London, United Kingdom | AFP | Liverpool reached the League Cup quarter-finals in thrilling style as their incredible 5-5 draw against Arsenal was followed by a 5-4 penalty shoot-out triumph on Wednesday.
Both Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Arsenal boss Unai Emery made 11 changes for the fourth round tie, but the understudies served up one of the most entertaining games of the season at Anfield.
Arsenal enjoyed a memorable 6-3 League Cup quarter-final win at Liverpool in 2007, but this time they squandered multiple leads in an even more dramatic clash.
In the shoot-out, Dani Ceballos’ penalty was saved by 20-year-old Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher before 18-year-old Curtis Jones converted the winning kick.
Liverpool have won the League Cup a record eight times and they remain on course to lift the trophy for the first time since 2012.
After Granit Xhaka’s astonishing outburst at Arsenal fans during Sunday’s traumatic Premier League draw with Crystal Palace, this was another body blow for Arsenal, who lost despite leading 3-1, 4-2 and then 5-4 with seconds to go.
Xhaka was absent while Emery debates whether to strip the midfielder of the captaincy, but Arsenal were unable to take advantage of Liverpool’s youthful line-up.
With an average age of 23 years and 122 days, it was Liverpool’s youngest starting eleven in any competition since January 2017 as teenagers Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott, Rhian Brewster and Sepp Van Den Berg all featured.
Liverpool’s rookies went ahead after just six minutes as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent over a low cross and Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, sliding in to clear, accidently deflected it onto his knee and into the back of his own net.
Yet, with all of Liverpool’s star defenders rested, the Premier League leaders were far less solid than usual and Arsenal drew level in the 19th minute.
The goal came via an assist from the rarely used Mesut Ozil, who was making his only his third appearance of the season and his first since September 24.
Ozil picked out Bukayo Saka in space and when his shot was saved, the unmarked Lucas Torreira slotted home despite Liverpool’s appeals for offside.
– Origi heroics –
Emery’s team took the lead in the 26th minute after more sloppy defending allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to cross and Gabriel Martinelli was on hand to fire into the roof of the net from close-range.
Martinelli struck again 10 minutes later when Ozil intercepted Elliott’s loose pass to send Saka clear and he produced a low cross for the 18-year-old Brazilian forward to grab his seventh goal in seven appearances this season.
James Milner reduced Liverpool’s deficit with a 43rd minute penalty after Elliott went down under minimal contact from Martinelli.
Milner gifted Arsenal their fourth goal in the 54th minute when Maitland-Niles seized on his under-hit back-pass.
Ozil kept the ball in play with a nimble piece of footwork and Maitland-Niles tapped into the empty net.
Oxlade-Chamberlain got one back for Liverpool with a thunderous long-range drive four minutes later.
And Divock Origi equalised with an even better strike in the 62nd minute as the Belgian spun sharply before blasting into the top corner from the edge of the area.
But Willock restored Arsenal’s lead in the 70th minute with another contender for goal of the night, the midfielder sprinting away before unleashing a 25-yard rocket.
It was only the second time Liverpool have conceded five goals in a home match in the last 66 years.
Remarkably, that wasn’t the end of the scoring and Origi acrobatically volleyed Liverpool’s equaliser in stoppage-time, setting the stage for their shoot-out success.
Aston Villa moved into the last eight with a 2-1 win over local rivals Wolves at Villa Park.
Anwar El-Ghazi put Villa ahead and, after Patrick Cutrone’s equaliser, Ahmed Elmohamady bagged the winner.