The first marquee domestic cup final of the season didn’t disappoint despite neither Chelsea or Liverpool finding the back of the net in 120 minutes. Chances came and went for both sides with Edouard Mendy and Caoimhin Kelleher playing integral roles.
The dreaded penalties eventually arrived and in crazy scenes it went all the way down to the goalkeepers with Liverpool’s Kelleher holding his nerve over Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga as the team from Merseyside won their ninth League Cup.
Chelsea Vs Liverpool: Team News
After European success in midweek, Chelsea make two changes to their starting XI. Andreas Christensen had an Achilles issue and Trevoh Chalobah started for the first time since January 2 in his place. Hakim Ziyech, who picked up a knock against Lille, dropped out for the returning Mason Mount in the other change. Mendy started for the first time in the competition this season after Kepa’s key performances on route to the final.
For Liverpool the main team news saw Kelleher retain his place in goal for the Carabao Cup. Away from that there are also two changes from their 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United on Wednesday. Curtis Jones was replaced by club captain Jordan Henderson and Thiago injured himself in the warm up and Guinean Naby Keita moved up from the bench into the team whilst Harvey Elliott moved onto the bench.
As to be expected in a game of such magnitude, the opening salvos were rather cagey and neither team spent any time of significance on the ball. But Chelsea’s higher tempo saw them fashion out the first big chance of the game in the sixth minute.
Havertz, boosted by his goal in midweek, glided past Keita in midfield and played it out to Cesar Azpilicueta whose first time ball was met by Christian Pulisic and with the goal gaping, he struck it straight at Kelleher from a matter of yards.
The German continued to exert his influence upon the game with his run down Chelsea’s left in behind the Liverpool defence and after being found by Mateo Kovacic, Havertz pulled a ball back to Mason Mount but after a neat turn his shot was blocked at source.
Liverpool had started to get into their groove by this point and nearly went ahead thanks to another piece of Trent Alexander-Arnold magic. His right footed cross from a narrow angle found the head of Sadio Mane but the Senegalese man failed to trouble his international teammate.
One chance turned into a sustained spell of pressure as the Reds dominated possession and started to push the Champions League holders back closer to their penalty box. Up until the half an hour mark Mendy had been untested in the Chelsea goal with those in front of him scrambling the ball away.
However, that soon quickly changed as he vindicated his manager’s decision to start him over his Spanish teammate. Keita was gifted acres of room on the edge of the box and forced Mendy into a parried save low down to his right and then remarkably he got straight back up and flung himself to his right to deny Mane, who would’ve thought he was going to give his side the lead.
Chelsea were desperately searching for some sort of foothold in the game as the tidal wave of Liverpool’s attacks kept getting stronger and stronger. A rare surge forward came to nothing as Havertz drifted offside before Pulisic could feed him through, before focus shifted back to keeping their opponents at bay.
The pendulum swung back the way of the Blues at the end of the half as a flurry of chances came and ultimately went. Pulisic shot straight at Kelleher from a tight angle and then Azpilicueta whistled a powerful left footed drive narrowly over the bar. All before, Mount found himself free five yards out after being found by Havertz but managed to steer it wide of the post.
HT: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
The second period started in the same manner to the first with Chelsea on top and throwing the punches but once again failing to land them.
Tidy linkup between Pulisic and Havertz got the latter down the side of the Liverpool defence but his flashing ball across goal didn’t get the pivotal touch. Next, it was Mount at the centre of attention yet again as Pulisic’s dinked through ball found him all alone in the box and this time his right footed effort rebounded off the woodwork. More impressive build up play this time between Marcos Alonso, Mount and Havertz resulted in the Englishman having a first time shot saved by Kelleher.
And just like in the first half, that final chance seemed to bring Liverpool to their senses although they were nearly gifted the advantage. Mendy surprisingly gave the ball away in his own half and after he had been slipped through by Mane, Mohammed Salah’s dinked effort was scrambled away off the line by Thiago Silva.
In a season where VAR more often than not has dominated headlines, it was inevitable that Darren England and the technology would have its say at some point. A well worked free kick routine saw Mane peel away at the back post and head it back across to Joel Matip who himself headed it into the roof of the net.
Though, after the initial jubilant celebrations, the goal was disallowed as despite not touching the ball, Virgil van Dijk was found to be guilty of interfering in play from an offside position by blocking off Reece James.
Chelsea hit back at their opposition with fresh legs in Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner up front and the latter’s ball to the back post was headed in by his German colleague, Havertz, despite Kelleher’s best efforts. This time the joy was short lived as the linesman’s flag went up for Werner.
Extra time was beckoning and neither side showed any signs of waiting for that to come. A goalmouth scramble in the Chelsea box caused chaos for fifteen seconds but no Liverpool player could divert it in. A van Dijk header was brilliantly saved down low by Mendy in added time before Lukaku’s flicked effort was saved down low by the fantastic Kelleher.
FT: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool: Extra Time
There was a pedestrian nature to the start of the added period as players on both sides got themselves ready to go for another thirty minutes. Spells of possession for both sides resulted in both goals being relatively left alone.
On the 96th minute mark, Chelsea stepped up the tempo again as after a nice move led by Werner, Kante blazed a cross come shot high and wide with Lukaku waiting for the ball.
The Belgian would be involved in the next decisive moment as Chalobah’s driving run and subsequent ball between two Liverpool defenders found Lukaku whose cut back, and low shot beat Kelleher only for it to be called back for a tight offside.
After a short break, the same rhythm continued with Thomas Tuchel’s side dictating proceedings and seeing yet another goal be disallowed for offside. This time Lukaku found Havertz in space in the box and after a smart turn and left footed drive into the far corner, the assistant’s flag went up.
The earlier waves of attack had slowed down by this point as the game started to meander towards the inevitable decider of penalties. Nothing of note would happen in the second half of extra time aside from a change in goal from Chelsea as penalty specialist Kepa came on for Mendy.
FT ET: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
Often called a lottery, penalties is the ultimate test of any players resolve and Wembley witnessed an exhibition.
All 20 outfield players stood up and converted. Some with remarkable confidence and aplomb considering the pressure of the situation. Next up was Liverpool’s goalkeeper Kelleher and his past experience of having played outfield in youth football told as he confidently struck it past Kepa.
That would be the final scored penalty as Kepa, who was brought on to save penalties and not score them, hit his attempt high over the bar to spark celebrations in the Liverpool camp as they were confirmed winners of the 2021/22 Carabao Cup.
Penalties: Chelsea 10-11 Liverpool
Written by Harrison Burridge (@hburridge2)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)