Liverpool 0-1 Stoke City (6-5 on penalties): Heroic Allen nets decisive penalty

on 26.01.2016

Liverpool needed a penalty shootout to secure passage to the League Cup final, after a dismal night of football at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, January 25, 2016: Liverpool players celebrating the victory after 6-6 winning in penalties during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match against Stoke City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool 0-1 Stoke City (1-1 on aggregate, Liverpool win 6-5 on penalties)

League Cup Semi-Final, Second Leg – Anfield – Tuesday 26th January 2016

Goals: Arnautovic 45+1′

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool will have needed no motivational tactics ahead of Tuesday night’s League Cup semi-final second leg, with the Reds desperate to secure passage to their first cup final of the season.

The German made two changes to the side that drew 5-4 with Norwich City on Saturday afternoon, following injury to Nathaniel Clyne and the return to full fitness of Adam Lallana.

Lallana came in for Jordon Ibe, while Jon Flanagan made his first start for the club in 626 days, lining up at right-back.

However, naming a strong side against a bullish Potters selection, Klopp will have been frustrated as the Reds left it late, with Joe Allen netting the winning penalty.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, January 25, 2016: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino in action against Stoke City's Bojan Krkic during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool began with a high-tempo pressing game, as Klopp’s 4-3-3 pushed Stoke high up the pitch, aided by the energetic Emre Can and Jordan Henderson.

Mark Hughes’ side looked to counter this with a direct approach, lofting long balls up towards Peter Crouch in attack, providing Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure with a significant test early on.

As the opening 20 minutes passed by, neither side created any meaningful opportunities, but a predatory Jonathan Walters soon had his first chance of the game, charging forward to latch onto a direct pass and fire just wide of Simon Mignolet‘s goal.

Thirteen minutes later, and Liverpool had their best chance of the half, with Emre Can blazing a long-range effort wide after a clever backheel from Roberto Firmino.

With Klopp placing heavy emphasis on Liverpool’s defending of set pieces before the game, he will have been disappointed to see the Potters go close after a wide delivery from a free-kick, but Crouch failed to convert from six yards out.

Much like the Reds’ recent 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, both sides spent much of the first half firing shots at goal from outside the area, with both Henderson and Ibrahim Afellay failing miserably in their attempts before the break.

Stoke’s first well-worked move resulted in a goal, as Marko Arnautovic slotted home from close range.

The Austrian was in an offside position, but the goal stood, and Liverpool trudged in for the break having seen their lead cancelled out.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, January 25, 2016: Liverpool's Emre Can in action during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match against Stoke City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp will have demanded a response from his side after the interval, and Liverpool came out the blocks from the kick-off.

Firmino came close just three minutes into the second half with a close-range effort, but Jack Butland was a match for the Brazilian.

Liverpool looked to keep up the intensity after a bright start, but sloppy passing from the midfield consistently let them down.

Less than 15 minutes into the second half, Klopp made his first change, throwing on Christian Benteke in place of Henderson, as he looked to push for a winner.

Benteke’s introduction saw Liverpool a more direct attacking approach, with James Milner coming to the fore on the right wing, and it was the vice-captain’s delivery from a free-kick that saw Sakho go close, but the Frenchman headed wide at the far post.

Flanagan almost capped his return in stunning fashion, finding himself in the perfect position to shoot after an Alberto Moreno cross, but the 23-year-old couldn’t get the ball out of his feet.

Liverpool were denied a penalty as the second half neared its conclusion with Erik Pieters’ handball adjudged to have been non-deliberate.

With neither side unable to score the decisive goal in the 90 minutes, Jonathan Moss blew for the end of normal time, and Klopp will have been disappointed with his side’s lack of fight.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, January 25, 2016: Liverpool's James Milner in action during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg match against Stoke City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The first 15 minutes of extra time passed by with little drama, but substitute Marco van Ginkel hit Mignolet’s post after a surging, third-man run.

Hopeful of forcing a winner in the second half, Klopp sent on first-leg goalscorer Ibe, who took the place of Flanagan.

This move gave Liverpool more energy in the final third, with Ibe dictating play with bright runs around the penalty area, but the 20-year-old struggled to conjure any dangerous openings.

In the end it went to penalties, with heroics from Mignolet and Allen securing passage to the final.

