Diogo Jota winner sinks Forest as Liverpool book FA Cup semi-final spot

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Diogo Jota Winner Sinks Forest As Liverpool Book Fa Cup Semi-Final Spot Diogo Jota Winner Sinks Forest As Liverpool Book Fa Cup Semi-Final Spot
Diogo Jota, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Carl Markham, PA

Liverpool left it late to book a Wembley semi-final against Manchester City, but Diogo Jota’s 78th-minute goal was enough to end Nottingham Forest’s valiant FA Cup run.

The City Ground has been a graveyard for Premier League sides this season, with Arsenal and Leicester both exiting at the hands of former Reds academy coach Steve Cooper’s entertaining and exciting side.

And, while lesser top-flight teams may have cracked in the red-hot atmosphere, Jurgen Klopp’s team weathered an early storm and bided they time, although almost too long, before Jota’s 19th of the campaign secured a 1-0 victory.

The match hinged on a three-minute spell preceding his close-range strike as Philip Zinckernagel should have set up the biggest shock here yet, only to shoot wide with just goalkeeper Alisson Becker to beat.

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Not many sides get given a second chance like that and so it proved as Jota, having scored the crucial first goal in midweek against Arsenal to increase the pressure on Premier League leaders City, struck again.

This was the first meeting between the sides in 23 years and an enthralling encounter was worth the wait as Forest, looking to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 1991, came flying out of the blocks fired up by a bouncing and confident City Ground crowd.

Liverpool retained a strong spine with Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Jota keeping their places from midweek and in the early stages they needed it.

Van Dijk was, typically, a beacon of calm and, knowing what was coming, the visitors looked to take the sting out of the situation and pick off their opponents in the opening stages.

Only Joe Worrall’s superbly-timed tackled denied Jota a good shooting opportunity, while Kostas Tsimikas’ swerving volley dipped just over.

But for all their fervour, Forest, who left 97 seats empty in memory of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster during an FA Cup semi-final between the two sides, really only had a Ryan Yates shot deflected wide to show for their efforts.

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Fabinho dragged a shot wide from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain corner, while Roberto Firmino squandered the best opportunity of the half when through one-on-one, his decision to go for a cheeky chipped finish proving the wrong one as Ethan Horvath saved.

In between, Van Dijk showed Forest just how they would have to go up a level if they were to threaten the visitors as Djed Spence, the rampaging right-back who had done so much damage in previous rounds, looked to have space to run into the penalty area only to be comfortably ushered off the ball by the Holland captain.

The half ended with Liverpool, lacking both first-choice full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold (hamstring) and Andy Robertson (illness) having established control in midfield but not in the final third as deputising right-back Joe Gomez blazed over.

Forest started the second half with renewed vigour and Spence’s first real incursion into the area won a corner but nothing more.

Hovath saved comfortably from Jota before Klopp made a quadruple substitution in the 63rd minute, sending on midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson and forwards Luis Diaz and Takumi Minamino.

With Forest legs tiring, the game appeared to be Liverpool’s for the taking, but it was the hosts who should have seized victory 15 minutes from time.

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Van Dijk vacated his position in central defence to carry the ball into midfield only to lose possession and the hosts countered with a two-on-one which saw Zinckernagel shoot wide with only Alisson to beat.

He was made to pay three minutes later as Jota struck his second important goal of the week following Tsimikas’ cross to the far post.

There were some late scares for the visitors when Alex Mighten went down under a challenge from Alisson, but referee Craig Pawson saw no foul and VAR agreed, and then Cafu fired over in added time as Forest went out beaten but unbowed.

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