Liverpool rallied to defeat local rival Everton 2-1 and reach the F.A. Cup soccer final for the first time in six years.
Andy Carroll’s goal in the 87th minute gave Liverpool the win in the weekend’s opening semifinal at Wembley Stadium in London. Chelsea and Tottenham meet tomorrow to decide who will face the Reds in the final on May 5.
“As a Liverpool player, losing to Everton would have been an absolute nightmare,” defender Jamie Carragher, who was at fault for the Everton goal, told ESPN. “It’s just really thrilling.”
Liverpool will be making its 14th F.A. Cup final appearance, third to Manchester United’s 18 and Arsenal’s 17. The Reds won the last of their seven titles in England’s top club competition when they beat West Ham in 2006.
Nikica Jelavic scored in the first half for Everton before Luis Suarez tied the game just after halftime. Carroll, who’s been criticized for his lack of scoring following his club- record 35-million pound ($55 million) signing from Newcastle last season, then won it with a header in the closing minutes.
“He takes criticism on the chin,” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard told ESPN. “That’s what we bought him for, to step up and score big goals.”
Having already captured the League Cup, Liverpool can become the first team to twice win the domestic-cup double. Arsenal (1993), Liverpool (2001) and Chelsea (2007) are the only clubs to win F.A. and league cups in the same season.
Everton was attempting to reach the final for the second time in four seasons. The Toffees have now lost four of their five F.A. Cup semifinal meetings with their neighbor.
“We can’t hide the fact we gave away two goals on mistakes,” Everton manager David Moyes told ESPN. “If you make mistakes in games, it doesn’t win you trophies.”
Everton took the lead in the 24th minute after a mix-up between Carragher and Daniel Agger, with the former’s clearing attempt hitting Tim Cahill at the edge of the area. The ball rebounded straight to Jelavic, who slid a shot past goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Carroll missed a chance to tie the score two minutes into the second half when he headed Stewart Downing’s cross wide.
Liverpool pulled even in the 62nd minute after Luis Suarez picked up an errant back-pass by Sylvain Distin and raced in alone to put a shot by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Jones caught Leon Osman’s shot from outside the area in the 76th minute, Carroll dragged a shot wide and Jelavic sent an attempt into the side of the net as both teams looked for a winning goal.
Carroll then made up for his earlier misses when he headed in Craig Bellamy’s free kick following Seamus Coleman’s foul on Gerrard to the left of the penalty area.
“I had a few chances and should have probably scored earlier,” Carroll, who also had the injury-time winner as Liverpool beat Blackburn in the Premier League four days ago, told ESPN. “But I kept at it and it was a great ball in by Craig. I just had to score with that one and I did.”