LONDON (Reuters) -Diogo Jota's double earned Liverpool a comfortable 2-0 win at Arsenal in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Thursday, setting up a Wembley showdown against Chelsea.
Arsenal chiselled out a 0-0 draw at Anfield last week despite playing most of the first lead with 10 men after Granit Xhaka's early red card, but all that sweat and toil ultimately counted for nothing.
Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita still away on African Nations Cup duty, came under early pressure and Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette hit the woodwork with a free kick.
But a flowing Liverpool move in the 19th minute ended with Jota's shot creeping inside the post.
Arsenal lacked conviction after that and Jota secured Liverpool's passage with a neat finish in the 77th minute -- the goal initially ruled offside but allowed after a VAR check.
To cap a dismal night for Arsenal they had Thomas Partey sent off for a second yellow after a late foul on Fabinho.
Liverpool will be seeking a record ninth League Cup triumph when they face Chelsea who secured their spot with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Tottenham Hotspur last week.
"We are really happy, the mood in the dressing-room is over the moon," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said.
"The first half Arsenal were lively and so were the crowd but we calmed it down. We scored two wonderful goals."
When Lacazette's clipped free kick forced Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher to touch the ball against the crossbar the mood among the Arsenal fans was hopeful.
But Liverpool soon began to hit their stride and the opening goal was the result of real quality.
From deep inside their own half, Liverpool worked the ball out to Trent Alexander-Arnold via a silky flick by Roberto Firmino. Alexander-Arnold fed Jota who skipped inside Takehiro Tomiyasu before deceiving Aaron Ramsdale with a shot that rolled slowly into the corner.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Mikel Arteta's side and Liverpool looked comfortable thereafter, although Lacazette did have another chance but lashed his effort over.
Liverpool youngster Kaide Gordon wasted a glorious opportunity to add to Liverpool's lead and substitute Ibrahima Konate's header thumped against the foot of the post.
Arsenal still had hope of turning things round but that was snuffed out when right back Alexander-Arnold floated a pass to Jota who chested the ball down before dinking a delicate finish past Ramsdale.
"Diogo Jota is already a fantastic player, the numbers speak for themselves," Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said.
"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."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)