LIVERPOOL: Curtis Jones scored twice and Liverpool booked a record 19th appearance in the League Cup semi-finals with a 5-1 thrashing of West Ham United on Wednesday (Dec 20), claiming the last of the four berths.
Dominik Szoboszlai, Cody Gakpo and talisman Mohamed Salah, who did not enter the game until it was an hour old, also scored for Jurgen Klopp’s team in what unravelled into a rout in the final 20 minutes.
“The performance, the scoresheet, the result and the individual performances put together to make a team on the pitch,” a delighted Klopp told Sky Sports. “The boys enjoyed it a lot, they worked hard but enjoyed it too with joyful football in moments. Nice to see.”
Szoboszlai netted in the 28th minute with a thunderous strike from 20 yards that sailed into the far corner. Jones doubled Liverpool’s lead with his first goal minutes into the second half after a give-and-go with Darwin Nunez, sprinting onto Nunez’s pass to one-time his shot through keeper Alphonse Areola’s legs.
Gakpo scored from the top of the 18-yard box before Jarrod Bowen pulled one back for the Hammers in the 77th minute. Salah put the game away in the 82nd minute and Jones completed his brace two minutes later, slashing through West Ham’s defence with such ease it had manager David Moyes seething with anger.
“I want to score goals and help the team,” Jones said. “It is okay playing well but you need to score goals, I’ve scored two so a big smile on my face.”
West Ham were in for a tough night against the nine-time League Cup winners even before the opening whistle, hampered by illness ahead of the game and having only won once in the cauldron of Anfield in 60 years.
Chelsea, Fulham and Championship side Middlesbrough also made the last four. Chelsea and Fulham booked their places on Tuesday night with penalty shootout wins over Newcastle United and Everton respectively.
“An important game to get through. We did our best and it was a good game in the end,” Gakpo said. “We have a good team, we have amazing players. The only thing we have to do is stay focused and stay together and keep working hard and then the quality will come out.”
The semi-final first legs will be played the week of Jan 8, and the second legs beginning Jan 22.
The final is on Feb 25 at Wembley Stadium, and fans at rain-lashed Anfield, keen to see their team in the final, chanted “Wembley” in the final minutes on Wednesday.
Liverpool were coming off a frustrating 0-0 Premier League draw against Manchester United on Sunday.
Wednesday’s score could have been even more lop-sided with several near-misses, including a Darwin Nunez shot that rang off the post in the second half. Salah then sent the rebound just wide.