Liverpool claimed a record ninth League Cup 11-10 on penalties after an entertaining EFL Cup final with Chelsea had ended in a Wembley stalemate.
The Blues brought Kepa on for Edouard Mendy as the game finished 0-0 after extra time but it was the reserve keeper who was first to blink when he blazed his kick over the bar to conclude an epic shoot-out.
The victory sees Jurgen Klopp win his first domestic cup as Reds manager and he becomes the first German coach to triumph in the competition.
Chelsea will rue missing some gilt-edged chances in normal time and could have been ahead on six minutes but Christian Pulisic saw his close-range effort brilliantly kept out by Liverpool’s young, cup keeper, Kelleher.
The Merseysiders grew as the half wore on and almost capped their dominance on the half hour mark, but the excellent Mendy justified Thomas Tuchel’s initial decision to pick him ahead of Kepa with a stunning double save to deny Naby Keita and Sadio Mane.
Chelsea were mostly a threat on the counter attack with Mason Mount going close either side of half time with his second chance hitting the post.
Mohamed Salah then wasted a clear-cut opening for the Reds before Joel Matip had a header chalked off for a foul and offside following a VAR intervention.
It started a run of disallowed goals with Kai Havertz (2) and substitute Romelu Lukaku having moments of joy snatched away by the sight of the offside flag as an action-packed affair somehow ended all square after 120 minutes.
The penalty shoot-out was just as engrossing as all 10 outfield players on each side converted their kicks. Kelleher then fired home his before Kepa missed to ensure the trophy will be returning to Anfield.
TALKING POINT – MORE FINAL WOE FOR KEPA AS LIVERPOOL MAKE HISTORY WITH NO. 9
How this final finished 0-0 after 90 minutes, never mind 120 minutes, is a question that will puzzle anyone who witnessed it. It lived up to the billing as a highly entertaining affair but was just missing the goals. Indeed, they all arrived in a nerve-less shoot-out.
Sadly for Kepa, the League Cup final was once again a stage where he was the villain. Back in 2019 he refused to be substituted by then boss Maurizio Sarri and his team went on to lose on penalties to Manchester City. Here, he was unlucky not to get the nod to start having featured in all five of Chelsea’s previous League Cup games this campaign. However, given how well Mendy then performed in the final it seemed strange that Tuchel made the late change for the spot kicks. It didn’t pay off and Kepa’s miss was decisive.
As for Liverpool, Klopp will be delighted to finally get that Wembley win. He had spoken ahead of the game about how this team needed to be remembered for winning more trophies and this was an important triumph. They remain in the hunt for the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup this term, and while an unprecedented quadruple will be a tall order, this could well be the spring board to more silverware come the conclusion of this campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH – CAOIMHIN KELLEHER (LIVERPOOL)
The 23-year-old stopper made some important saves during the game and was a calm presence on such a significant occasion. Capped his big moment with a fine penalty in the shoot out and cemented his place in the club’s history as well as proving once again to be an excellent deputy to Alisson.
Chelsea: Mendy 8, Chalobah 7, Thiago Silva 8, Rudiger 8, Azpilicueta 8, Kante 7, Kovacic 7, Alonso 7, Mount 7, Havertz 8, Pulisic 7. Subs: James 7, Lukaku 7, Werner 7, Jorginho 7, Kepa n/a.
Liverpool: Kelleher 8, Alexander Arnold 7, Van Dijk 8, Matip 8, Robertson 7, Fabinho 8, Henderson 7, Keita 7, Diaz 8, Mane 7, Salah 7. Subs: Elliott 7, Milner 7, Jota 7, Konate 7, Origi 7.
6’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! The Blues carve Liverpool open and find Azpilicueta in space on the right side of the box. He fires a superb low ball into the path of Pulisic who somehow fails to beat Kelleher from close-range. Brilliant save from the young Reds keeper.
30’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Mendy parries Keita’s thumping 22-yard strike into the path of Mane but somehow gets up in time to miraculously keep out Mane’s follow-up from close range.
45’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! Mount somehow volleys wide from close range after a brilliant move involving Pulisic and Havertz carved Liverpool wide open.
48’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! Mount makes a lovely diagonal run in-behind the Reds’ defence to collect Pulisic’s clipped pass. Alexander Arnold lets him go but he’s not punished as Mount’s low shot hits the post and rolls away from goal.
64’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Salah sees a dinked effort cleared by Thiago Silva from inside the six-yard box after a woeful kick from Mendy had allowed Mane to send the Egyptian clear on the keeper.
67’ – LIVERPOOL GOAL CHALKED OFF! Matip nods in at the far post after Mane had headed Alexander Arnold’s free kick back across goal. VAR checks and the referee consults the monitor before ruling the goal out. Van Dijk is offside and is deemed to have blocked James as he looked to defend the set piece.
90+1’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Van Dijk meets a left-wing corner with a bullet header but Mendy flings himself to his left to keep it out.
PENALTY SCORED IN THE SHOOT OUT! – LIVERPOOL 11-10 CHELSEA. Kelleher blasts his spot kick into the back of the net.All 20 outfield players and now the Liverpool stopper have converted. Pressure on Kepa now….
PENALTY MISSED IN THE SHOOT OUT! LIVERPOOL 11-10 CHELSEA. Kepa blazes his spot kick over the bar and the Merseysiders have won the cup!