TIA Man of the Match: Joe Allen

Liverpool: Mignolet; Flanagan (Ibe 106′), Toure (Allen 84′), Sakho, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Henderson (Benteke 58′); Lallana, Milner, Firmino

Substitutes: Ward, Lovren, Smith, Allen, Teixeira, Ibe, Benteke

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Wollscheid, Muniesa, Pieters; Whelan, Afellay; Walters, Bojan (Adam 71′), Arnautovic (Shaqiri 78′); Crouch

Substitutes: Haugaard; Bardsley, Joselu, Wilson, v.Ginkel, Adam, Shaqiri


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  1. I survived a few heart attacks! Happy for the boys. Now let’s get us a trophy!!!

    ps: Benteke just doesn’t cut it.

        • the fact that benteke is on the field, and attempting to take people on, is clear enough of the fact that we as a team, are incapable of playing with a target man.

        • I wanted to see a 442 start with Ben and Bob up front. But probably would not have worked as those 2 don’t seem to have been introduced yet.

          • Work very much in progress there, but the signs are quite promising. Firmino roves so much, it will be easier than I feared. Especially since Benteke’s deficiency is more in complementary movement vis-à-vis team mates than it is with touch, passing ability or finishing.

      • Clearly something Klopp is drilling into his game. He even gave the big man more minutes than even I thought he would. When his complementary movement improves, I expect him to “jam” better with a partner up-front, getting him to the end of crosses in the box more often.

    • No one is cutting it right now,but please let’s hear more about how Benteke is a static oaf. We haven’t had enough of that in the last 5 weeks.

    • What did I tell you about not ditching your first name, when you called yourself Professor Severius Bloggs? See how our Welsh Joe is trending almost every week now.

      There are a couple of Joes in my life. My dad. My uncle. My barber. My friend. And then there’s Joe Bloggs.

  2. Benteke and Balotelli remind me of each other. They’re way too chill for a team like Liverpool. Look at their penalties for example.

      • I can’t really judge him considering most the team played awful. I wish he made near posts runs once in a while to mix it up.

        Nice to see Flanagan coming in with some crunching challenges. Poor lad looked tired though.

      • Still frustrating, but a lot more dangerous with him on. If he can start to use his strength we can get a lot out of him

        • I’m starting to wonder if he is actually strong at all! He looks big, but may be ‘weak’?

          He did he say that he doesn’t work on his strength and upper body training.

          • The testimony of team mates past and present, as well as seeing him perform at his imposing best in and around the box suggest he is plenty strong.

        • Mobility first. Klopp seems to be drilling complementary movement (vis-à-vis team mates) as well as passing into his game. The rest of the centre forward stuff is innate and will emerge with literal force once this re-schooling phase is done. With the level of skill he will have around him in the near future, I expect the wait to be fairly short. I’ll go out on a limb and say 4-5 weeks.

        • I don’t if you watched the game on Sky, but when it went to penalties, there a shot of Hendo and Klopp talking about who should take a pen, you could clearly see him saying “Joe”

    • Mignolet is Player of The Match tonight. So confident. Penalty shoot out goalkeeping was at best tonight. Bravo Mignolet. Keep marching on Liverpool!

      • Being perhaps his harshest critic, it feels a little odd to agree, but credit is certainly due. I felt he stepped up during the game with some more assured parrying and punching. He appeared to instill some confidence in the defenders. Long may that continue notwithstanding the fact that he is still not first-choice material for us.

  3. Goodness me! Why did I ever become a football fan!

    PS: My full and unreserved apologies to Allen for all the negative things I ever said about him…

  4. Joe Allen must be starting to creep into klopps first eleven thoughts by now surely.
    Also as carragher commented after the game, those saves will do wonders for mignolets broken confidence

    • What did Allen (besides scoring penalty)did since coming on though? He was lively sure…but our play was still as sloppy as ever.

      • I think he still tidied us a little, I feel like he’s dictating games now. Great passing, pressing. He’s a midfield leader when he’s playing well and in the right position

        • I’m not saying he was poor today mate…Can, Lucas and Hendo were all very poor today. He probably didn’t even have any scope to do anything meaningful today…the game was far too sloppy at that point…that’s what happens when the game goes to extra time..just pointless passing going to penalties. I just didn’t think it was anything hugely special I’m not criticizing him.

