Liverpool 1 – 0 (aet) Chelsea Carabao Cup Final – Postmortem 

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Liverpool 1 – 0 (aet) Chelsea Carabao Cup Final – Postmortem

This game was a nervous encounter between two teams that came to Wembley hoping to win the League Cup for differing reasons. Liverpool was looking to gift their departing manager with the first of a possible four trophies in the 2023/24 season, whereas Chelsea was desperate to make their own season merely relevant. After a billion pounds spent under the relatively new ownership of Todd Boehly, the west London club would not have had a better opportunity to upset the Premier League leaders, who came to Wembley with no less that twelve senior players missing.

Chelsea had been enjoying a recent upturn in form, as the entire week leading to this EFL Cup final would have been spent preparing for Jürgen Klopp’s side. The reds had had a hectic fixture list in the rear-view mirror whilst remaining prominent across all footballing competitions, therefore, the victor of this battle was very much in the balance prior to kick off.

Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.

The Starting Eleven

Caoimhin Kelleher, Conor Bradley, Ibarahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk (C), Andy Robertson, Alexis Mac Allister, Wataru Endo, Ryan Gravenberch, Harvey Elliott, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz

Subs- Ryan Gravenberch -> Joe Gomez (28′), Conor Bradley -> Bobby Clark (72′), Alexis Mac Allister -> James McConnell (87′), Cody Gakpo -> Jayden Danns (87′), Andy Robertson -> Kostas Tsimikas (87′), Ibou Konate -> Jarrell Quansah (106′)


Liverpool 1 – 0 Chelsea

Virgil van Dijk – (Kostas Tsimikas) 118 mins

Photo: IMAGO

Important Match Stats

Possession- Liverpool 54% – 46% Chelsea

Total Shots- Liverpool 24 – 19 Chelsea

Crosses- Liverpool 32 – 26 Chelsea

Corner Kicks- Liverpool 5 – 6 Chelsea

Goalkeeper Saves- Liverpool 9 – 10 Chelsea

First Half

The opening period of this game was a one-sided onslaught from the Merseyside giants, who took immediate territorial advantage of the pitch. The starting eleven very much picked itself, with the non-inclusion of Joe Gomez the only question in the Liverpool starting eleven. That question became irrelevant on the 26th minute, as former Jörg Schmadtke target, Moisés Caicedo, levelled Ryan Gravenberch with a full boot of studs to the Dutchman’s ankle.

This sort of foul may have garnered a red card in most games, yet for a final, VAR were clearly reluctant to make that call so early into the game. The former Bayern Munich prodigy was unable to continue and stretchered from the field of play, which allowed Joe Gomez to enter the fray.

A multi positional alteration was quickly enforced by the Liverpool coaching staff, as the former Charlton man, Gomez, dropped into right back, allowing Conor Bradley to move up into a right-wing position. Harvey Elliott vacated that previous berth and became part of the midfield three. That system tinkering caused patterns of play to be disrupted and the huge spendings London outfit took full advantage of brief indecision.

A continual stream of pressure ensued from the blues, which saw the reds deputy stopper, Caoimhin Kelleher, make a world class stop at close range. Mauricio Pochettino’s men would then take the lead through former Liverpool star, Raheem Sterling, only for that goal to be scrubbed off for an earlier off side. The half time break came shortly thereafter and much like with previous finals between the two, the scores remained goalless.

Second Half

On resumption of the second half, no changes were made by either side as an end-to-end battle erupted in the nation’s capital. It would be on the 60th minute that another goal would be ruled out by VAR, as Virgil van Dijk’s powerful header was thrown out by the officials at Stockley Park, due to Levi Colwill being blocked off in the build-up.

Bobby Clark would soon enter the final, as Conor Bradley struggled to impact in his unfamiliar forward position. The reds Irish keeper would be a called to make some more crucial stops for his side, as the tired legs of Liverpool began to open opportunities for their tenth placed Premier League rivals. As Klopp’s red men created a handful of half chances, it would not be until the 87th minute that injection would be inserted into the Anfield eleven, as a raft of substitutions breathed life into the upcoming thirty minutes of extra time.

Extra Time

The introduction of Kostas Tsimikas, Jayden Danns, and James McConnell, were the changes that truly ignited the final period of the contest. Youthful exuberance and desire from fresh legs (including Bobby Clark) gave added strength to those that had been playing over 100 minutes off football. The LFC band of brothers drew strength from one another as the expensively assembled group of footballers from west London wilted in the face of desire.

Photo: IMAGO

Throughout this enthralling battle, Virgil van Dijk has been brilliantly dominant, as his leadership and authority could be likened to the likes of Graham Souness and Roy Keane. The mixture of elite, rotation, and youthful assets, was a blend that drove the team in red towards ultimate glory, which availed itself in the 118th minute of the game. With so many senior players missing or withdrawn, it would be the man of the match who would take matters into his own hands, as the captain drove his match winning header beyond the impressive Chelsea keeper. The performances of so many were commendable and the pride was evident from their German manager on the sidelines.

The match ended with Virgil van Dijk the hero, closely followed by his tremendous keeper, Caoimhin Kelleher, as well as the academy graduates that took Wembley by storm.

What Are My Final Thoughts…?

This was a match where Chelsea should have won, given the varying limitations at the feet of Liverpool FC. The mentality monsters of Anfield simply refused to accept anything other than another fabled trophy lift, which could now be the start of a truly magnificent season of achievement, the last of the Jürgen Klopp tenure.

Pre-game prediction;

Liverpool 2 – 1 Chelsea

Steven Smith

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