9/10 Jota the difference maker; Partey among six to get 5

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Diogo Jota was the difference maker but Thomas Partey was terrible on the return as Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-0 to clinch a place in the Carabao Cup final.

Arsenal started the game brilliantly, with Gabriel Martinelli looking sharp. Alexandre Lacazette nearly scored in the opening exchanges, only for his free kick to hit the crossbar. But Liverpool broke the deadlock against the run of play, as Diogo Jota smartly swung downfield before producing a misfiring kick that edged Aaron Ramsdale past.

The match was then played evenly but Alexandre Lacazette should have leveled things early in the second half when he was found in acres of space by Albert Sambi Lokonga. Liverpool also came close to scoring as Kaide Gordon missed an effort from close range, while Ibrahima Konate’s header shattered the woodwork.

With Liverpool in the ascendancy, the second goal arrived well in the 77th minute. Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold combined to send the first on goal before he flicked the ball past a pressed Ramsdale and into the net. That goal was enough to send Liverpool through to the Carabao Cup final, but there was still time for late drama.

Thomas Partey, returning early from the Africa Cup of Nations, somehow got sent off despite only being on the pitch for 15 minutes, earning a second booking for a late challenge on Fabinho. With that, Arsenal have withdrawn from the Carabao Cup, while Liverpool will meet Chelsea, who beat Tottenham Hotspur last week, in next month’s final. Hard Tackle now applies the rule to both groups of players.

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsdale: 5/10

Ramsdale doesn’t usually leave much to be desired, but Thursday’s outing was an example of that. Diogo Jota’s missed shot thwarted the Englishman, and he didn’t come off his line fast enough to stop the second goal. But this can be considered a rare occurrence.

Takehiro Tomiyasu: 5/10

Back in the starting lineup after being dropped into form, Tomiyasu endured a nightmarish evening as Jota ran rings around him. The Liverpool striker easily eluded him in the build-up to the opener, and he struggled to advance due to the threat from the Portugal international.

Ben White: 6/10

White was a solid customer, for the most part, completing three clearances and making three interceptions. The Englishman also won three duels looking precisely to play from behind. But he could have done better to shut down Jota for his first goal.

Gabriel Magalhaes: 5/10

Like his central defensive partner, Gabriel wasn’t always swayed by Firmino’s moves. But when it mattered most, he slipped and played Jota for his second goal. All the good was canceled at that time.

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Kieran Tierney: 6/10

With most of Arsenal’s moves flowing down the left flank, Tierney saw plenty of the ball. But while he was a consistent outlet in the final third, his production was sorely lacking on the night. The Scot was largely solid in the defensive phases, making three interceptions and winning four duels.

Albert Sambi Lokonga: 6.5/10

Albert Sambi Lokonga was the only available central midfielder ahead of the game, which meant he had almost too much to do on Thursday. But the youngster showed himself well, defensively intelligently while executing beautiful passes, one of which should have been transformed by Alexandre Lacazette. He needs more such performances to become a regular.

Bukayo Saka: 6/10

Passed fit to start, Saka sought to shake things up but was unable to influence the proceedings as much as he would have liked. With Gabriel Martinelli seeing the ball more, the Englishman didn’t get the chance to make a difference either.

Martin Odegaard: 6/10

Odegaard had to return to a box-to-box midfield role instead of being deployed in his usual number. 10 posts. This change significantly affected his performance, with the Norwegian struggling to carve out openings despite having an abundance of the ball. He still maintained a success rate of 90%, but he needed to be more incisive in his forward passes.

Emile Smith Rowe: 5/10

Smith Rowe was deemed to have recovered enough to start against Liverpool, but appeared to lack the liveliness to shake things up on Thursday. The youngster has never influenced the proceedings and needs to get back to full fitness.

Gabriel Martinelli: 7/10

Martinelli was, by far, Arsenal’s best player on Thursday, with all of the Gunners’ best moments coming from his flank. But at the same time, the young Brazilian wasted some of his touches, losing the ball 23 times.

