Diogo Jota grabbed a late winner as Liverpool booked an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City thanks to a narrow 1-0 victory at Championship outfit Nottingham Forest.
The Portuguese forward stretched to steer home his 19th goal of the season 12 minutes from time to keep the Merseysiders’ bid for the quadruple alive.
Steve Cooper’s side were looking for the third Premier League scalp of their impressive run to the last eight but found the Reds a tougher nut to crack than Arsenal and Leicester City.
The visitors dominated the first half but were ultimately frustrated as Roberto Firmino blew their one gilt-edged chance when he failed to beat Ethan Horvath when sent clear on 27 minutes.
Forest were resilient throughout and almost snatched a shock lead on 76 minutes but Philip Zinckernagel contrived to fire wide from 10 yards out.
It would prove to be a critical miss as Jota pounced just moments later to send Jurgen Klopp’s men into the last four.
Liverpool will now switch their focus back to the Premier League title race when they entertain struggling Watford after the international break. Forest visit Blackpool as the East Midlands side aim to maintain their play-off push.
TALKING POINT – THE QUADRUPLE CHASE CONTINUES
It remains the holy grail and the fact no English side has ever achieved the feat demonstrates just how difficult it is. However, Liverpool are very much in the hunt having navigated Forest’s giant killers to set up a crunch Wembley meeting with Manchester City.
It’s looking more and more likely clashes between these two sides will determine who wins the remaining major trophies this season. The League Cup winners are just one point behind City in the Premier League with a crunch showdown between the teams set for April 10. That will now be followed by the FA Cup semi final while the Champions League draw would see them face-off in the final should they both navigate the next two rounds.
There are plenty of hurdles to overcome but Liverpool’s winning machine rolls on and the fact they avoided this FA Cup banana skin without the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah demonstrates the depth of attacking quality Klopp now has at his disposal.
As for Forest, they are very much on the rise under Cooper and will now go full throttle on their promotion push with a play-off berth firmly in their sights.
Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebratesDiogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – DIOGO JOTA (LIVERPOOL)
It wasn’t exactly a live-wire display from the forward but he once again stepped up in the absence of Salah and Mane to snare the crucial goal to decide a very tight cup tie.
Nottingham Forest: Horvath 7, Spence 7, Figueiredo 7, Worrall 7, Colback 7, Davis 7, Zinckernagel 7, Johnson 7, Yates 7, Lolley 7, Garner 7. Subs: Cafu 6, Mighten 6, Surridge 6, Silva n/a.
Liverpool: Alisson 6, Gomez 7, Konate 7, Van Dijk 7, Tsimikas 7, Fabinho 6, Keita 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Elliott 6, Jota 7, Firmino 6. Subs: Thiago 6, Henderson 6, Minamino 6, Diaz 6.
19’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Oxlade Chamberlain cuts a low right-wing corner back for Fabinho who can’t cap the training ground move with the finish it deserves as he fires wide of the far post.
27’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Firmino runs clear on goal. He has plenty of time to pick his spot but his clipped effort is smartly blocked by Forest keeper Horvath, who stood tall to thwart the Brazilian.
76’ – FOREST CHANCE! Brennan escapes down the right and plays a wonderful ball into the middle for Zinckernagel who blows his big moment by guiding a first-time shot wide of goal.
78’ – GOAL! Forest 0-1 Liverpool(Jota): Jota arrives at the far post to tuck home Tsimikas’ left-wing delivery on the stretch.
86’ – FOREST PENALTY APPEAL! Yates darts into the box and rounds Alisson before falling to the floor. The hosts scream for a penalty. VAR checks but it’s deemed there isn’t enough contact to overturn the referee’s initial decision.
90+3’ – FOREST CHANCE! Cafu takes a pass down on his chest and takes aim but can’t keep his effort down. Liverpool are almost there.