Liverpool will face Manchester City at Wembley in the FA Cup semifinals after defeating host Nottingham Forest 1-nil in a quarterfinal Sunday afternoon.
Jurgen Klopp’s squad looked a lot different than the one that faced Arsenal earlier in the week in the Premier League, with the likes of Harvey Elliott, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Ibrihim Konate, and other depth players in the starting XI.
The Reds dominated possession in the first half with 71% over 29% but with every step of execution a level sloppier than has come to be expected from Liverpool’s typical starting line-up. Crosses were weaker or slightly off the mark, passes were too loose and sloppy, and shots were lacking the level of intensity needed to be threatening. The pieces of the puzzle were there but simply did not have the quality Reds fans have become accustomed to.
One of the best opportunities of the first half for the Reds was utterly wasted by Roberto Firmino on a breakaway, attempting to chip the ball over Forest keeper Ethan Horvath, who was able to get a hand on the ball and deny the possible opener.
After the break, the trend of dominant possession but little production continued for the Reds until Klopp had seen enough and made a quadruple substitution around the 65th minute, with Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Takumi Minamino, and Luis Diaz coming on for Elliott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Naby Keita.
It took longer than many Reds fans probably expected against an English Football League Championship team, but Liverpool finally broke through in the 78th minute. Tsimikas sent a high cross to the far post where Diogo Jota was able to redirect the ball into the net to take the late lead over a Forest team looking more and more exhausted by the moment.
One goal proved to be enough to lift the Reds over Forest, pushing Liverpool through to the semifinals where they will face Manchester City at Wembley in mid-April.
Alisson – 7
Alisson didn’t have much to do in the first half other than watch a few Nottingham shots go majorly wide off target. He nearly disastrously misplayed a backpass, but luckily nothing came of it. Remained calm when called upon during a few threatening Forest attacks late in the match.
Joe Gomez – 8
Gomez had a very solid match on both ends of the ball on Sunday. He had two shots on target that weren’t enough to get past Horvath but had a 91% pass success and one key pass. Defensively, he was two for two on tackles, had one interception, and three clearances. He was booked in the second half to set up a threatening set-piece position for Forest.
Ibrahim Konate – 8
Konate looked a bit shaky early on, but once he found his footing he was extremely reliable in the backfield. He led the field in pass accuracy with 92%, a huge boost to a Liverpool squad that struggled to get anything moving early on. He also contributed four aerial duel wins, and one clearance, tackle, and interception apiece.
Virgil van Dijk – 7
Van Dijk not only played well as per his usual but was instrumental in orchestrating and organizing the players on the pitch. Throughout the match, van Dijk could be seen emoting and yelling to his teammates how to organize and execute better; a critical contribution for the usual combination of players on the pitch for the Reds. He used his size to win four of six aerial duels and had one clearance.
Konstantinos Tsimikas – 9 (Man of the Match)
Tsimikas seemed to be all over the pitch on Sunday, in the best way possible. He played with intensity and energy to be in an attacking position when possible and back defending the Forest attack when needed. Tsimikas sent in a precision cross over the top into the box to the back post for Diogo Jota to redirect into the net for the opening goal. He had a great game defensively for the Reds in addition to the assist, registering 4 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 1 clearance.