Nottingham Forest 0-1 Liverpool (FA Cup Quarter Final) 20.03.22
Nottingham Forest can be proud of a fabulous performance and terrific FA Cup run which unfortunately came to an end at a packed and vocal City Ground just one match from a Wembley tie pending against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, as Liverpool’s class and resurgence eventually came through to earn them a highly anticipated semi-final slot.
The Reds went toe to toe with one of the world’s best, and although neither team was at complete full strength due to critical injuries in both camps (Salah, Mane & Trent Alexander-Arnold amongst those missing for Liverpool whilst Forest were without Steve Cook, Scott McKenna and Max Lowe), both sides gave it a real good go at a packed house in a proper old fashioned cup tie that could have gone either way.
A tight first half was largely controlled by the away side but opportunities were limited to half chances at best, the one guilt edged miss falling to Roberto Firmino midway through as a short Jack Colback backpass was anticipated by Jota to send the Brazilian through on goal as he attempted to chip Horvath who stood his ground.
The second half saw the home side come out strong, pressing and probing it forced Jürgen Klopp to make four changes shortly after the hour with neither team looking like making a breakthrough.
As the game kicked into the final stages, Forest carved open their opponents on 76 as Johnson raced down the right to cross low where Philip Zinckernagel was waiting, he could only stab wide when it looked easier to score, 90 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net at the other end, Tsimikas crossing to Jota at the back post, the Portuguese star prodding home from close range whilst looking marginally offside, the away side getting the benefit of doubt from VAR.
Forest responded brilliantly to conceding and might have had a penalty when Ryan Yates looked to be brought down by Alisson. A stunning slide rule pass by James Garner sent in Yates who rounded the goalkeeper but the Referee Craig Pawson adjudged the midfielder to have gone down too easily.
Yates had a header in the closing minutes saved comfortably by Alisson after good work by Johnson again down the right, before Cafu blazed over in the final minutes of injury time, the ball not sitting for the Portuguese man to copy his compatriot at the other end.
Whilst the result was harsh on Forest and their gritty performance, Liverpool had that bit more quality in the final third whilst Steve Cooper’s men had a little less luck on the day, but with an incredible atmosphere at the City Ground it shown again to the ITV audience and those inside the world famous Trentside stadium that both players and supporters would be well worthy of a much missed return to the Premier League for more and more nights like this… Klopp might not have known Nottingham but for Robin Hood before Sundays cup tie. He certainly does now after his side got one hell of a scare. Klopp himself saying after “It felt like a European night” which was kudos to the electric atmosphere created by the Forest fans and the way the Reds played against their star-studded opponents.
The hope is that as concentration now turns back to the Championship and its promotion race for Forest, that the return leg at Anfield won’t be too far away in the future. As early as next season perhaps, if Forest continue to progress under Cooper, the next time the two sides meet, might hopefully be in the league.
Nottingham Forest: Horvath, Spence, Figueiredo, Worrall, Colback (Silva 90), Lolley (Cafu 65), Yates, Garner, Johnson, Zinckernagel (Mighten 78), Davis (Surridge 77).
Liverpool: Alisson, Gomez, Konate, van Dijk, Tsimikas, Fabinho (Thiago 64), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Diaz 64), Keita (Henderson 64), Elliott (Minamino 64), Jota, Firmino.
Venue: City Ground (28,584)
*Main image @NFFC Philip Zinckernagel attacks against the Liverpool defence.