Philippe Coutinho scored the only goal of the game (above video), saving Liverpool from an FA Cup embarrassment at the hands of middling Championship side Blackburn Rovers on Wendnesday, to send the Merseyside club to its 24th FA Cup semifinal (fourth-most all-time) where they’ll face Aston Villa on April 19.
Without a doubt, Liverpool made the quarterfinal replay at Ewood Park as difficult for themselves as they possibly could, keeping the home side in the tie with more than an hour of wasteful possession and unconverted chances.
Then came Coutinho’s moment of magic. With nearly 70 minutes on the clock, the 22-year-old Brazilian combined with Jordan Henderson on a quick one-two passing sequence down the right side, into Blackburn’s penalty area. Henderson played Coutinho through, past two defenders, but the move was far from finished.
Another Blackburn defender slid into the path of Coutinho, blocking out the far post with goalkeeper Simon Eastwood covering the near post. So Coutinho chose the only option available to him: a low, powerful strike through the legs of the onrushing defender and off the inside of the far post. An inch to the left, the ball ricochets back into play. An inch to the right, it probably hits the defender’s outstretched leg.
The winner of Liverpool and Aston Villa’s date at Wembley will face the winner of the other semifinal, Arsenal vs. Reading, in the final on May 29, the day before outgoing Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard’s 35th birthday.