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Ice-cool Jordan Ibe edges Liverpool closer to Capital One Cup final with Stoke win

Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool

Published 06/01/2016

Liverpool striker Jordon Ibe is congratulated by teammate Roberto Firmino after scoring the only goal of the game during last night’s Capital One Cup semi-final, first leg match against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium
Liverpool striker Jordon Ibe is congratulated by teammate Roberto Firmino after scoring the only goal of the game during last night’s Capital One Cup semi-final, first leg match against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium

So we now know that Jurgen Klopp can do it on a wet and windy Tuesday night at Stoke. After the weekend capitulation at West Ham, Liverpool responded to their German manager's demand for a reaction as Jordon Ibe's goal put the eight-time League Cup winners one step closer to Wembley.

Stoke failed to live up to their hype in front of their expectant supporters, but much of that was down to Liverpool and Klopp's tactical blueprint.

The Merseysiders nullified Stoke's attacking talents and outran their midfielders to claim a deserved first-leg lead in this Capital One Cup semi-final.

Having overcome Stoke on the way to winning this competition in 1995, 2001 and 2012, Liverpool will hope the omens are on their side again as they attempt to win silverware for the first time since Kenny Dalglish guided them to success in this competition four years ago.

Much water has passed under the bridge since Liverpool were humiliated 6-1 at this stadium last May.

Brendan Rodgers has been replaced by Klopp and Mark Hughes has added Xherdan Shaqiri and a fit-again Bojan, following the Spaniard's cruciate ligament injury, to the team.

Having won 1-0 here on the opening day of this season, Liverpool had quickly exorcised their Stoke demons, but Hughes' team have since bounced back to claim impressive home victories against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Liverpool's challenge became even more difficult when Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren both limped off in the first-half with hamstring injuries.

The changes left Liverpool facing an hour with Lucas Leiva alongside Kolo Touré at centre-half against Stoke's in-form attacking players.

Stoke could not cope with Liverpool's pressing high up the pitch and their first mistake came on 35 seconds, when Erik Pieters was dispossessed by Firmino 35 yards from goal.

The Brazilian, however, shot straight at Jack Butland. This was the Liverpool who rattled in six goals at Southampton in the previous round - Adam Lallana forced Butland into another save and Coutinho was denied a clear shot on goal by Ryan Shawcross' brilliantly timed challenge.

Stoke were struggling to lay a glove on the visitors and they did not go close until the 26th minute, when a clever corner by Shaqiri picked out the unmarked Bojan but the former Barcelona man missed the ball completely.

It would prove to be a costly miss, with Liverpool substitute Ibe putting Klopp's team ahead on 37 minutes, following a break down the right by Lallana.

The former Southampton forward had been released by Nathaniel Clyne and his pull-back to Joe Allen from the byline was neatly laid on by the Welshman, leaving Ibe to take a touch before guiding home.

But for a reflex save by Simon Mignolet deep into first-half stoppage time to deny former Anfield team-mate Glen Johnson, Stoke would have hauled themselves level.

With that chance going astray, however, Hughes chose to bolster his team's attacking options by replacing midfielder Geoff Cameron with Jonathan Walters at the interval and it helped tilt the balance of play back in his team's favour.

The home side were harshly denied a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor on 53 minutes when, after Touré had cleared Marko Arnautovic's free-kick to the edge of the penalty area, Glenn Whelan appeared to be fouled by Alberto Moreno.

Liverpool then had a penalty claim of their own, albeit less convincing, when Clyne was knocked to the ground by Arnautovic with what appeared no more than a shoulder charge.

Despite having a second-leg to come at Anfield, neither team eased off and Ibe shot into the side-netting on 68 minutes.

Hughes threw on Joselu, who forced Mignolet into a save.

Liverpool held firm, but the sight of Touré limping heavily was worrying. It leaves Liverpool with no fit centre-halves for Friday's FA Cup trip to Exeter City.

Belfast Telegraph

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