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Forest Beat Wolves To Reach EFL Cup Semi-finals

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper says reaching a first EFL Cup semi-final in 31 years will offer old and new fans the chance to dream after being drawn against Manchester United.

Forest beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw to set up the clash against the team they were beaten by in the 1992 final.  “It is brilliant to get through to a semi-final and give ourselves the opportunity to play against Manchester United,” said Cooper.

“I am really pleased for our supporters. It has given our older generation the chance to reminisce while younger supporters will enter new territory. It is another positive message about the club.”

Dean Henderson was the penalty shootout hero as Cooper’s side overcame Wolves at the City Ground.  Henderson turned away Ruben Neves’ spot-kick after Jose Sa had denied Sam Surridge, then turned away Joe Hodge’s effort following Forest converting all four of their remaining penalties.

Forest had led in normal time when former Wolves pair Morgan Gibbs-White and Willy Boly combined, with Gibbs-White hanging an excellent first-half corner into the six-yard box and Boly stabbing home from close range.

Wolves scored a superb equaliser when new loan signing Matheus Cunha’s low cross invited the finish from striker Raul Jimenez.  The game ended with ugly scenes in the centre of the pitch, with stewards involved to pull the players apart as tempers frayed.  Forest will host Manchester United first in the two-legged semi-final.

The games will be played in the weeks commencing 23 and 30 January.  However, Forest will likely be without Henderson, who is on loan from Manchester United.  “I have only just thought of that, it is frustrating,” Cooper said of Henderson’s ineligibility.  “After seeing the night he had tonight, he was excellent in the penalty shootout, but he was good in the game, more than good in the game.

“It’s unfortunate. He’s part of our group, he is so invested in the group and how we work, what we’re trying to accelerate in terms of what we want to become.  “To do that you need a really good goalkeeper. Not only is he committing as a goalkeeper, he is buying into being in the city and the greater good of the club.  “It has put a dampener on it for me tonight.”

It has become accepted that players do not celebrate goals against their former clubs, a tradition which Boly upheld despite his effort being his first for Forest.  It did seem a little bit strange.  After all, the Ivory Coast defender did actively request a move away from Molineux in the summer, having received a substantial offer from Forest.

In addition, scoring is a rare experience for the 31-year-old. He last found the net almost two years ago, in Wolves’ home defeat by West Brom. It was one of only six he scored in five seasons with the club.  Sadly for Boly, his evening ended early. Although he tried to continue after getting hurt in a clash with Hwang Hee-chan, he quickly signalled it was impossible.

A mounting injury list is one of the reasons Cooper has cited for Forest’s need to enter the transfer market this month.  And now Forest have two more games to play this month, that need is even more acute.

Not that such issues were bothering the home fans as they celebrated victory and a semi-final appearance to come in a competition legendary former boss Brian Clough won four times during his illustrious stint with the club.

Wolves fans have adapted a chant usually heard at Arsenal, singing about manager Julen Lopetegui “he knows exactly what we need”.  In fairness, it wasn’t anything revelatory. Wolves were shocking at scoring goals before the World Cup break.

Although Cunha’s January arrival will not on its own solve the problem, even without the currently injured Diego Costa Wolves look a far greater threat.  Henderson made two excellent saves at the end of the first half to deny Jimenez – Goncalo Guedes should have threatened with the rebound but blazed over – and Hwang.

Jimenez’s equaliser was the end product of slick team play from the visitors, which included a telling contribution from Neves to allow Cunha to deliver the decisive low cross.  It was Wolves’ eighth goal in six games since Lopetegui took charge. It had taken Wolves 13 games to get their previous eight, part of a woeful overall pre-World Cup tally of 11.

Henderson was to have the final word though as Wolves missed out on what would have been their first last-four appearance in this competition since winning it in 1980.

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