There was plenty of reason to celebrate for Liverpool as “dreams came true” on a crazy Anfield night in the penalty shootout win over Arsenal.
Jurgen Klopp made wholesale changes to the side who turned around an early deficit against Tottenham over the weekend for the League Cup clash at Anfield, with a plethora of youngsters taking centre stage.
Neco Williams was handed his senior debut, while Caoimhin Kelleher, Sepp van den Berg, Rhian Brewster and Harvey Elliott were each given the nod for their maiden Anfield appearance, with Curtis Jones joining them later on.
And it proved to be an occasion none of them will forget in a hurry as five goals in the opening 45 minutes were followed by another five in the second half, with each sides’ defence and attack experiencing polarising nights.
While a Shkodran Mustafi own-goal got Liverpool off to a flying start, the Reds spent most of the night attempting to peg back the Gunners.
It was a task they successfully accomplished with goals from James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a double from Divock Origi, with his last arriving deep in stoppage time to send the game to penalties.
And, Jones, the man responsible for setting up Origi’s first and tucking away the game-clinching penalty, was full of praise for the “character, belief and good heart” on show from Liverpool when he spoke to LFCTV after the final whistle.
The 18-year-old was introduced with 55 minutes on the clock in place of Naby Keita and he admitted he knew he had to make an impact if given the chance, and he did just that without a second of hesitation:
“It was a great game from myself and the lads. We showed character, belief and good heart and we’re happy that we finally won—it was for the fans.
“Before the game started, I knew it was going to be a difficult Arsenal side and I knew that regardless of the players they played with it was always going to be a good side.
“As I was warming up, I just knew that if I come on, I have to make an impact and that’s what I did. I got the assist for Div and the rest of the lads performed well, and we came away with the win.
“I know from being a boyhood fan how big the fans are on nights like this and I think that’s what drove us to the end and we’re happy we got the win for the fans and we’re looking forward to the next round.”
And his academy team-mate, Williams, revealed he was left with little doubt that Jones would capitalise on Kelleher’s save having seen first-hand the level of confidence he oozes when speaking after the final whistle.
The right-back, who set up Origi’s second of the night, also touched on how the evening was “a dream come true” as he went the full distance on his senior bow:
“It’s a dream come true. It was an exciting game for everyone, and I thought the team dug in and kept them going to the very end and I thought we deserved it.
“We gave them a few sloppy goals, which we can work on in training, but overall the team dug in and we stuck [together] as a team and we got the win.
“Curt’s a great lad and has lots of confidence so as soon as he stepped up I knew he was going to score so I’m happy for him.
“It just happened too fast, I wish it went on forever!”
Following the aftermath of a truly memorable evening, players took to Instagram to commemorate the occasion.
Adam Lallana questioned how anyone could “not love football,” while Elliott was in awe of living out his “childhood dream”:
Jones, meanwhile, could simply exclaim “what a night!” as he paid tribute to the show of support displayed by the Liverpool faithful:
For Oxlade-Chamberlain it was a game which left him feeling immense pride for the club’s youngsters and the fierce mental fortitude on display, meaning it was “hard not to celebrate” against his former side.
Brewster, meanwhile, was like one of hundreds of thousands of fans who could not believe what just happened:
And while they may not have been present in the matchday squad, both Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold expressed their delight for their team-mates:
Man like pic.twitter.com/MLrbgjfY2K
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) October 30, 2019
So happy for the lads tonight especially the academy boys. What a comeback and showed great bottle on the pens! ? #YNWA pic.twitter.com/ezN2DKBaAP
— Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) October 30, 2019
The 10-goal thriller which was capped off with a penalty shootout is certainly an encounter many will not forget in a hurry, and importantly it provides yet another boost to morale throughout all levels of the club.
It is a feeling the Reds will no doubt look to maintain when senior figures return to the side for the trip to Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.