Diogo Jota on Thursday stepped up in Mohamed Salah’s absence with two goals to lead Liverpool to a 2-0 victory at Arsenal and into the EFL Cup final against Chelsea.
While Liverpool coped with Salah’s continued stay at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt and Sadio Mane’s with Senegal, the rapid return of Thomas Partey after Ghana’s early exit backfired for Arsenal.
Partey came on in the 74th minute — just before Jota’s second goal — but was then booked in the 86th for a late challenge on Neco Williams and again in the 90th for a lunge on Fabinho.
The midfielder was dismissed hours after returning from Cameroon and he will now be suspended for tomorrow’s English Premier League match against Burnley.
The semi-final was locked at 0-0 following the first leg at Anfield last week until Jota scored in the 19th minute with a low finish through two defenders and past goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
When Jota dinked the ball over Ramsdale in the second half, the goal was initially ruled out until the video assistant referee overturned the offside.
The Portugal forward now has 14 goals in 27 appearances this season for Liverpool — surpassing his tally of 13 in his first campaign after joining from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2020.
“Diogo Jota’s on fire,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “We were convinced when he arrived at the club he would help us massively. Since he is here he has made another step, he has turned into a really world-class striker. The mood in the dressing room is over the moon. The boys were exceptional.”
Liverpool, who won the UEFA Champions League in 2018-2019 and the English Premier League in 2019-2020, are through to their first domestic final on Feb. 27 since being denied the then-League Cup by Manchester City in 2015-2016.
However, it will be a second successive season without a trophy for 2019-2020 FA Cup winners Arsenal, who are already out of the FA Cup, are sixth in the Premier League and are not playing in Europe this season.
“We had chances and we were pushing for the game, but we have to score the goals,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
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