          • Yeah I agree, very little to do with the whole team playing so averagely.
            But I think on the merit of his last few games he will really add something to our midfield. A midfield three of him Henderson and can at the base would be my choice

          • I understand your point. But I actually thought he was the reason we sustained greater presence upfield – even though it kept breaking down and we lacked penetration, Allen was playing the right passes (that can and hendo didn’t) and Firminho found more possession dropping into pockets between lines. Lack of ability (see Lallana overhit thru ball amongst others) to execute the right pass and stoke’s superb organisation made us look toothless up top.
            Firms ran in behind several times when Benteke came short and nobody saw the run never mind try to play him in.

          • I like many believe that Allen should have started the match today. You only need to see the performances from our MF trio to know that he wouldn’t have to do a lot to be better than them. Atleast Allen keeps it nice and tidy, but who knows, perhaps that’s Klopp blind-spot..would have loved him to start as that box-to-box MF.

            I still think the love here is largely insincere. Because it was the last penalty that took us to the finals and because it’s Allen(Welsh bla bla bla) all of that adds to this narrative.

          • They were but the last one is always the most significant. It’s like when you win the cup, you might have had some amazing wins along the way but the final is what is remembered and celebrated.

          • That was the last one because Lucas could score his penalty and others before him and because Mignolet was able to save 1 more than Butland. Make no mistake about it…the pressure on Lucas to score that penno was massive as well.

          • Have to disagree mate… Credit where it is due.. I’ve been one of his biggest critics in here but I’ve always recognised when he has done well. Fact remains that in all his recent appearances, we have seen more personality and more influence in his play. Is it enough to get us where we want to be in the long run, no.
            But for now, he is showing improvement and effecting the game.

          • I think we actually agree in that case. I’m not saying Allen was poor or even mediocre. I’m saying his scope to influence the game really wasn’t that high..he came on the 85th minute and played extra time. So, despite him being one the better/best performers in the red shirt for that short space of time, because everyone else around him was tiring out it was inevitably going to penalties.

            Only thing is the way he’s being highlighted as the main man from the fanbase, being called MOTM that’s what I don’t agree with really. Think a player who played closer to 90 minutes deserves that plaudit. My personal pick would be Simon Mignolet today. Team wasn’t good enough to draw the game today or score a goal or create chances. Took it to penalties and Simon won it for us.

            Basically there’s no sense of moderation…it’s either lionize or vilify(not you but the larger response). Also, read most of the comments here with regards to Allen….mostly just tongue in cheek humor with the Pirlo references.

    • I hope so man.

      I always like to take what I have senn today and look forward with it. To west ham.
      Migs – has to start now given his high
      Clyne – hopefully back from injury
      Lovren/ Caulker – looks like Kolo hammy gone too. Lovren back would be welcomed. Caulker could add extra height though.
      LB – Flano – honestly I missed Flano. So much passion and heart!

      3 man MF-
      Lucas, Can (looks burnt out but short on options, JOE Allen!
      Hendo seems to have a reoccurring injury – subbed off twice now at 60 minutes?! If Hendo is fully fit I would play him over Can.

      3 man attacking force:
      Firmino – undoubtedly
      Tex – naa lets leave the speculation alone for now
      RW – Milner – actually tracks back to help out. Mr Versatility. Can be pushed into RB when Flano tires.
      LW – Moreno. Honestly we are lacking pace on the counter and hence we never even get over the half way line. Moreno wants to be there why not try him there, can’t be worse than Ibe or Lallana?

      With Allen and Milner formation can easily change to 4231 or 433. Milner could be better used in the center of the park but that means starting Lallana in the attack. Both are as blunt as each other when it comes to scoring goals.

      • I feel lallana has been good recently, at the very least he offers an immense work rate. I have always wondered whether he would be better used further back as a CM where his work rate and passing would be better put to used instead of throwing around useless turns trying to find a way into the opponent 18 yard box.

  5. As soon as the welsh xavi walked on the field there was no doubt about it. It had to be him of all people. JESUS ALLEN.

  6. After 30 years these are the moments people will remember the great Joe Allen by.

    Pele Good,Maradona Better,George Best and Joe Allen!

