Cup specialist Takumi Minamino kept Liverpool’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple on track with both goals in a 2-1 win over Norwich as Jurgen Klopp reached his first FA Cup quarter-final.
The Japan international has made the majority of his starts in knockout competitions and in a team registering 10 changes from the one which won the League Cup at Wembley on Sunday his was an influential one.
Minamino now has seven goals and one assist in eight cup games this season and since the start of 2020 the 27-year-old has scored more than twice as many goals in domestic cup competitions (nine) than any other Liverpool player.
Lukas Rupp’s goal 14 minutes from time gave the visitors a lifeline but even a second-string Liverpool team were too experienced to succumb to late pressure as they booked their place in the sixth round for the first time since 2015.
Despite playing a significant role in his side reaching the League Cup final, Minamino did not even get on at Wembley but he used that disappointment to his advantage by seizing his opportunity against the Canaries.
He was a threat all night cutting in off the right and he instigated the moves which ultimately led to both his goals extending Liverpool’s winning run to 11 matches, their best since August 2007.
After Curtis Jones was only inches away from reproducing a carbon copy of his FA Cup winner here against Everton in January 2020 and Teemu Pukki fired a shot wide of the far post, Minamino stepped up.
He started the 27th-minute attack on the right wing and when the ball was transferred to the left Kostas Tsimikas crossed to Divock Origi, another cup specialist, whose close control allowed him to tee up Minamino who had continued his run to the far post.
It was the 750th goal scored in Klopp’s 360th game.
He doubled his tally 11 minutes later when his drive in-field led to Liverpool, whose players signed and donated their match-worn shirts in support of the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal, winning a corner.
Tsimikas’ delivery was flicked on by Norwich defender Ben Gibson and Minamino lashed home an angled shot off the inside of the post.
Half-time substitute Josh Sargent missed two good chances, shooting wide of the far post and then heading hopelessly off target, either side of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting the outside of Tim Krul’s right-hand upright.
The Premier League’s bottom side had made seven changes to their starting line-up and head coach Dean Smith made one final throw of the dice with the 61st-minute triple substitution of Billy Gilmour, Kieran Dowell and Jonathan Rowe.
Norwich, who have greater concerns over their league position than a cup exit, looked like spending the final 20 minutes chasing the ball as Liverpool kept possession until Rupp whipped home a low shot past an unsighted Alisson Becker.
Klopp’s response was to send on Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz to increase their threat level and although Rowe forced Alisson into a good one-handed save late on, the hosts had enough know-how to see out the game.