Boro made 6 changes from the weekend game with Brentford in came: Blackman, Ayala, Clayton, Tomlin, Reach and Kike. Out went: Dimi, Gibson, Whitehead, Vossen, Bamford and Nsue. A shame that young defender Gibson missed out. Liverpool made 7 changes no Gerrard or Henderson in line up keeping Sterling in the side who has been a big threat for them and England on recent displays. Keep him quiet and we have a good chance of a cup shock I thought.
Watching the game at home, The Boro players lined up in the Anfield tunnel wearing get well soon Damia t-shirts for our Right back. The news announced recently that the new summer signing, who had settled well to the english game, would be out for most of the season with a serious knee injury picked up against Cardiff. Nice touch by players/club who have done it in past for Carayol and Williams who are coming back from serious injuries. It shows a real togetherness within the club.
After a bad start for Boro, conceding a nightmare goal with a mix up in the defence and with the new debut goalkeeper Jamal Blackman on loan from Chelsea making his first start for the club. Boro recovered and reacted well, we were organised and restricted Liverpool to a few chances. Boro were doing well on the break getting a corner which Kike just put over the bar. Tomlin was showing in flashes some great play towards end of first half and hit a cracking shot from around 20 yards out which was parred away by Liverpool gk Mignolet.
Ending the 1st half well and only a costly mistake separating the sides we had competed well with a team that nearly won the English league last season. It wasn’t long in to the 2nd half when we levelled through a Leadbitter freekick, which Adam Reach timed perfectly he got up well and glanced a header into the net. Get in! The goal was at end were our travelling fans were, Reach and all team celebrating in front of them. The Boro fans who had been in great voice all night long. Sterling was causing a threat when he made a good run near to the edge of the box when Reach put a great block in from Lallana who was ready to shoot on goal.
Clayton hit a shot from 20 yards out which was scrambled to safety, Boro were really looking the more threatening team in the 2nd half creating more of the chances. On came Yanic Wildschut to make his Boro debut replacing Kike so no real presence upfront now. George Friend made good surging run forward just before the box was brought down the ref played advantage with us keeping procession. Tomlin linking up well with Clayton who made a run into the box it was tight angle Clayton shot hit right hand post.
It was now on to extra time and it was around 100 min mark when a sky sports commentator made me laugh with a comment about the Boro team bringing the game down to a walking pace. The team had give everything, was a lot of tired legs and minds by that time. Into 2nd half of extra time our keeper who had recovered well from his early mistake made a great save from a well struck strike from Enrique. Shortly after that shot Boro were behind, Friend blocked a Ballotelli shot which fell in to the path for Suso to hammer through a grounded penalty area and in to the net.
Karanka made changes to freshen the side taking of Tomlin and Leadbitter they had ran themselves into the ground. Replaced by Vossen and Bamford we really had nothing to lose to try and get level again. Bamford did well to create a move darting into the box cut ball back for Adomah who was unmarked but slipped! With seconds to go Ayala now higher up pitch put a nicely weighted ball forward for Bamford to run on to, he carried on into the box where he was brought down by Toure. Penalty! Who would take it I thought with Leadbitter now off pitch. No question about it Bamford quickly got up and grabbed the ball and slammed the spot kick in! What a night of drama and two comebacks from this team that never give in we were level again.
More drama with penalties to decide the cup tie taken at the kop end, Ballotelli takes the first one for Liverpool didn’t think he would miss, then was Bamford with Boro first which surprised me with him just taking one thought he would taken one later on so not fresh in the mind of Liverpool gk which way he had just gone. Same way and Migolet saved. Some great pens by both sides and now was Blackman turn to save from Sterling pen. Vossen level it up to 4-4 now sudden death!
Both sides continued with top pens the whole team taking a pen including the goalkeepers. I thought it was never going to end! Hard to watch and thinking this be good practise for Championship playoff final next May let’s hope doesn’t come to that hey? Don’t forget Boro were at Liverpool end and had scored some outstanding pens while fans in kop tried put our players off. Adomah was the unlucky one to miss but what a game, what a pen shoot out, we had took Liverpool all the way it was no disgrace losing 14-13 on pens and total of 30 pens taken which was a new record in the league cup.
No disappointment at all after the match was decided only one major emotion extremely proud of my team. Fantastic display from all players a great team effort even when Adomah missed the penalty players went straight over to him. Fans, players pulling together as one you could hear the Boro fans still loud in voice after all that drama and emotion. I know how good our away support is it’s incredible every game. It has always been good, there is so many positives to take from last night and to put in a incredible performance like that for the world to see on TV will only help in bringing fans back to the Riverside. Every player give there all and showed we can be a force playing against higher level opposition, that’s all you can ask for as a fan. I don’t want to single players out as thought as team we were excellent, it’s just good see Reach scoring first goal of season and Bamford 2 in 2 for him now.
Everyone on Teesside is on a high now and we must keep it going into the league as this could turn out to be a special season. The international break came at a great time with the little wobble at home to Sheff Wed and Reading. Give us time to bed in the new signings, and we looked like a new team which is gelling well. Great results at Huddersfield, Cardiff and home to Brentford were we have options to rotate and bring players on to change a game, which we have lacked in previous seasons. We must take this Liverpool performance into our league games and suffer no cup hangover. Keep our heads held high and keep our unbeaten run in the league going. A proud night watching my team the Boro put in a top performance full of pride and passion at Anfield.