Middlesbrough’s best option always looked to be in Stewart Downing.
The former England international had gone close in the 17th minute with a 30-yard free-kick that the impressive Joel Robles saved to his left at full stretch.
It is seven years since Aitor Karanka first watched in wonder at the skills of Gerard Deulofeu.
He told the then 14-year-old that he had everything to become a major force in the game.
Before the half-hour mark the same player had struck again, as creator.
There never looked like being an avenue back into the game then for the home side, who, in chasing promotion, made six changes to the team who had won at Huddersfield on Saturday.
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Deulofeu scored a marvellous first, 20 minutes into the game, when a raucous atmosphere suggested the Championship side had the fire to fight for a place in the last four of a domestic competition for the first time in a decade.
The goal was at such a level that it almost instantly deflated Middlesbrough’s belief.
The Spaniard would also become the first to lift the League Cup for the blue half of Merseyside, who have been beaten finalists twice.
To get to the last four, he owed much to his 21-year-old winger and fellow Spaniard.
The Middlesbrough manager was back watching here, with his hands tucked firmly into the trouser pockets of his suit.