Carabao Cup Final Review: Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

  • Fans celebrating VVD's winning goal at The Slye Fox, one of our official supporters pubs

LIverpool win another efl cup!

The banners that were unfurled on the Wembley pitch before kick-off featured a handful of players from each team in this final of the 2024 Carabao Cup.

Out of the four Liverpool players so displayed, three of them did not even make it in the matchday squad. Shows the extent to which Jurgen Klopp has to deal with injuries these days.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Dawin Nunez can easily make the spine of any strong side challenging for honours. But it was the fourth LFC player on the banner, the only one of the four present on the pitch, who sealed the destiny of the first major trophy of this 2023-24 season.

Virgil Van Dijk not only scored the solitary goal deep, deep, deep in extra-time, but he also orchestrated Liverpool’s defence into a clean sheet. That was in addition to motivating his teammates who had to dig very deep to last the energy-sapping 120 minutes of this marathon encounter.

Not to mention the hard-to-believe four under-21 players and two 21-year-olds who at one point or the other, stepped in for the severely depleted Liverpool senior squad in this final.

The youngsters were probably looking up to the captain as a guiding beacon on their big Wembley baptism of fire.

If VVD was not awarded the MOTM accolade, then nothing else would. Shall we call this the Big Virg Cup Final?

At LFC Toronto’s home pub of Elephant & Castle, the place was unsurprisingly packed. While we were absolutely ecstatic of more silverware being added to Klopp’s already complete collection, we were also buzzing about the future generation of Liverpool players demonstrably not being far from the here and now.

That will be another strong legacy from the gaffer after he steps down from his managerial position at the end of the season.

The telling difference in this cup final between the visibly younger team in Red and the more seasoned players in blue was the famous attitude that Klopp has cultivated in the club: Mentality Monsters. An attitude that not even a billion quid can buy.

In this action-packed game, each team had their moment to win it as the pendulum of run-of-play swung from one end to the other.

But the law of large numbers finally carried the day. The longer the match was drawn out, the side with the tougher mentality would be more likely to - and did eventually - clinch it.

The Reds got out of the gate first

It took a little while for Liverpool to signify their intention after kick-off.

Despite an initial 10 minutes which resembled more like a kick-about round of observation (what else to expect in a cup final?), decent chances started to come with shots from Alexis Mac Allister and Luis Diaz blocked by Chelsea keeper Dorde Petrovic inside the opening 15 minutes.

However, it would be Chelsea that came closer to opening the score as a Cole Palmer point-blank shot on the 20th drew a stupendous block by Caoimhin Kelleher.

That was not the only time our Irish keeper would pull spectacular saves. More from him deep in the second half thankfully prevented a Chelsea smash-and-grab.

The treatment room at the AXA Centre is currently nursing enough players who can make up a team that can challenge for the league title.

Sadly, Ryan Gravenberch has now been added to that unwanted collection after Moises Caicedo had stepped on his left ankle on the 23rd minute. Well, after £115 mln., a Wembley Cup final probably compelled the Ecuadorian into being seen as doing at least something.

Chelsea took the ascendancy after this incident. Raheem Sterling put the ball at the back on the net on the 32nd but Nicolas Jackson was ruled offside in the run-in of the action.

However, the pendulum would swing back towards Liverpool at the end of the first half. A Cody Gakpo glancing header hit the woodwork and Conor Bradley’s fierce on-target shot was blocked by the other Conor on the pitch, Gallagher.

Liverpool picked up the second half where they left off the first. Harvey Elliot announced the colours on the 58th with a volley from the right side which Petrovic pushed away with a flying save.

Not surprisingly then, the Reds put the ball at the back of the net 2 minutes later. Van Dijk thumped in a header from an Andy Roberston finely delivered free kick.

The ensuing obligatory VAR ruled that Wataru Endo was offside. Even if he was not directly involved in the action, the Japanese prevented Levi Colwill from challenging VVD for the header and was therefore guilty of play interference.

Never Give Up

Not discouraged, Liverpool kept trying even if it was not from the usual suspects.

Joe Gomez 80th minute shot was unfortunately saved while Jayden Danns who got his senior Liverpool debut only four days before, twice made Petrovic’s afternoon even busier.

Kelleher also was far from having a quiet afternoon as well, being called into decisive action towards the end of normal time. On the 85th, an unmarked Gallagher was through on their left but he could not get past our keeper.

On the 93rd the Irishman made a heart-in-mouth double save which effectively prevented Chelsea from a last-ditch snatch of the trophy.

From what we’ve seen two years ago, a Chelsea – Liverpool cup final was automatically assumed to go to penalties. This was the overriding feeling as extra time ushered in.

But that was without counting on the Mentality Monsters spirit still prevailing among the Merseysiders after more than 90 minutes of gruelling football.

On the 118th, Virgil Van Dijk did what Raheem Sterling could not: put the ball at the back of the net for a second time after so much persistence.

He flicked in another header from a Kostas Tsimikas corner and this time there would be no doubt about it.

One late, late solitary goal.

Game, set, and match.

Cup final won in classical Mentality Monsters style by the team that’s best mentally prepared to take it to the very end.

Similar to all Liverpool supporters around the world, we went ballistic at Elephant & Castle. There was no better feeling of deliverance after toiling for so long.

Klopp himself admitted it was his most special trophy in the manner it was won in the face of all the injury setbacks.

Hopefully, this Carabao Cup will turn out to be only a foretaste that will make the Liverpool players hungry for more, seniors and juniors alike.

With so many youngsters in that Liverpool team, the Kindergarten Kop had conquered the Kings of London at Anfield South.

Mike Chung.