Liverpool scraped through to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup, after an incredible penalty shootout win over Middlesborough at Anfield.
The Reds had led through a debut goal from 17-year-old midfielder Jordan Rossiter, before set pieces proved costly once more, when Adam Reach headed Boro’ level in the second half.
Substitute Suso scored his first goal for the Reds in extra time to put them on course for a 2-1 victory, until a foul by Kolo Toure in the 121st minute gave on loan Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford the chance to make it 2-2, which he did with aplomb.
What followed was perhaps one of the longest penalty shootouts in English football history, with Bamford and Sterling missing in the first round of spot kicks, and Boro’s Albert Adomah missing the decisive kick in front of the Kop.
Brendan Rodgers had hoped Liverpool would produce a performance to give the supporters something to cheer, after three consecutive poor showings, and back-to-back defeats in the Premier League. Jordan Rossiter gave the Reds the ideal start, latching onto Rickie Lambert’s saved shot and cooly stroking the rebound home from 25 yards.
The Boro’ keeper will feel he should have done more to keep it out, but no Liverpool supporter inside Anfield cared, as the 17-year-old celebrated becoming the second youngest goal scorer in the clubs history behind Michael Owen.
In what was at times a difficult game to watch, Simon Mignolet was forced into one decent parry inside the first 45 minutes. However, the Belgian – who has come under fire for his inability to command his defence of late – was beaten on 62 minutes, with a set piece proving the Reds downfall once again as Adam Reach nodded home from eight yards. Brendan Rodgers introduced Mario Balotelli to try and find a winner, but once again it was a tale of plenty of possession but no clear cut chances.
It was another substitute who looked to have found the winner however, with Spanish playmaker Suso firing in front of the Kop on 109 minutes, after excellent build up play between Jose Enrique and Adam Lallana. The Reds produced their best football of the night during the extra time period, with Suso coming close to a second goal, forcing Boro’ goalkeeper Jamal Blackman into a save from the edge of the box.
But disaster struck for the Reds in the final minute, when the otherwise excellent Raheem Sterling gifted former Reds defender Daniel Ayala possession, who found Patrick Bamford with a precise through ball.
Kolo Toure made a rash challenge in the box, and Bamford dusted himself down to take the game to penalties, cooly sending Mignolet the wrong way. What followed was an incredible penalty shootout, with Balotelli, Lucas, Lallana and Suso firing twice, and debutant Jordan Williams, Manquillo, Sakho, Toure, Enrique and Mignolet also scoring from the spot. Albert Adomah was the man who ultimately missed, putting his penalty wide in front of the Kop.
Liverpool celebrated making it through to the next round by the skin of their teeth, on a night that will be remembered for a debut goal from Jordan Rossiter, Suso’s first Liverpool goal, and one of the most incredible penalty shootouts in recent memory.