Liverpool dodge a bullet in dramatic Anfield shoot-out
Liverpool 2-2 Middlesbrough (Liverpool win 14-13 on penalties)
Brendan Rodgers wants Liverpool’s dramatic League Cup victory to be kick-start their Premier League.
The Reds had to come through an epic penalty shoot-out to get the better of Championship side Middlesbrough at Anfield and book their place in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
Teenage debutant Jordan Rossiter put the Reds in front after just 10 minutes, despatching a low finish from outside the box, but Boro grew into the game and equalised through Adam Reach's 62nd-minute header.
Home goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was forced into some smart saves and the Teessiders almost snatched victory when Adam Clayton hit the post in the 85th minute.
Having survived that scare, Liverpool regained the lead in the 109th minute through a strike from Suso, only for fellow substitute Patrick Bamford to win and convert a penalty in stoppage time to make it 2-2.
In the shoot-out that followed, Bamford saw his effort saved early on before Raheem Sterling did likewise and things moved into sudden-death.
Remarkably, nobody then missed until the 30th attempt, which Boro's Albert Adomah put wide, sealing Liverpool's victory.
It all added up to another unconvincing display by the hosts in a campaign in which they have lost three of their opening five Premier League games.
But at least it means they have returned to winning ways ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton at this ground.
"It was very important to get a result and the players are very happy in the changing room,” said Rodgers.
“We're in the hat and that's all we want.
“This won't affect us for the derby with Everton at the weekend. That's a big game for us, we need to get our league season up and running."
Rodgers suggested in the build-up to the game that the Liverpool shirt being "heavy" for incoming players to wear due to the pressure of expectation had been a contributing factor to the Reds' slow start to the season.
But there was little evidence of 17-year-old midfielder Rossiter experiencing such a feeling as his first senior appearance began with a bang.
Sterling chased a long pass over the top which Boro defender Kenneth Omeruo and goalkeeper Jamal Blackman got in a mess trying to deal with, and the latter then managed to get in the way of a follow-up shot by Rickie Lambert, the captain for the night making his first Liverpool start.
The loose ball fell to Rossiter, who caught out Blackman — a debutant himself, on loan from Chelsea — with a calm, first-time shot into the net.
That the Liverpool youngster should appear so immediately comfortable in the team is perhaps unsurprising — he has been with the club's academy since under-six level.
Boro’s perseverance was duly rewarded when Grant Leadbitter swung in a free-kick from just outside the corner of the area and hesitant Liverpool defending saw Reach get to the ball ahead of Jose Enrique and nod in.
Liverpool had penalty claims turned down when Lallana went to ground under the attentions of Ryan Fredericks.
Middlesbrough sensed the upset was on and Clayton almost sealed it with five minutes of normal time remaining when he latched on to a superb pass from Tomlin and shot against the woodwork.
The Reds showed little conviction with their finishing in extra-time until the ball broke to Suso — who had come on for Markovic — from a goalmouth scramble and the Spaniard slotted in.
Liverpool looked to be almost over the line, but Middlesbrough were not finished and they found themselves back in the game at the death when Bamford, clumsily brought down by Kolo Toure, put away the resulting penalty.
That set up a shoot-out which will stay in the memory - but will not be remembered with any fondness by Adomah.