A “gutted” Garry Monk insisted Leeds United’s performance at Anfield on Tuesday night had pointed them in the direction of the Premier League after their League Cup campaign ended in a cruel defeat to Liverpool.
Monk consoled his players after Liverpool rode their luck and survived Kemar Roofe’s shot against a post goalless to score twice in the final 15 minutes and secure a place in the last four with a 2-0 win.
Leeds, who were bidding to end a 20-year wait for a League Cup semi-final appearance, shone on their first appearance at Anfield since 2003, dominating a weakened Liverpool line-up and negating the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship.
Late finishes from Divock Origi and youngster Ben Woodburn turned United’s attention back to their bid for promotion from the Championship ahead of a key league game at home to Aston Villa on Saturday and Monk, whose side are fifth in the division, said Leeds would “fight for it now” after their taste of Premier League life.
“I was gutted for them,” Monk said. “As a performance from a team that’s very young, this sets a marker. This is the type of mentality and spirit you have to have, along with the quality. Albeit we’re disappointed but we’ll look back in the next few days and realise we put on a very good performance.
“If we continue in this way then hopefully we can be successful and get to where we want to be. We want to make this type of fixture more regular and if we continue in this way, whether it happens this season or next season or whenever, these players can achieve that.
“It’s the ambition. It has to be the ambition of this club and this group are on the road there. We all want it right now, we’re going to fight for it right now, but we’ve made massive strides and nights like tonight will help.”
Roofe struck the woodwork with a curling finish early in the second half, narrowly failing to snatch the lead at a time when United were in control of the tie.
“I asked the players to play a different way and we followed it all to a ‘t’,” Monk said. “The only thing lacking was us not taking quite a few opportunities.
“We had the best chances in the game. All we needed was a bit more composure and better decision-making and we’d have had a couple of goals. We were unlucky as well with Roofe’s shot. I’m not going too criticise my team. They were magnificent.”