Carabao Cup: Bernd Leno springs into action as Arsenal win Anfield shootout

German keeper Leno has been a controversial replacement for Arsenal's FA Cup and Community Shield hero Emi Martinez
Carabao Cup: Bernd Leno springs into action as Arsenal win Anfield shootout

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno celebrates after saving a penalty in the shoot-out during the Carabao Cup fourth round match at Anfield. Pictures: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Bernd Leno was Arsenal's sudden death penalty shoot-out hero as he stopped Harry Wilson's spot kick before youngster Joe Willock kept his nerve to score and send Arsenal into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.

German keeper Leno has been a controversial replacement for Arsenal's FA Cup and Community Shield hero Emi Martinez, who was recently sold to Aston Villa.

But he showed he has the big match nerve and skills to emerge as Arsenal's key player having been man of the match in the regular 90 minutes.

Arsenal won a shootout against Liverpool in the Community Shield last month and repeated the feat in even more dramatic fashion on a cold Anfield night.

These clubs drew 5-5 before Liverpool won on penalties when they faced each other in the same competition a year ago. But goalscoring chances were at a premium last night as Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta pitted their wits against each other just four days after Liverpool's Monday night Premier League win here.

Klopp's team were again the more dominant and Arsenal allowed them to be as Arteta tried to repeat his Wembley Community shield penalty shoot out win by making his side very difficult to break down and let the opposition do all the running.

When Liverpool did break through they were unable to get past Leno, who finally proved himself a worthy replacement for Martinez.

That said, Arsenal could and should have taken a first half lead when a brilliant Granit Xhaka pass sent Nicolas Pepe clear down and his cut back to Willock led to a clear chance for Eddie Nketiah, who hesitated with the goal at his mercy.

Liverpool's only early chance of sorts fell to Portuguese midfielder Marko Gujic but he did not really look like scoring.

Liverpool made nine changes from Monday and Arsenal eight as the second string from both sides were determined to make the most of their opportunities, ensuring it was a competitive match as there were two bookings for each side.

Liverpool did not record their first shot on target until the 35th minute. It was an unimpressive effort from Curtis Jones which Leno saved comfortably but it was an indication of how well Arsenal were organised and containing Liverpool that they could not muster anything else.

That all changed in a dramatic end to the first half in which Arsenal were thankful to survive on level terms going into the break.

First, Leno palmed a save from a close range Diogo Jota effort straight to Takumi Minamino who crashed the rebound against the crossbar.

It was a missed chance that would have just about reflected the balance of power in the first half. Arsenal were defensively well organised and dangerous on the break, but Liverpool had been the more dominant and adventurous.

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno makes a save.
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno makes a save.

Klopp's side kicked off attacking the fabulously decorated Kop in the second half and remained on top. Football behind closed doors has negated a lot of the home advantage at most grounds but Liverpool have done such a great job in decking their famous stand our with flags and banners it almost looks and feels as if there are supporters in there, trying to will the ball into the net.

That said, the closest Liverpool came to scoring after the restart was a Virgil van Dijk header which Leno kept out well with a smart low save to his right.

Another Grujic shot, on the hour, led to the planned substitutions of van Dijk and striker Mo Salah who had played his first ever League Cup tie. They will be back for the arguably more important Premier League clash against Aston Villa.

Arsenal now played with more confidence, possibly as Liverpool were visibly weakened and defender Rob Holding produced a great save from Adrian with a header. Arteta tried to increase his sides finishing prowess by sending on Alex Lacazette for Eddie Nketiah with just under ten minutes to go, but the penalty shoot-out now seemed inevitable.

LIVERPOOL: Adrian 6; N.Williams 6, R.Williams 6, Van Dijk 7 (Gomez 61), Milner 6; Grujic 7, Jones 6; Wilson 6, Minamino 6, Jota 7 (Wijnaldum 76); Salah 5 (Origi 61).

ARSENAL: Leno 7; Cedric 6, Holding 6, Gabriel 7, Kolasinac 5; Xhaka 6, Willock 6, Ceballos 6 (Elneny 68); Pepe 6, Saka 7 (Maitland-Niles 86), Nketiah 5(Lacazette 82).

Referee: Kevin Friend 6.

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