  7. Positives:

    We’re going to wembley!!
    We defended well.
    Didn’t concede from a set piece.
    Mignolet had a good game overall.

    Still need an overhaul in the summer, to
    Many average players.
    Couldn’t create many chances.
    Today was Milner at his best…. And yeah as you can see, he’s nothing special, squad player at best (except if you want to be mid-table then you’ll be happy with him)

    Still, happy that we’re going to Wembley, and I hope we play Everton in the final, that would be epic!

  8. If I was a betting man I would have predicted Liverpool win on penalties. We always make things as difficult as humanly possible for us.

    • You just wait until the final. If we do end up winning it, then most Liverpool fans will probably have 10 heart attacks in that game.

      Do remember when was the last time we won a final comfortably? I certainly don’t.

  9. So our league game with Everton will now be postponed to either:

    Play Everton at Wembley.
    Play City 3 days before we play them in the league at Anfield.

  10. Can’t believe it, after that performance I thought we were doomed but fair play to the lads they held on and had the bottle to win the shoot out, big respect to Mignolet also for making two brilliant saves against the odds, and also to Joe Allen for having the confidence to step up and finish the job! Ignore all the whining from mancs etc over the next few days, no one ever remembers the losers from a semi final! YNWA!

    • What’s your definition of immense? Sakho was shaky and an accident waiting to happen from start to finish. I rated sakho as our best defender but he has been terrible of late…i picked out two schoolboy mistake(letting the ball bounce inside 18yrd box) he made today alone that i don’t recall skrtel making in his entire time with us. He’s becoming more and more of a liability since returning from injury.
      As for Lucas, it really goes to show how low standard has fallen at Anfield….some fans have well gotten used to mediocrity. i can’t think of how many Epl team Lucas could be starting and I’m not including the top5..we could do with wanyama and he’s playing for the so-called midtable team —–A ten Times upgrade on lucas.
      Re mignolet; I’m glad for him tonight and he did great, but we all know what will happen in the next match/latter. Nowhere near lfc standard

      • I would disagree on the “from start to finish” re Sakho. Excepting some elementary lapses, he showed improvement from recent abysmal showings. His timing on key blocks looked close to his best.

  11. One question..given the extra time score was 0-1 stoke, does it mean their record at not having won at anfield in 30 attempts is now broken?

  12. After watching penalty highlights,Butland can’t read where penalty goes. The last 4 penalty the same path and he goes the opposite way

    • Mings went the right way for first 4, 1 save 1 touch. But maybe we were lucky with who Stoke subbed off too :D

      • Mings is quite good when it comes to penalty. He can read most of it and his reflexes is good. The only problem is his distribution is really awful.

        Oh god I miss Pepe Reina

        • It’s such an important thing, a keeper that gets the team moving out again. I often wonder why there seems to be no PL interest in Mathew Ryan (Australia & Valencia), he is such a gem at this as well as a good stopper. If you’re interested, see youtube at watch?v=VcHywzwRJCY (the pundit here is Mark Bosnich).

  13. we were absolutely terrible. But we’re going to Wembley! get in! Klopp’s first trophy as LFC boss on it’s way..

  14. Poor performance. lessons must be learned. Over reliance on Can and Henderson. Smith needs to be given a chance against West ham. Good performance from Allen overall. motm? Mignolet.

  15. Pleased to get to the final but another poor showing from the majority. Klopp gives the players too much credit. They need motivating at all times. Every game every training session. Wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp had to call players in the morning to get them to come to training.

  16. Not a pleasant game to watch, but lack of fight mr Lusby? I certainly didn’t see that, they fought hard every single player.

    • Despite the genuine claim to fatigue: busiest Premiership squad drawing on a squad progressively thinned by injuries.

  17. Any idea how much money does a club make after winning it? Just asking out of curiosity. Price money, tv money, all other source if any?!

      • Quite sure that with a fit Hendo, Clyne, Sakho, Lovren, Skrtel, Sturridge, Coutinho, Origi, Ings and Gomez we would’ve done a bit better don’t you think?

        • No more excuses man..we’ve been with this team for months now..this was a massive match and it shouldn’t have come to this.

          • Indeed, poor reffing cost us. Every 50/50 not going our way is the current norm. But every 90/10 not going our way is something of a more recent thing. Having 2 100/0’s not having our way was a bit of a problem.

