Liverpool gave glimpses of the future after January departures with ‘disgusting’ win
If it’s not Anfield, then it must be Takumi Minamino.
The Japan international continues to find the Carabao Cup to his liking as he reminded Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp of his qualities at the right time.
In doing so, Minamino also helped a splash shadow Reds avoid a sizable banana peel and take a big step towards Wembley.
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The striker now has seven goals for Liverpool, all away.
No player has ever scored so many times for the Reds without coming to Anfield.
And his strike shortly after the hour finally brought visitors here to Deepdale to life after they had already battled miserably against a stubborn Preston North End, currently 19th in the Championship.
Indeed, if Klopp thought Liverpool’s victory at Atletico Madrid last week was “dirty”, then this latest triumph was positively disgusting.
The Reds – fielding a completely different starting XI – were once again without their key forwards in the competition, Diogo Jota remained on the bench with the others staying at home.
It gave Liverpool a glimpse of what could happen in January when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are both due to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations.
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The sight was not the most encouraging.
If the first half had been a shock – if Klopp’s side had slowed down they would have backed off on M6 – the second half, once the players got used to each other, was slightly better .
Minamino can at least be satisfied with his contribution, although striker Divock Origi’s scandalous improvised finish for the Liverpool tie-shooter was absolutely no match for his overall contribution.
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Tyler Morton, the 18-year-old midfielder who made his debut after 45 minutes at Norwich City in the previous round, was quietly assured – his pass to Neco Williams helped create Minamino’s opener – while the exploits of Adrian in the first half spared the blushes of a defense exposed by Preston’s runners from the depths.
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Yet that was about it. After the feast of the past few weeks, the Law of Averages suggested that a forgettable encounter was in the works, with Liverpool’s scoring streak having scored at least three times in successive away games ending in nine.
No matter. With Manchester City left behind at West Ham United, the Carabao Cup has become an increasingly possible route to silverware for Klopp’s side.
And Minamino won’t care too much if Saturday’s quarter-final draw puts Liverpool back on the road once again.