When it was all over, 27 of 30 penalties had been converted, Middlesbrough were on their knees in despair and Liverpool were too shattered to indulge fully in celebration. One of the most remarkable shoot-outs in English history brought relief for Brendan Rodgers’ team as they edged into the fourth round courtesy of an exhausting finale at Anfield and one final miss from the unfortunate Albert Adomah.
The Middlesbrough winger sliced the 30th and final spot-kick into the Kop to settle a seemingly never-ending tie at 10.42pm. Both teams had gone through the card in the shoot-out, goalkeepers included, with Patrick Bamford, whose penalty in extra-time stoppage time carried the Championship club so far, and Raheem Sterling having efforts saved before Adomah’s miss.
It was the longest penalty shoot-out in the history of the League Cup, the previous record set at 9-8 on three occasions, and more extensive than the FA Cup’s highest total when Macclesfield beat Forest Green 11-10 in 2001. Of major English competitions only the Football League Trophy can equal it, also boasting a 14-13 shoot-out.
Rodgers could afford a wry smile afterwards, even though Liverpool’s defending and lack of creativity were evident again, and this time against Championship opposition. It was simply cruel for the Boro manager, Aitor Karanka, having seen his side twice come from behind and pose a persistent threat all night.
“I don’t have words to explain my feelings now,” said the former Real Madrid assistant manager. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. We have played a Champions League team at Anfield and we’ve met them face to face. Everything was brilliant except the last penalty.”
Liverpool beat Middlesbrough after 30-penalty Capital One Cup shoot-out
In normal circumstances this would have been the night Jordan Rossiter claimed the headlines, having marked his Liverpool debut with the opening goal from 30 yards. But with Liverpool unable to defend set pieces, enabling Adam Reach to head in a deserved Middlesbrough equaliser, Kolo Touré conceding a ridiculous penalty in the 122nd minute and both sides showing rare composure during the shoot-out, normality took its leave at Anfield.
“It’s good to win no matter how you win,” said the Liverpool manager. “We played OK, we didn’t create much to be honest but we showed good perseverance. We made too many mistakes, as it has been for us at the moment, and we got punished.”
Rossiter, a 17-year-old born not far from Anfield, has caught the eye in Liverpool’s youth teams in recent years and prompted inevitable comparisons with a young Steven Gerrard given his position, background and severe teenage haircut. It is premature of course, even though Robbie Fowler has also announced the midfielder has the potential to follow the Liverpool captain’s career path, but a long-range goal on debut is not a bad way to start.
Lucas Leiva’s through-ball should have been routine for the on-loan Chelsea pairing of Kenneth Omeruo and the goalkeeper Jamal Blackman as it rolled into the Middlesbrough area. Blackman, making his Boro debut, came but failed to collect, spilling the ball to Rickie Lambert but blocking the Liverpool striker’s first-time shot.
The rebound fell to Rossiter who drove low from distance under the goalkeeper’s poor attempt at an interception and into the centre of an unguarded goal. The goalscoring debutant’s reaction was one to behold: a combination of astonishment, bewilderment and delirium producing a celebratory routine that had clearly not been rehearsed.
Boro threatened on the counter-attack and from set pieces all game. There may have been greater energy and purpose to the Liverpool performance in the second half but, as has been the case for most of the season, it came almost entirely from Sterling, whose 122-minute outing was not ideal preparation for Saturday’s Merseyside derby.
Lazar Markovic was anonymous on his second start for the club, Adam Lallana’s work-rate could not be faulted but the £25m summer recruit was unable to find an end product while his former Southampton team-mate Lambert endured a difficult first start of the season. The boyhood Liverpool supporter was also handed the captain’s armband for the night, despite having appeared only as a substitute previously.
Middlesbrough levelled from an inevitable source when Mamadou Sakho was penalised for handball and Grant Leadbitter’s free-kick was glanced in by Reach. Adam Clayton had a chance to knock Liverpool out in the 85th minute but his close-range shot, after he was released by Lee Tomlin’s clever reverse pass, struck the outside of a post. Then Suso appeared to have decided the outcome when he fired through a crowded area in extra time. Bamford’s penalty, after Sterling had surrendered possession and Touré sent the on-loan Chelsea player sprawling, confirmed otherwise. It was merely a dress rehearsal for the madness to come.
Rickie Lambert set for £4m Liverpool move after Reds hold talks with Southampton over England striker
Lambert expected to undergo medical on Saturday before joining back up with England to fly to America
Bid for Adam Lallana held up by the fact Bournemouth are owed a 25 per cent sell-on fee
Reds have also bid £16million for Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno
Liverpool are on the brink of signing Rickie Lambert after they launched a shock £4million bid for the England striker.
Brendan Rodgers is determined to add depth to his squad but the move for boyhood Reds fan Lambert has come from left field.
The 32-year-old is with the England squad preparing for Friday’s game with Peru, but he is expected to be allowed to travel to Liverpool on Saturday for a medical and the switch from Southampton could be completed early next week.
The initial £4m fee will rise according to the appearances he makes.
Lambert, who began his career at Liverpool’s academy, will be the first major arrival in what is expected to be a busy summer for the club.
He could even be followed by two of his team-mates from Southampton, as Liverpool are still negotiating for £30m-rated Adam Lallana and have also targeted Dejan Lovren to bolster their defence.
They have also bid £16million for Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno and could send Spanish midfielder Suso in the opposite direction to complete that deal, as Rodgers looks to bring in the numbers they will need to cope with competing in the Barclays Premier League and the Champions League.
