Nottingham Forest 0-1 Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s side set up semi-final date against Man City after edging past hosts
https://www.bbc.com/-By Steve Sutcliffe-BBC Sport
Liverpool will play Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley after edging past Nottingham Forest in a pulsating encounter at the City Ground.
Diogo Jota scored the only goal of the game for the visitors, prodding in Konstantinos Tsimikas’ cross from the left with 12 minutes remaining.
Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple-chasing side dominated possession but were made to work for their victory by their relentless Championship opponents.
Steve Cooper’s side saw a late penalty appeal turned down by VAR when midfielder Ryan Yates fell after a challenge with Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.
The hosts also regarded Philip Zinckernagel’s miss as decisive to the outcome, the Danish winger side-footing wide from six yards from Brennan Johnson’s inviting cross just a couple of minutes before Jota’s goal.
“I think the game was decided on a defining two minutes – we had a good chance that we didn’t take and they created one and did,” said Cooper.
While Forest had already beaten both Arsenal and Leicester in this season’s competition, they found themselves taking a significant step up in class against Liverpool despite Klopp making seven changes to his starting XI.
And while they were galvanised by the electric atmosphere in what was the first meeting between the clubs in the FA Cup since the rescheduled 1989 semi-final that followed the Hillsborough disaster, they spent long periods of the game under severe pressure.
Yates also had a chance to head a late equaliser, but Liverpool, who also carved open several excellent opportunities of their own, deservedly advanced to the last four.
Nottingham Forest left 97 seats vacant for game with Liverpool to honour those who lost their lives because of the Hillsborough disaster.
Polished Liverpool maintain momentum
While Forest made an encouraging start despite the absence of three first-choice defenders, Liverpool’s Premier League pedigree quickly became evident.
The visitors’ slick movement repeatedly caused problems as did the hosts’ own attempts to play out from the back.
And had Roberto Firmino not fluffed a golden chance to open the scoring, Klopp’s side would have headed into the interval with a deserved advantage and possibly having laid the platform for a more convincing performance.
Instead the Brazilian’s attempted dink was well saved by Forest goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, who bailed out his team after Jack Colback’s glaring mistake.
“It was the game we expected, especially if you don’t use your chances,” said Klopp.
“We could have played better, but we should have scored in the first half. If we scored earlier it would be a completely different game. Everything was prepared to give us a knock as well but because we were prepared for a fight we came through.”
Reinforcements were summoned just after the hour mark with Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Takumi Minamino and Luis Diaz all introduced to try and turn the contest in Liverpool’s favour.
But having survived a scare at one end of the pitch it was Jota who made the difference with his 19th goal of the campaign – his best ever return in front of goal in a single season.
And it ensured that Liverpool reached the semi-final of the competition for the first time under Klopp and maintained their superb domestic form which has seen them win 13 consecutive games plus the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea after a penalty shootout.
Forest turn focus to promotion
Forest were bottom of the Championship when Cooper took charge in September and the former England Under-17s boss has since overseen a significant upturn in fortunes.
This was only Forest’s second defeat since the turn of the year and, while they will take heart from pushing one of Europe’s elite clubs so close, they can now focus all of their attention on trying to join Liverpool in the Premier League next term.
Forest are three points off the Championship play-off positions with games in hand on all the sides around them in the table.
And if the likes of Joe Worrall, Joe Garner and Keinan Davis continue to perform in the same vein as they did here, they appear to have the spine of a team capable of reaching the top flight for the first time since 1999.