Sunday’s EFL Cup had quite the hype riding on it with a clash between two in-form Premier League teams at Wembley. While on paper it looked like the league’s best attack in Liverpool were going against the best defence in Chelsea, it was impossible to separate either side in a game that was fittingly decided by a penalty shootout.
The game started off at a frantic pace with both sides testing the two goalkeepers early on. Both Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel had put up sturdy defensive units for the final, with centre-halves such as Van Dijk and Thiago Silva proving hard to get beyond. Understandably, this led to a large number of blistering counters from either side; the Reds used the likes of Salah and Diaz while the Blues worked their way into the opposition box through Mount and Havertz.
However, what was not in the script was that either side could not simply find the back of the net as they ended the game with just 36% (Chelsea) and 30% (Liverpool) shot accuracy. Of the most notable misses, Mason Mount hit the post after a sumptuous clipped ball from Jorginho while Salah chipped the ball over Mendy but his scuffed attempt, which looked off-target, was ultimately cleared off the line by Thiago Silva.
Of the chances that were put in the back of the net, all of them, yes all of them were flagged offside. Joel Matip headed the ball in beyond Mendy after a neat set-piece routine from Liverpool only for Van Dijk to have been judged offside in the build-up. Eager to shut his critics, Romelu Lukaku came off the bench and found the target only for him, too, to have been adjudged offside while receiving the through ball.
The contest went on in this fashion even during extra time as the most memorable moment during the period was Chelsea subbing off Mendy, after a sensational shift in goal, for penalty specialist Kepa Arrizabalaga.
But Kepa remained a bystander alongside Kelleher as the shootout unravelled in sharp contrast to the rest of the game, with all players hitting the back of the net. All ten penalties had been taken before it was the turn of the goalkeepers, with Kelleher doing brilliantly to slot in his penalty to make it 11-10 to Liverpool.
Having not been able to save a single penalty, more misery awaited Chelsea’s Spanish keeper as he skied his effort into the stands to crown Liverpool as the Carabao Cup champions.
The win meant that Jurgen Klopp could finally add a domestic trophy to his Liverpool CV. It was also a night for the record books as the Merseyside Reds became the first side in the competition’s history to win it a record 9 times. Moreover, the win sent Liverpool’s tally of total trophies to 66, making them joint top of the list of English clubs alongside Manchester United.
The cup win would be a huge morale boost for Liverpool who would now be shifting focus back to the PL as they gear up for a two-way race with Man City for the title.