so, knows he will now have to do it the hard way.

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