            This was cup football really. Spending as little energy as possible. With a decent fella on the line it would’ve been 0-0 at the break, no harm done. You see the game out.

            Now, with a limp side, we had to change our stance. That’s always difficult but I thought we grew into the game. Subs made a difference. Well, Benteke and Allen, Ibe was pretty torrid.

            You take it to pens and you move on. Job done, to Wembley.

          • Reffing was poor but the performance was worse. Should have done more really. Stoke kinda played us off the park for a large portion of the match. Allen should have started the mach…he’d have kept things a lot more tidy in possession.

          • Yeah definately agree there. First half we were nonexistant even though we never really looked troubled. Just sht in possession. Second half we did better. After the subs I thought we were actually quite good.

            Can was a mess untill it turned into a 2-man midfield. Was even better when Lucas dropped a line and he played just with Allen. He went on to play much more simple and direct. Most of the team did.

          • What was worrying for me was the total lack of chances we created today. You see the highlights reel and we barely have any real solid chances over the 120 minutes of football. That’s pretty bad for a club like Liverpool no?

            Also, I don’t mean to criticize Klopp here, but why the lack of faith in Allen? He’s been performing quite well with the limited time he’s been getting recently…and there’s so many matches to effectively utilize squad rotation..not to mention on the face of it, there really aren’t any standout performers in MF at this moment. Surely on the basis of all those factors he should have started the game? He would have clearly done a far better job in MF today than any of the 3.

          • I don’t know.. I think that Klopp wants to bring in more midfielders in the summer and Joe, due to his contract situation, is the most logical man to be off?

            Yeah we weren’t that great. Passing was poor and the last ball was horrible. Had some moments though. Should’ve got two pens too. But credit to Stoke, they were compact at the back and tried to hurt us on the counter. We did it against a good team and against a 12th man.

          • One peno was a good shout…shoulder to Milner was never going to be called. The hand though maybe could have been given.

            I understand the contract situation…but shouldn’t he be played a bit more regardless? Player does a good job for the team, he becomes more attractive for the other clubs while benefiting the team on the pitch – win-win situation. Even Downing was used a fair bit by Rodgers before his inevitable exit really.

          • The handball should always be one. The other one was Benteke getting pulled down big time. (when Flanno got the ball and tried to do something with it)

          • We should never have been looking for…
            “0-0 at the break, no harm done. You see the game out.”

            We should have gone hard for another goal from the 1st minute and got it over and done

            But yep…”You take it to pens and you move on. Job done, to Wembley.”

          • We started quite aggressively just couldn’t play football. Usually when we start that way we turn it up. Couldn’t today which is also great credit to Stoke btw. Very good side that.

      • Most comments seem to be very tongue in cheek referring him to Jesus/Pirlo/Xavi and all of that…bit of a parody show..I think today he didn’t do a whole lot besides score the penalty…an important one no doubt, but let’s not forget there were 5 others who scored them as well.

          • I’ll have a look at the replays…for the record, I wanted him to start the match and it’s quite obvious from the way our MF performed he would have been much better being a part of that. So, again I’m not saying he was poor or anything..and neither am I saying he had a lot of scope to change the game at that instance..but the way some people are going on in here…I think he’s mostly being given credit for scoring the winning penalty and not much else(not you though).

      • Naa read my comment below. I’m not saying the lad was poor today…but I feel this fanbase is too quick to put a player on a pedestal and then bring them right back down. That wasn’t even 120 minutes of play I honeslty get the deal with the massive love in here.

        • Well, he’s been very important recently. The assist in the first leg, the goal winning a point and now sealing the deal. Praise is duely earned.

          • He’s getting the praise, but not for those reasons…it’s mostly for scoring the winning penalty, and because he’s Allen(Welsh/ bearded/ jesus/ pirlo/ xavi) ..can guarantee you that.

    • Good points below. Lots of people are too quick with the praise and knock down. I can imagine the chaos had he miss that penalty and we missed the final.

  18. Flanagan was immense. Stopped most of stoke attacks down the right and frustrated Aunatovic all night.
    The Welsh Pirlo once again our rescue…loving him now!

