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    Friday, 30 October 2020

    'This is what you play football for' - Epic Liverpool defeat that made Hector Bellerin smile

    A year ago today, Liverpool played out one of the most incredible cup ties Anfield has ever seen which led to even one of the Reds' beaten opponents waxing lyrical about the occasion

    Liverpool 5-5 Arsenal Carabao Cup October 31, 2019.

    You could write a book about the epic memories Liverpool generated for their supporters during the unforgettable 2019/20 season - and plenty of people have.

    They didn't all revolve around the Reds finally ending the club's 30-year hunt for the holy grail of a 19th league title.

    There was the trip to Qatar which saw Liverpool crowned World Club Champions for the first time ever after three previous failed attempts.

    And even though Klopp's men bowed out of the FA Cup at the last 16 stage, the performances of the Reds youngsters in knocking out full strength Everton andShrewsbury Town teams are likely to figure highly amongst the treasured recollections when Liverpudians look back on a season which felt almost like a blessed dream.

    Such was the tumultuous nature of the campaign it's inevitable some matches which would have been major highlights in other seasons can slip under the radar.

    5-5 draws are not exactly a commonplace occurrence but when the occasion is even lauded afterwards by one of the players whose side was ultimately beaten in the ensuing penalty shootout, it's clear something special has taken place.

    This was very much the case when Liverpool and Arsenal met in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup a year ago today.

    The Reds already boasted a six point lead at the top of the Premier League and, after an opening defeat in Napoli, had won consecutive Champions League group games against Salzburg and Genk to get back on track for qualification for the knockout stages.

    The season's first taste of Carabao Cup action had come in a comfortable 2-0 third round away win at MK Dons, which had seen Liverpool debuts for a number of the club's talented youngsters such as Rhian Brewster, Harvey Elliott, Ki-Jana Hoever, Caoimhin Kelleher, Sepp van den Berg and Herbie Kane.

    Anfield was packed for the fourth round tie against Arsenal with many fans looking forward to seeing how the 'Klopp kids' would perform on home soil, with Welsh defender Neco Williams handed a full debut on this occasion at right back.He made up a 'dad and lad' full back pairing with James Milner on the left, with Van den Berg partnering Joe Gomez at centre half.

    The Reds midfield had a more experienced look to it with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana making up the trio while Divock Origi led the line supported either side by young bucks Rhian Brewster and Harvey Elliott.

    Curtis Jones, who had made his Liverpool debut the previous season in the FA Cup at Wolves and had started in the previous round in Milton Keynes, had to settle for a place on the bench where he was joined by a host of other Academy graduates like Pedro Chirivella, Yasser Larouci and for the first time, Billy Koumetio.

    Unai Emery's Gunners had endured an indifferent start to the season, already sitting twelve points behind the Reds in the Premier League table, and named a fairly strong side with youngsters Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock balanced out by first team stars such as Mesut Özil and Héctor Bellerín.

    And it was one of their older heads, German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, who got a crazy evening of goalscoring underway by slicing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's right-wing cross into his own net after only six minutes to give Liverpool the lead.


    The visitors responded strongly to the early setback however and nine minutes before half time were 3-1 in front with Lucas Torreira's 19th minute equaliser being added to with a brace from Gabriel Martinelli.

    Liverpool 5-5 Arsenal Carabao Cup October 31, 2019.

    James Milner reduced the deficit two minutes before the break from the penalty spot after Harvey Elliott had been fouled in the box but Ainsley Maitland-Niles restored the visitors' two-goal advantage nine minutes after the interval following a rare Milner error.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain thumped home a 25-yarder four minutes later to breathe new life into the contest and incredibly four minutes after that Liverpool were level when Divock Origi was fed by substitute Curtis Jones and he rifled home in front of the Kop.

    It was anyone's game by this point but when Joe Willock slammed home the Gunners' fifth from fully yards on 70 minutes, those in attendance could have been forgiven for wondering whether the Reds' young guns had it in them to recover yet again.

    They should have realised by this stage that the never-say-die attitude instilled by Klopp was now running through all levels of the playing staff and, as the clock ticked into stoppage time, Neco Williams crowned an impressive debut by getting to the byline and swinging in a quality cross for Origi to hook home and make the scoreline a scarcely-credible 5-5.

    With level ties in the competition now going straight to penalties, Milner, Lallana, Brewster and Origi all converted from twelve yards and, after Dani Ceballos had seen his effort saved by Caoimhin Kelleher, the opportunity fell to young Scouser Curtis Jones to send Liverpool into the quarter-finals.

    He finished with aplomb in front of the Kop to put the seal on one of the most astonishing cup ties Anfield had ever seen and, after the game, Arsenal's Spanish full back Hector Bellerin spoke of what an amazing experience it had been to play in such a match despite coming out on the losing side.

    "I have to say it was great to play this kind of game", Bellerin said.

    "The tempo of the play, the goals - this is football.

    "This is what you play football for, for nights like this.

    "Whatever the score, today we're gutted, but I'm sure there's going to be nights that go in our favour."

    It was a dream come true for Curtis Jones to have such a moment at Anfield for his boyhood club, even if he would go on to top it just over two months later against Everton, and he was ecstatic to be the matchwinner on his first senior appearance at Anfield.

    "Being a local lad, it's always been my dream to get an appearance at Anfield.

    "To get an assist to give us a chance and then to score a penalty is just a dream come true.

    "I was calm, I picked my spot and I was fortunate enough that the winning penalty went in.

    "This is just the beginning, I'm just a young lad and I've still got a long way to go.

    "Any opportunities I'll take with both hands. This is what you play football for".

    Jurgen Klopp meanwhile was jubilant at the performance of his young players and praised them all for contributing to a 'proper special football night' that he said they should never forget.

    "I enjoyed pretty much each second of the game", Klopp glowed.

    "I was so happy for the kids that they will remember their first night at Anfield for the rest of their life.

    "In the end they made it a proper special football night. Everybody who came tonight saw 19 goals, including the shootout, that's pretty special.

    "Really perfect, absolutely perfect.

    "Maybe as a manager I should think more about or worry about the goals that we conceded but I couldn't care less to be honest."I couldn't care less tonight."

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