Holy. Freaking. Crap. Did that really just happen?!?!?! No, it’s not really a surprise that Liverpool won their first trophy of the season, keeping alive their hope for the quadruple. Both Liverpool and Chelsea had sensational chances, with both goalkeepers coming up with huge saves. Both teams missed what looked like sure goals in a very open game for a final. Both teams had goals waved off after VAR reviews. In the end, it took penalties to settle it. An not just penalties, it went all the way to keeper penalties, the rarest of rare of all penalties. Caoimhin Kelleher rocked his shot into the top corner while Kepa Arrizabalaga, brought in just for the penalties, skied his chance. And that was it. Liverpool have now won the League Cup, the cup we have all spurned for years. And it feels great!
Let’s take a look at some of the winners, losers, and other narratives around the game.
Let me start by saying that there were a ton of extremely good performances all over the field for Liverpool. They played well as a team and as individuals. Honestly, you could literally name any player that stepped foot on the pitch today, and they would be deserving of being mentioned on this section. Fabinho Fabinho’ed, Virgil van Dijk’ed, Sadio and Mo took turns turning defenders inside out, Trent did the passing thing, Hendo and Naby did some good midfielding, etc, etc. I’m only going to list a couple because honestly I am having trouble even thinking straight after all of that.
Of course you have to start with the man from Cork. Jurgen Klopp emphasized his belief in the keeper ahead of the match, time after time stating that Kelleher would start in the final despite cries from fans and pundits to put Alisson in there. Kelleher repaid Klopp’s belief in spades. He made several huge saves, including point blank saves from Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku. He also was quick off of his line several times to snuff out trouble, and was calm and assured with the ball at his feet.
Of course, what everyone will remember is the penalties. While Kelleher didn’t manage to keep any out, he did step up to smash his spot kick home. It proved to be the winning penalty, marking a dramatic end to a dramatic day.
Seriously, how has he only been at Liverpool for a few weeks? Diaz was yet again sensational for the Reds, looking like he had been playing with the rest of the squad for months, if not years. He made run after run down the left, terrorizing Trevoh Chalobah for the entire match before coming off in extra time. He finished with two of his four shots on target, showing great movement to get into good spots in the box. He also linked up well, playing smart passes time and time again. He even showed some great flair with a no-look reverse ball. This guy really seems like he will be something special for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s Defensive Line
It’s been pointed out ad nauseam by pundits how Liverpool are susceptible due to their aggressive defensive line. And yet again, Liverpool won the risk/reward battle, leading to three Chelsea goals being called back for offside, not to mention several other late flags as the Reds caught the Blues offside seven times, a full five times more than their season average.
Jordan Henderson Tippy Taps
1/4. pic.twitter.com/j5YXCjzPJV— Kloppholic (@Kloppholic) February 27, 2022
A Brief Respite From Terrible Things
There’s been a lot of really bad shit going on recently. This match was a great way to escape for a couple of hours and feel some joy again.
Tactical Keeper Substitution
Eduoard Mendy had a Man of the Match performance for Chelsea, making some absolutely ridiculous saves to keep Liverpool off of the score sheet. Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was left on the bench for the final despite playing all of the other cup matches, was brought in just for the penalty shootout. What happened next? Kepa didn’t save a single penalty, and then skied his own spot kick to give Liverpool the win.
Thiago was slated to start the game, but had to be withdrawn after picking up an injury during warm ups. The cameras caught him in tears on the sideline just before kick off. It’s terrible for Thiago, who has been sensational since coming back from an injury just weeks ago. This was a game that cried out for his sensational passing vision and range, as well as his steel in midfield. Naby Keita had to come on in his stead, and after a slow start, did play well, but he’s just not the same player as Thiago. Let’s home it’s a relatively minor knock.
From the Manager
"I'm two things, a professional football manager and a human being. And the human being won."— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 27, 2022
Jürgen Klopp explains his decision to keep Caoimhin Kelleher in goal for the Carabao Cup final pic.twitter.com/PybS2NHPyC
Up the human being manager!
What Happens Next
D’ya like cup matches? D’ya? Well, I hope so, because Liverpool will host Norwich City in the 5th round of the FA Cup on Wednesday. Liverpool will need a win against the Canaries if they want to continue their run towards the quadruple.