      • Could be a decent option there too.
        Of all moreno’s attacking treat he’s not a good crosser of the ball and have made little impact on goalscoring front….caught out of position on too many occasions. i prefer steady flano at the back and could forgive him if he doesn’t get to the opposition half atal .

    • After a few minutes the ball was between Flanno and Arnautovic. Almost any football player who had a knee injury would go easy there, afraid to risk it. Not our Scouse Cafu, full force winning the ball.

      • Yea i get you point and fully agreed..i have seen firmino bottled a challenge (against swans) which prompt klopp screaming at him. Can’t understand why some players not wanting to give 100% when they pull on a red shirt. A disgrace if you ask me

  19. I think all our subs worked today. Benteke did reasonably well with little to no service. Held the ball up, tried to bring others into play and took a great pen.
    Allen controlled the game when he came on. Klopp is playing him further forward and it’s working, his passes can now cut teams open. Deserves to start more.
    Ibe. Now I know Ibe is incredibly frustrating, but when he came on he was a real threat. He took the game to Stoke more than any other Liverpool player today and got into some great positions. Hopefully his end product can be worked on.

    We’re going to Wembley!!!

  20. Stoked (pun intended) the lads won and are off to Wembley for a shot a silverware, been a while. But don’t think we should let 1 great save from Migs paper over all the cracks in the team.
    Migs is still nervy. Our defense is still average. Our midfield just run a lot. And our attack is so disjointed and misfiring. Then there are the corners – can’t take them and can’t defend them.
    So many players under-performing and I really don’t have that much confidence in the club’s ability to buy the right players nor for the right players to want to come to Liverpool.
    More rebuilding….

  21. It was a tight game, decided by an offside goal. Neither team really did enough over tonights 120 minutes to win the tie outright, although Stoke on the night looked like the better team. Credit to all of the unsung players, Lucas, Benteke, Allen, Mignolet all did what they needed to do when it mattered. Flanno back with a good run out, not a bad day at the office!

  22. 120 minutes at home, 0 chance created no goal scored, got beat by a mid table club,in a semi final, very poor, from a average team no wonder why we are where we are in the League, this team sucks.

    • Stoke actually has more experienced players than our squad, and of course their squad is better than us. They beat the Mancs too

      • Honestly i don’t care who they beat, this is Liverpool F.C. we played Jack Sh*****T, and that mate was unacceptable its has become the norm now and i am sick and tired of it.

          • Yea, i am having a strong drink right now to calm my head mate thats what liverpool does to their fans.

          • Maybe next season man…this season I think this is all we’re going to get…good one match then really average the next…or rather when our defense works, our attack tends to break down and vice versa.

  23. No way TIA Sakho was my man on the match. Saved two clean goals alone. Maybe we should try him between the sticks next season.

  24. Man what a day, what a game sloppy mostly through out the whole game but a trip to Wembley is all that matters, well done lads YNWA

  25. Hooray! We are going to wembley!

    Now….let the “kids” carry on in the FA cup and focus on points in the league + final

  26. Mr. Lusby, thought I’d bring the following erratum to your attention as we actually won at Carrow Road last Saturday:

    “The German made two changes to the side that drew 5-4 with Norwich City”

  27. I wholly disagree with the assessment of Ibe’s contribution. He was dithering and ruminated too much on the ball, preferring to attempt an inopportune dribble when a pass was the smarter, more incisive option. For the fresh legs he had, he gave us disappointingly little bite.

    • Totally agree with you. Not satisfied with Ibe’s overall contribution in the match. Seems to be looking to impress, tries to get 2-3 defenders where he could have simply passed. As a result we lose possession whereas we could have looked to score!!
      Allen did a much better job compared to Ibe.

  28. One issue…

    Through most of the game, and, most tellingly, towards the end of regulation time and through most of extra time, I mistook genuine fatigue for a lack of hunger. My respect for the boys’ determination is now sky-high. An average of 3 more games played than other Premiership teams in the December-January period, averaging just 2.9 days between games. Punishing enough to a fit 25-man squad, but we have had to do it on a squad increasingly thinned by injuries. Victories under such trying circumstances are particularly galvanising and I see us reaping considerable dividends going forward. After it’s done, our January will show 9 games played! Our opponents on the night, for instance, have played 6 games fewer than us so far this season.

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