They made hard work of it, but after 120 minutes of Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie against Notts County—and with Kolo Toure’s injury having reduced them to 10 men following an admirable fightback from their guests—Liverpool managed to book a spot in the third round of the competition.
For much of the first half, it seemed as though the Reds would ease their way past the evening’s League One opposition and into the draw for the next round.
They led after just four minutes thanks to an excellent Raheem Sterling finish from 17 yards while Daniel Sturridge made a distracting run.
Then, just shy of the half-hour mark, Sturridge got his own name on the scoresheet when he connected with a Steven Gerrard through ball and beat goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski with a hard shot inside the far post:
But in the time between the two goals, recently acquired left-back Aly Cissokho had to leave the game injured and was replaced by Daniel Agger. It was a harbinger of things to come.
Notts County were a completely different team after the restart and went right at their famous hosts from the get-go—Mark Fotheringham quite nearly connecting with Yoann Arquin, who would go on to make a nuisance of himself for the duration of the period.
Just two minutes after Callum McGregor had tested Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet with a well-placed effort, Arquin beat two opposition defenders as he tracked down Manny Smith’s headed ball and nodded it into the back of the net.
By this time, Notts County were giving as good as they were getting.
It was no surprise when they drew level in the 84th minute, as substitute Adam Coombes struck the ball into the open net after Arquin had dragged the Liverpool defense toward him before executing a brave layoff to his teammate:
The guests continued to press for a winner in extra time, and with 10 minutes gone in the added allotment, they were given a numerical boost when Kolo Toure had to be carried off on a stretcher following what appeared to be a groin injury.
If anything, the added adversity only forced the Liverpool attackers to spring to action once again.
Just as the first period of extra time was about to end, Sturridge scored his second of the night, placing his low, hard, left-footed shot just inside the far post:
The goal seemed to demoralize Notts County, and any chance they had of getting back into the tie was snuffed out five minutes later when Jordan Henderson burst through their lines, popped the ball through Gary Liddle’s legs and beat Bialkowski with aplomb for a measure of insurance.
Key Player Grades
Daniel Sturridge: A
The 23-year-old played a part in everything Liverpool did in the attacking third on Tuesday and his two goals were the primary factor in his side’s progression to the next round of this competition.
His play off the ball was also impressive—particularly on the Sterling goal, when he led the opposition defense aside to allow his teammate a clear shot on target.
Steven Gerrard: B+
Liverpool’s inspirational leader could have been a bit better during sections of the second period when Notts County were being allowed back into the game.
However, he played the entire 120 minutes and set up some of the most important plays of the game, including the Sturridge winner.
Yoann Arquin: A
The Martinique international was Notts County’s most consistent attacking threat. By game’s end, he had earned both a goal and an assist in front of the 3,000 traveling supporters in the Anfield Road end.
Now his manager will be looking to see that production translate to League One, where Notts County sit fourth from bottom.
Liverpool, who have won their first three domestic matches to start the season, will host Manchester United on Sunday and return from the international break with a September 16 appointment away to Swansea.
Notts County will host Rotherham on Saturday and entertain Burton Albion in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy contest on September 3.