Jurgen Klopp hails Liverpool's shootout winner Joe Allen
Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to penalty shootout hero Joe Allen after he scored the winning spot kick to send Liverpool into the Capital One Cup final at Stoke's expense.
Allen's kick made it 6-5 in sudden death after the Reds lost 1-0 on the night to finish 1-1 on aggregate, and the Liverpool manager said the Welshman had shown character after not being in the starting side or on his list of penalty takers.
The Feb. 28 final gives Klopp an early first shot at a trophy in England, after 120 tense minutes at Anfield on Tuesday and what Klopp described as a tough few weeks for his injury-hit, fatigued squad.
"It's less important that I'm in a first cup final, that's not important," he told his postmatch news conference. "I'm really happy for my players -- they deserved it because so many things happened in these last weeks."
Substitute Allen, who has not been a regular starter under Klopp, had scored the late equaliser against Arsenal on Jan. 13 and netted in the FA Cup replay with Exeter last week.
And it was he who booked the Reds a trip to Wembley when the designated penalty takers had been exhausted.
"We only decided the first five," said Klopp. "Joe usually could but we already had five. He took the ball and -- not only because of the Arsenal goal -- he's a really good boy, good lad.
"Not the most easy situation sometimes for players if you're in a good shape but you don't play from the beginning. He's a good character and he did well. He decided in the end the game for us."
Of the shootout saves by Mignolet -- from Peter Crouch and, in sudden death, Marc Muniesa -- Klopp joked that the tension had become too much for him before praising his often-criticised goalkeeper.
"I did not see one shot to be honest -- I was behind the wall of my players," Klopp said. "I'll watch it at home -- he saved two? Yeah, I heard about it. Of course, he did well."
Klopp admitted Stoke's tactics had surprised him as they resembled the old, more direct version of themselves than had been evident of late. Their attractive play had drawn praise from Klopp in the lead-up to the match but on the night they caused unforeseen problems, even if their goal by Marko Arnautovic appeared offside.
"How we did it tonight -- staying in the game, learning in the game," Klopp said. "I thought they had changed the style of Stoke but maybe they found a way back for one game maybe! So it was really difficult for us.
"A lot of set plays -- we did really well tonight, so a very good reaction and you could see the goal, half-time everybody tells us was double offside.
"Always when they had the ball it was hard to defend these long balls -- we did it, fought hard and we got some useful luck in the penalty shootout and we are in the final."
Tom is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @writertombell.