Liverpool secured their place in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night despite some nervy moments against Preston North End at Deepdale.
While the visitors predictably dominated possession, the Lilywhites had by far and away the best chances of the first half, all within a frantic three-minute spell.
First, Brad Potts was played through near the halfway line 25 minutes in as Liverpool played a high line, but he seemed to run out of steam as he bore down on goal with Joe Gomez in pursuit, taking his shot early and seeing it pushed up and wide by Adrian.
The Spaniard was called into action again three minutes later, denying Sean Maguire from just six yards out. The rebound was fired back at goal but blocked brilliantly on the line by Neco Williams, before Potts hoofed a second rebound over.
Liverpool snatched the lead shortly after the hour mark, with Takumi Minamino finding the corner with a cute finish after good work from Williams.
That seemed to take the wind out of Preston, and Divock Origi added some sheen to the scoreline with an outrageous flicked finish six minutes from time. Williams was denied in a one-on-one in the last minute, but Liverpool’s work was already done.
Here’s how the Reds’ players rated…
Adrian (GK) – 7/10 – Forced into a save as Potts ran through, but unorthodox save did the job. Brilliant stop minutes later from Maguire’s close-range effort.
Neco Williams (RB) – 8/10 – Impressive defensive awareness to make the goal-line block. Became a right-winger after the break. Excellent work to get to the byline to pull it back for Minamino, although he was perhaps offside. Good work in the build-up to the second, too.
Joel Matip (CB) – 6/10 – Made to work on his comeback from injury. Subbed at half-time in a ‘pre-planned change’.
Joe Gomez (CB) – 7/10 – Some much-needed game time for Gomez. Didn’t put a foot wrong, although probably could have done without those chaotic first-half moments.
Kostas Tsimikas (LB) – 6/10 – Crosses lacked the necessary accuracy but generally solid. Hit the bar in the lead-up to the second.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (CM) – 7/10 – Mazy dribble on the half-hour mark, but his shot was blocked. Typically industrious and marauding when he got forward.
Curtis Jones (CM) – 6/10 – Some lovely touches and tricks, but didn’t influence things as much as he – and his manager – would have liked.
Tyler Morton (CM) – 6/10 – Neat and tidy without doing anything spectacular. Will be thrilled to get these first-team minutes in the tank, though.
Harvey Blair (RW) – 5/10 – Struggled to get involved in truth, but another youngster who will be happy to have had an opportunity. Subbed ten minutes into the second half.
Divock Origi (ST) – 7/10 – Sometimes looked a little isolated against the physical Preston centre-backs. Didn’t really have a sniff of goal until his ludicrous flicked finish late on.
Takumi Minamino (LW) – 7/10 – Did well to get something on Williams’ pull-back to finish. Fairly quiet night otherwise but that won’t bother him.
Nat Phillips (CB) – 6/10 – Filled in for Matip adequately but wasn’t really worked.
Conor Bradley (RB) – 6/10 – Another who will be happy with the minutes. Looked dangerous going forward.
Owen Beck – N/A
Elijah Dixon-Bonner – N/A