Moreno, who has been watched by both Manchester clubs, is Liverpool’s number one target to strength a position that has given Rodgers problems in the last 12 months.
Lallana’s move has been held up by the fact Bournemouth are owed a 25 per cent sell-on fee and Liverpool have Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri as alternative.
Emre Can, the Germany Under-21 international, is another target and Liverpool remain in talks with him over a £12million move from Bayer Leverkusen.
Yet it is the deal for Lambert – who was released by Liverpool when he was 15 famously worked in a beetroot factory – that has come as such surprise but Rodgers has always been a fan.
‘I think Rickie is a terrific player,’ said Rodgers last September before Liverpool faced Southampton at Anfield. ‘I sent him a message, a fax, when he made his England debut (against Scotland) as I know he is a big Red. I sent it on behalf of the club and all Kopites.
‘He is a Kirkby boy and I was just wishing him well, saying we were all proud of him playing for England.’
Rodgers added: ‘People look back now and say it was a mistake (to let Lambert go), but there may have been something at the time that was a factor.
‘He just might not have been ready for what Liverpool was at that time, but there is absolutely no doubt within development it cannot just be about what the player is now. With young talent you always have to look at what they could be.
‘You see so many young British players who are thrown to the garbage because maybe they are not strong or they are not quick when they are going through growth spurts. The emphasis at younger ages should be technique. But I have been a big admirer of Rickie.
Lambert urges Saints teammates to relish England experience
Lambert worked for four months in a factory putting lids on beetroot jars when he was released by Blackpool in 2000 before going on to play for Macclesfield and Stockport.
His incredible rise to fame began when Rochdale boss Steve Parkin moved him from midfield.
Parkin recalled: ‘I took him from Stockport for not much and shoved him straight up front.
‘First and foremost he was a big lad. I noticed he had a terrific shot and he was good in the air, either playing off someone or being a target man.
‘I didn’t think he’d come good in midfield, but he had exceptional touch and ability. He can see a move two or three passes before it happens so he’s always one step ahead. He always had the ability to play up front but his midfield mindset makes him good at dropping off.’
Lambert, aged 23 at the time, forged a formidable partnership with Grant Holt and they scored 27 goals in 24 matches before Holt was poached by Nottingham Forest.
But it got Lambert noticed, too, by Bristol Rovers director of football Lennie Lawrence.
‘It took four months to get him fit,’ said Lawrence, now assistant manager at Bolton.
‘He had all sorts of different little ailments, minor things. After we got him fit – boom.
‘We always knew he could score. He strikes the ball so powerfully and he knows how to use his body, he’s a clever player. He’s a great lad. Unassuming, terrific, never arrogant. Just a bloody good lad and very popular.’
Southampton signed him for £1million in 2009 and he has been top scorer every season since.
Liverpool target Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ryan Bertrand
Liverpool are trying to sign Southampton’s Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich and Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand
Liverpool have an extensive list of potential summer targets, with Southampton’s Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich and Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand all in Brendan Rodgers’ sights.
Croatian centre-back Lovren enjoyed an excellent debut season on the south coast, but has emerged as a prime target of Rodgers, who is monitoring several possible recruits for the heart of his defence.
Lovren cost £8.5 million when he joined the Saints last season and his valuation will have significantly increased.
Liverpool have made Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana a priority signing as Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in danger of being broken up over the summer. However, with a move for Lallana stalling, Liverpool have a back-up plan to line up Swiss international Shaqiri.
The 22-year-old midfielder has been scouted extensively by Liverpool since his Basle days and, at around £10 million, would be considerably cheaper than Lallana.
Rodgers will also revive his pursuit of Chelsea full-back Bertrand as he seeks to find a solution at left-back.
Part of the problem in negotiating for Bertrand is Chelsea may not be willing to sell to a top-four rival. There is also bad blood between the clubs following Liverpool’s loan capture of Victor Moses, who they barely used.
Bertrand, 24, who spent last season on loan at Aston Villa, is Rodgers’ preferred choice at left-back, although Seville’s Alberto Moreno has also been extensively scouted.
Rodgers has made it clear he wants well-established players added to his squad, including a striker to add competition with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez.
One of those under consideration is Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, who – like Lovren – enjoyed an impressive first season in the Premier League.
Bony would command a fee in excess of £15 million.
Meanwhile, Rodgers says there is no possibility of his captain Steven Gerrard dwelling on his Premier League disappointment when the World Cup starts.
“I have no concerns whatsoever,” said Rodgers.
“I think Steven will go away and when he reflects on what has been personally a brilliant season of football, he has been very unfairly pointed out in terms of his slip. It could have happened in the third game, it could have happened in the fourth game ,but it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the defining moment of our season. That was not what cost us the league.
“It was more games when we won the games. When we won 5-3 at Stoke when we conceded, when we won 6-3 at Cardiff, when we won 4-3 at home and conceded three. It was those games, not Steven’s slip or Kolo’s [Toure] misplaced pass [at West Brom]. Because he [Steven] is a very conscientious boy and he loves Liverpool and he is very hard on himself.
“He’s his own worst critic but he comes away recognising that he has been involved in a real title run-in and next season he will be better for it and we will be a better squad for it and we will be ready to fight again and he will play a pivotal part in it. He will take that confidence into a world cup.
“I always say to players when you go to England don’t think of Liverpool. Think about your country and the team you are playing for.
“One of his qualities is that he can do that. He is a model professional at that, he is very proud to play for England and captain his country and I am sure he will go and do the country proud again.”