Football: Liverpool lift 9th League Cup title
Liverpool held their nerve to beat Chelsea 11-10 in a penalty shoot-out in the League Cup final after a tense game ended 0-0 after extra time at Wembley Stadium
LONDON: Liverpool held their nerve to beat Chelsea 11-10 in a penalty shoot-out in the English League Cup final on Sunday, after a tense game ended 0-0 after extra time at Wembley Stadium.
Both teams might claim to have been deserving winners in a classic free-flowing match filled with goal-scoring chances, incredible saves, and four disallowed goals.
Even in the penalty shoot-out, the two heavyweights were inseparable, with 21 successful kicks raising the stakes.
It came down to an unexpected battle between two goalkeepers in the end, with Liverpool's young Irish shot-stopper Caoimhin Kelleher smashing his penalty past Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had replaced Edouard Mendy for the shootout.
Arrizabalaga then rocketed his effort over the bar into the crowds of Liverpool fans celebrating the club's first domestic Cup silverware in a decade.
While Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp had won the Premier League and the Champions League since taking over at Anfield, it was a rare cup victory for the German, who had only won two of his previous eight finals with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel's aspirations of winning a fourth trophy in less than a year at Stamford Bridge were dashed. Last season, he won the Champions League, and this season, he won the European SuperCup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Klopp's decision to stick with stand-in keeper Kelleher rather than revert to Alisson was amply rewarded, though the Irishman could barely have envisaged hitting the winning penalty in a shootout.
"It's a mad one. When it came down to me I didn't even think I had scored the winning penalty," he said. "It was more hit and hope.
"I got close to (stopping) a few but all the penalties were very high quality; thankfully we were able to win."
Chelsea, vying for a sixth League Cup, may feel disgruntled despite having arguably the better opportunities.
Kelleher was a thorn in their side throughout the afternoon, making one fantastic rebound save early on after Cesar Azpilicueta's ball in was greeted by the unmarked Christian Pulisic.
Chelsea were better in the opening exchanges, but they were fortunate in the 17th minute when Sadio Mane's header from Trent Alexander-cross Arnold's was off-target.
Liverpool steadily gained control of the game, and Chelsea were grateful to Mendy for a superb double save, first stopping Naby Keita's low effort from the edge of the box and then jumping across to deflect Mane's follow-up over the bar.
Chelsea threatened again in the second half, with Mason Mount volleying over from a Kai Havertz cross.
With a dinked-through pass three minutes after the break, Havertz gave Mount another chance, but this time the England midfielder's effort rebounded against the inside of the post, leaving Tuchel frustrated.
Mohamed Salah was put clean through, but his chip over Mendy lacked weight, as Thiago Silva cleared the ball off the line.
Joel Matip thought he had put Liverpool ahead when he nodded in after Sadio Mane's header rebounded up, but the goal was disallowed by referee Stuart Attwell after he checked a pitchside monitor.
Salah was denied again by Mendy before Chelsea had a goal disallowed for offside after substitutes Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner combined to set up Havertz to force a header past Kelleher.
Even in the six minutes of stoppage time, both teams were throwing punches, with Mendy saving Virgil van Dijk's thunderous header before Werner missed an opportunity.
Chelsea had two goals disallowed in extra time, the first coming when Lukaku cut in from the right and blasted a drive past Kelleher but was called offside.
The brilliant Havertz then shot past Kelleher, but the German's celebrations were cut short once more.
Tuchel sent on Arrizabalaga at the end of extra time precisely for his penalty-saving ability, but instead of being the hero, he handed the trophy to Liverpool.
Edited - SportsAction / Inputs - Agency