Alexandre Lacazette: 5/10

Lacazette came close to scoring early in the first half with a diving free kick, and he came close to scoring with an effort from the edge of the box early in the second half. While Caoimhin Kelleher denied it superbly in the first instance, his finishing was abysmal in the second. Other than that, he struggled to get into the game but fell deep to bring his teammates into the game.

SUBSTITUTES

Thomas Partey: 5/10

Returning early from the Africa Cup of Nations following Ghana’s ousting, Partey was presented with 15 minutes to play. But the Ghanaian midfielder managed to get himself sent off with two bookable fouls in the space of three minutes. He should know better.

Eddie Nketiah: N/A

Nketiah barely saw the ball in the final 15 minutes as Liverpool looked to see the game through.

liverpool

Caoimhin Kelleher: 7/10

Back in the starting lineup, Kelleher didn’t have much to do other than make two saves. But the youngster appeared to tip Alexandre Lacazette’s free kick onto the crossbar meaning his clean sheet was well deserved.

Trent Alexandre-Arnold: 8/10

Like many of his teammates (as you will see when reading further), Alexander-Arnold has improved a lot from last week’s performance. The Englishman’s defensive output continues to hone and he also provided the assists for both goals scored by Diogo Jota. The pass for the second strike was particularly delicious.

Joel Matip: 6/10

It was a strange outing for Matip in which he was not completely reliable. The experienced defender was also disallowed a goal when his tap-in was ruled out as he was offside. But he made four clearances and won three duels before being knocked out.

Virgil van Dijk: 7/10

Apart from a moment when Alexandre Lacazette escaped him at the start of the first half, van Dijk barely made a mistake, containing the Arsenal skipper cleverly. As always, he was imperious in the air, winning all three aerial duels he contested.

Andrew Robertson: 7/10

Robertson was a solid client, for the most part, containing Bukayo Saka smartly while posing a threat during his forays down the left flank. But his production was below average on Thursday, with the Scot losing possession 18 times. However, his defensive performance was remarkable, as he won six duels while completing three clearances, interceptions and tackles each.

Jordan Henderson: 7/10

Henderson was much improved from the terrible performance in the first leg. The Liverpool captain was successful on all but three of his pass attempts and pulled away from playing long balls for the first time. He was also strong defensively, winning five duels in the game.

Fabinho: 8/10

Fabinho took a while to find his feet, but he was colossal once he did. The Brazilian held the fort in the middle of the park superbly, suppressing the moves Arsenal were looking to create while launching his own team’s plays. Some of his tackles were brilliant, including one inside the Liverpool penalty area on Gabriel Martinelli.

Curtis Jones: 7/10

Jones produced a strong performance, helping the defense when needed while driving Liverpool forward at every opportunity. The youngster played two key passes while maintaining a 91% completion rate. At the same time, he also made three clearances and won four duels. It was a job well done.

Kaide Gordon: 6/10

Favored ahead of cut specialist Takumi Minamino, Gordon was a bundle of energy but didn’t see the ball as much as he would have liked. The teenage wonderkid had a good chance to score his second Liverpool goal but missed the mark. He hopes to do better next time.

Roberto Firmino: 7/10

Firmino’s typical movement off the ball was a feature of his game, and he would often drop as deep as his own half to create space. But some of his touches were useless and he couldn’t get a scoring chance, which is something he would like to address.

Diogo Jota: 9/10

What a season this turns out to be for Jota. Once again, the Portugal international had a significant impact on a game. Clinic is the perfect word to describe his performance as Jota scored twice from as many shots to seal the deal for Liverpool. His star continues to rise.

SUBSTITUTES

Ibrahima Konate: 6/10

Introduced in place of Joël Matip at half-time, Konaté was barely called up in the second half. The Frenchman appeared at the other end to try to convert a chance but his header shook the woodwork instead.

Takumi Minamino: 6/10

For Gordon, Minamino, the player to watch in our preview, has been lively in the last half hour. But the Japan international was unable to continue his goalscoring form in the Carabao Cup, with Ben White denying him a goal with a solid block.

James Milner: N/A

Milner replaced Henderson in the 75th minute and saw the game end without much fuss.

Neco Williams: N/A

A late introduction, Williams barely saw the ball in the dying embers of play.

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