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jota joy Virgil van Dijk salutes Liverpool's unsung hero as they reach Carabao Cup final

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Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates his second goal during the Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates his second goal during the Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates his second goal during the Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

He was viewed as a back-up striker to Liverpool's fabled front three, but Diogo Jota has proved he is so much more than that.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino etched their name in Anfield folklore by guiding the club to Champions League and Premier League glory, yet Jota has now pushed Liverpool into a final after his two goal saw off Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final.

After a goalless first leg at Anfield last week, Jota’s first-half daisycutter caught Aaron Ramsdale flat-footed and he then saw a second-half VAR check rule he was onside following a smart finish as Liverpool won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

To top off a miserable night for Arsenal, Thomas Partey – who only returned from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the day – was sent off just 16 minutes after coming off the bench.

It means Jurgen Klopp’s Reds head to Wembley, where they will face Chelsea on February 27 and defender Virgil van Dijk is relishing the challenge as he poured praise on match-winner Jota.

"Diogo Jota is already a fantastic player, the numbers speak for themselves," said Van Dijk. "He is very important, he has shown it from last year and a difficult striker/winger to play against. I know it from training. He has stepped up tonight again.

"He took the second goal fanatically well, a great ball form Trent Alexander-Arnold and it put relief in the team. If it was 1-0 in the last 10 minutes it might have been tricky. We controlled the game overall and did not have massive chances."

Van Dijk is relishing the chance to win his first domestic cup competition in England as Liverpool look to lift the League Cup for the first time since 2012.

"I am definitely looking forward to it, a chance to get a trophy and we will give everything we have when we are there," added Van Dijk.

"It was a good performance and have shown it throughout the season. We played very well, controlled the game and stayed calm and cool. We survived the storm especially with the fans behind them. Totally deserve going to Wembley. There are still so many games in between and the focus will be on it on the week to the game."

Liverpool boss Klopp was also keen to salute Jota, as he looked forward to a long-awaited return to Wembley.

"The mood in the dressing room is over the moon," Klopp told Sky Sports. "Difficult game, difficult time but the boys were exceptional. First half, Arsenal started lively, then we calmed it down, played good football and created plenty. Second half similar.

"We scored two wonderful goals, Diogo Jota on fire. We were completely convinced when he arrived at the club he would help us massively. Since he is here he has made another step, he has turned into a really world class striker."

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