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Liverpool win Carabao Cup with final victory against Chelsea 1-0

Liverpool Chelsea Carabao Cup Virgil van Dijk Sterling

FROM WEMBLEY STADIUM – Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 in the Carabao Cup final thanks to an extra-time winner from Virgil van Dijk.

The Reds and the Blues seemed destined to draw a third successive domestic cup final without any goals before the Dutchman headed home from the latest of corners at Wembley.

Jurgen Klopp’s side finished the match with plenty of young academy graduates on the pitch and they did incredibly well to outlast Chelsea, who are still looking for their first trophy in the BlueCo era.

This is what it came down to in the end. This is what it came down to in one of the most dramatic domestic football finals Wembley has ever seen. On one side, Chelsea’s billion pound squad, the collection of record signings and extravagant busts and individuals who fit all the number-crunchers’ algorithms but do not play as a team.

And on the other side, a bunch of kids and a couple of giants. Kids from Rainhill and Warrington and Newcastle, who were in the team because Mo Salah, Darwin NunezTrent Alexander-Arnold and a phalanx of Liverpool’s best players were out injured.

Kids so young that Alan Shearer remarked he had played against the dads of some of them. Kids who made this look like the team Liverpool might turn out in the FA Youth Cup. Kids who stepped up when their club needed them.

Kids like Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark, James McConnell, Jayden Danns and Jarell Quansah. Kids who stepped up. Kids who were made of the right stuff. Kids who did themselves and their club proud and defied all the odds to beat the World Cup winners and walking pay-packets on the other team.

And in a story reserved for the very best of football dramas, the kids beat the billion pound squad. Liverpool beat Chelsea. Their young players and their giant of a captain, Van Dijk – the man of the match and the match-winner – delivered the sternest rebuke yet to a Chelsea team that spent money like it was throwing mud at the walls and is still paying the price.

Liverpool Chelsea

Chelsea player ratings (4-2-3-1)

GK: Djordje Petrovic – 7/10 – Kept Liverpool at bay as much as he could and could only be undone by Van Dijk’s aerial dominance.

RB: Malo Gusto – 5/10 – Played his way out of tight spaces but his concentration levels alarmingly dipped too often.

CB: Axel Disasi – 4/10 – A shadow of the monstrous figure who kept Man City at arm’s length last week. Lost the run of Van Dijk for the winner.

CB: Levi Colwill – 6/10 – Like Disasi was a little nervy on occasion, but he defended with far more alertness and awareness than his centre-back partner.

LB: Ben Chilwell (c) – 6/10 – Defended well enough and fought for the badge as captain, even if that meant getting into afters with several teenage players.

CM: Moises Caicedo – 5/10 – Liverpool’s pantomime villain for rejecting them last summer and then injuring Gravenberch. Didn’t excell at either winning the ball back or making chances.

CM: Enzo Fernandez – 5/10 – For someone who was exceptional in a World Cup final, you’d have expected more from the Argentine midfielder. Shrank in the face of adversity.

RM: Cole Palmer – 7/10 – Didn’t come alive until the second half but everything went through him once Chelsea were at their free-flowing best.

AM: Conor Gallagher – 6/10 – Definitely should have scored at some point but covered every blade of grass and was useful at either end of the pitch.

LM: Raheem Sterling – 5/10 – A tad unfortunate to have seen his goal ruled out but didn’t contribute a lot apart from that. Should have buried another chance early on.

CF: Nicolas Jackson – 5/10 – Muzzled by a combination of Van Dijk and Konate, which isn’t something to be ashamed of but he didn’t cause enough threat himself in a cup final.

Chelsea

Manager

Mauricio Pochettino – 5/10 – Chelsea passed up so many chances to put the game to bed, which isn’t necessarily the coach’s fault. But the Blues couldn’t compete against a team of teenagers, which more so is.

Liverpool player ratings (4-3-3)


GK: Caoimhin Kelleher – 8/10 – Saved Liverpool again and again in a repeat of his 2022 Carabao Cup final heorics.

RB: Conor Bradley – 6/10 – Played much of the game as winger following Gravenberch’s injury, with Gomez coming in at right-back. Performed admirably in the circumstances, stretching play and getting under Chilwell’s skin.

CB: Ibrahima Konate – 7/10 – A colossus at the back, wiping out the threat of the busy Jackson. Made several brilliant recovery challenges.

CB: Virgil van Dijk (c) – 8/10 – A real captain’s contribution in both boxes, defending staunchly and coming up with the winner.

LB: Andrew Robertson – 7/10 – Bombed up and down the left flank as per, though is still working his way back to full sharpness and was taken off before Palmer really kicked into gear. Fine delivery to pick out Gakpo who hit the post and Van Dijk for the disallowed goal.

CM: Wataru Endo – 7/10 – Battled well against a dogged Chelsea midfield. Put in the hard yards for 120 long minutes.

CM: Alexis Mac Allister – 6/10 – Couldn’t quite provide the creative spark, though his energy proved useful before his substitution late in the second half.

CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 5/10 – Offered little until being hauled off midway through the first half with an ankle injury.

RW: Harvey Elliott – 7/10 – Stifled for the most part but occasionally came up with magical moments.

CF: Cody Gakpo – 5/10 – Hit the bar with a header in the first half but besides that played on the periphery too much when Liverpool desperately needed one of their forwards to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

LW: Luis Diaz – 7/10 – Liverpool’s most threatening attacker, even if most of his influence came in wide areas instead of crucial central ones.

Liverpool

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9/10 – A real triumph of coaching. How he pulled off these kind of heroics with that team of youngsters is remarkable.

Player of the match – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)