CHELSEA 0-0 LIVERPOOL (10-11 ON PENS): MATCH REVIEW
Liverpool clinched their ninth League Cup title by overcoming Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea on penalties last night. A hugely entertaining game somehow ended goalless after two hours of play. An epic shootout saw the Reds come out on top. Here’s a review of the game.
You can find player ratings from the match here:
° Lineup. There were two changes to the side that trounced Leeds United at Anfield on Wednesday night as Kelleher and Henderson came in for Alisson and Jones. The manager made good of his word to hand Caoimhin the final, in a huge show of faith in the 23 year old.
Bar Alisson and Jota, that was largely what most people would regard our strongest lineup. It was particularly exciting to see Thiago named in the XI for his first final with the club.
° Thiago blow. News filtered through before kickoff of the midfielder lppicking up an injury in the warm-up and being replaced in the XI by Naby Keita. It was a massive blow as the Spanish international had been in scintillating form in recent weeks and looked set to dominate the final.
The sight of him sobbing on the bench at the start of the game was truly heartbreaking. Unfortunately, that has been the story of his Liverpool career so far, breathtaking when he plays, but too often out injured. There’s still no definitive word on the severity of the injury.
° Chelsea start well. The Londoners settled quickest as they put passes together and threatened Liverpool’s backline. The first big chance of the game fell Pulisic’s way after good movement saw him get on the end of Azpilicueta’s cross.
Kelleher made the save, getting his hand up in time to block the effort. It was a ropey opening few minutes for the Reds till Thiago Silva went down clutching his elbow. That break in play helped Jürgen Klopp’s side compose themselves and settle.
° Liverpool threaten. The Reds were now stroking the ball around with confidence and begun to create chances. Mané headed Trent’s cross wide before Naby Keita called Mendy into action with a well hit strike from the edge of the box.
The rebound fell to Mané and he placed his shot too close to the goalkeeper, allowing his international teammate to make a stunning save. That should have been 1-0 in all honesty. Brilliant save by Mendy, but Mané shouldn’t have given him the chance to make it.
° Chelsea miss a chance of their own. The Blues weathered the Liverpool storm really well. They should then have taken the lead on the stroke of halftime when Mount run unmarked onto Havert’s pass into the box. The midfielder could only steer his effort wide, with Kelleher beaten. A breathless first half ended goalless.
° Chelsea start strong again. Whatever Tuchel said at halftime worked a treat as Chelsea flew out of the blocks again. They should have taken the lead 4 minutes into the half when Mount broke the offside trap but couldn’t finish a one on one with Kelleher. His shot hit the post and rolled across the face of goal.
° More missed chances. Liverpool were next to miss a big chance, with the usually reliable Salah not getting enough purchase on a chip, allowing Thiago Silva to clear the ball off the line. This came after Mane had slipped the Egyptian through on goal following a poor clearance by Mendy.
° Matip opener harshly ruled out. Joel Matip headed the Reds infront after 69 minutes, only for a harsh VAR call to rule it out. Van Dijk was adjudged to have been interfering with play by blocking Reece James from an offside position. A truly baffling decision as it looked like the big man just stood his ground.
° The triple substitution. On 80 minutes, Jürgen Klopp sought fresh legs to keep the energy levels up on the pitch. This saw Harvey Elliott come on for the skipper, Milner on for Keita, and Jota on for Sadio Mané.
It was a mixed performance by Sadio. Playing out of position, he managed to be heavily involved, creating chances for his teammates and getting on the end of a few himself. That miss on the rebound shouldn’t define his performance.
Sadio Mané for LFC vs Chelsea:
• Second most chances created (4)
• Joint most fouls won (3)
• Most successful dribbles (2)
• Second most big chances created (1)
• Most big chances missed (2)
° Late chances for both sides. It was a hotly contested affair with both teams looking equally matched. It would perhaps have been harsh had either found a late winner. Mendy pushed away Van Dijk’s header before Kelleher tipped Lukaku’s toe poke behind in injury time to force extra time.
° Extra time changes. Ibou Konaté came on for Matip before the start of extra time whilst Origi came on for a tired looking Diaz after 97 minutes. The Colombian was arguably Liverpool’s best player, with his pace, trickery and direct running causing Chalobah, Azpilicueta and later James, endless problems.
Luis Diaz for LFC vs Chelsea:
• 100% shot accuracy
• 100% tackle success rate
• 83% pass accuracy
• 71 touches
• 35 passes completed
• 7 ball recoveries
• 6 duels won
• 4 shots attempted (2nd)
• 3 fouls won (=1st)
• 2 tackles won (=1st)
• 2 blocks (=2nd)
° Disallowed goals in extra time. Chelsea saw two goals by Lukaku and then Havertz ruled out for offside in extra time. Havert’s was quite clearly off but Lukaku’s looked extremely tight. The Liverpool high line worked a treat on the night as Chelsea were caught offside 7 times, with 3 of those seeing goals chalked off.
° Penalty shootout! The first key psychological advantage came when Milner won the coin toss for the shootout. He chose the goal at the Liverpool end and also elected to take first. Who knows how Liverpool’s nerves would have held up had they taken their pens at the Chelsea end?
° Marathon shootout. There were some excellent penalties on show, with all 11 Liverpool players including Kelleher converting. Fabinho’s was possibly the pick of the bunch as he went for a cheeky panenka. Konaté’s almost gave me a heart attack! Kepa skied his and it was all over, we had done it!
Cue bedlam and wild celebrations amongst the squad, staff and travelling Kop. We once again got to see the Hendo shuffle as Jürgen Klopp secured his fifth trophy in his reign as Liverpool manager. What a night!
° Special mention for Kelleher. The Northern Irishman justified his manager’s faith with an assured display between the sticks. He made brilliant saves in the game and was not outshone by Mendy. It was fitting that he scored the winning penalty. This tournament has been unequivocally his.
° What next? A day or two celebration at most, as the quest for the quadruple won’t afford anything longer than that. Norwich travel to Anfield again on Wednesday night, for the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.
Defeat Norwich and the Reds will be through to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup. Another Cup run could beckon. West Ham are then the visitors at the weekend, as the Premier League returns along with the task of overtaking Man City. The challenge never stops.