Liverpool Beat Chelsea on Penalties in Dramatic Carabao Cup Final
Thomas Tuchel sent Kepa Arrizabalaga on to replace first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy in the closing moments of extra time. Although Mendy had put in a standout performance, making several stunning saves to deny Liverpool the chance of pulling ahead, Tuchel banked on Kepa’s reputation as a penalty specialist to stop Jurgen Klopp’s side.
But it seemed that it was not meant to be under the famous Wembley arch.
A dramatic 21 successful attempts separated the two football titans. Then, on Kepa’s turn to take the decisive spot, he ballooned his effort in the direction of the North Circular, sparking wild scenes of jubilation from Liverpool fans.
His missed effort granted Liverpool their first EFL Cup victory in a decade – and the first win in the competition under Jurgen Klopp.
Although the Carabao Cup final panel were not in total agreement with Tuchel’s decision to replace Edouard Mendy with Kepa Arrizabalaga, it was a move that has previously paid off.
Tuchel Defends Kepa Over Chelsea v Liverpool Penalty Shootout
In the European Super Cup final against Villareal, the Chelsea manager switched Mendy for Arrizabalaga, who saved two attempts during the penalty shootout and helped the Blues secure the title.
He also made a crucial penalty save during the FA Cup match against Plymouth earlier this month and earlier Carabao Cup matches against Aston Villa and Southampton.
The Chelsea manager has insisted that Kepa should not feel burdened for the Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool, stating:
If you want to blame somebody, blame me; this is not a problem.
I take the decisions and I don’t take them to try to be the hero. Today it took 11 penalties to find the winner.
It was an intense game, and there were touching scenes throughout, especially during Wembley’s display of solidarity for Ukraine and the people impacted by Russia’s invasion of the country.
Chelsea could have had several goals within 90 minutes after Cesar Azpilicueta created an opportunity for Christian Pulisic within the fifth minute. Mason Mount, who has been a key playmaker for the Blues, also missed two chances on either side of half-time for Chelsea.
Kai Havertz found the back of the net twice but was denied both times for being offside, while the linesman’s raised flag disallowed Lukaku’s finish. According to VAR, he had gone a second too early, drawing a line down his arm for being offside.
Chelsea pressed hard on the counter and found space in Liverpool’s half several times, but Klopp’s team weren’t without opportunities, coming extremely close in the second half of normal time.
The Carabao Cup final was always going to be laced with risk, and Tuchel wasn’t the only manager taking a chance.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp played Caoimhín Kelleher over first-choice keeper Alisson Becker against an opposition that possesses the calibre of European champions.
Nevertheless, the youngster repaid his boss’s faith in him with two impressive saves to deny Christian Pulisic during the 90 minutes and Romelu Lukaku deep into stoppage time. And if that wasn’t enough, he cooly converted the winning penalty at the home of English football.
Liverpool Win First Domestic Title in a Decade
Some never doubted that Klopp would start Kelleher, who has quickly established himself as Alisson’s deputy, stepping up at critical moments to help support his team.
Kelleher made two fine saves during Liverpool’s League Cup quarter-final win over Leicester and was unstoppable during the second leg of the semi-final against Arsenal.
While Arrizabalaga will understandably be distraught after fluffing his shot, the 2021/22 Carabao Cup final was a match that could have gone either way. Chelsea and Liverpool produced one of the most impressive goalless draws in recent history – packed with fine saves, big chances, disallowed goals, shootout drama and fouls.
Although Chelsea missed their shot at landing the first domestic cup of the season, the FA Cup and Champions League titles are still within reach. Thomas Tuchel also offered some words of encouragement and support to his team post-match, stating:
We have no regrets today. You did excellent. I don’t want anybody to lose sleep tonight because we could not have done better.
Liverpool has returned to form during the 2021/22 campaign and after getting off to the perfect start in the Carabao Cup, the Reds will be continuing as they mean to go on in hopes of securing the elusive quadruple.
Klopp’s side occupies second in the Premier League standings, six points behind current title holders Manchester City. Liverpool is also gunning for silverware in the Champions League and FA Cup tournaments.
Last season, Jurgen Klopp had to contend with injuries to key players and a relentless fixture schedule, which proved challenging for his men. However, fast forward twelve months, and Liverpool look like they have unlimited potential.
The win at Wembley – the German manager’s first after two previous visits to the famous arch for the finals – will undoubtedly light a fire under the team, which have won 12 of their last matches.
Like Chelsea, Liverpool created several chances and could have won during the second half if Joël Matip’s goal hadn’t been disallowed. Fans erupted in celebration as Matip headed home in the 67th minute, only for the goal to be chalked off by VAR.
VAR ruled that Virgil van Dijk had interfered with Chelsea substitute Reece James when Trent Alexander-Arnold played in a free quick and flagged him offside. However, the ruling didn’t dishearten Liverpool, who pressed and prompted Chelsea to defend fiercely.
Egyptian forward Mohammed Salah blew a one-on-one with Edouard Mendy after getting the angle wrong and ballooning his effort above the Chelsea keeper. Luis Diaz reacted with some skilful play, forcing Mendy to draw an especially fine save.
The Senegalese keeper also produced a stunning double save in the first half of normal time to deny Sadio Mane and Naby Keita and keep the score level for Chelsea.
It was a thrilling performance from both sides. While Chelsea will be feeling disheartened, the European Champions have a leg firmly cemented in the FA Cup and Champions League competitions.
For Liverpool, it’s one down and three to go. They chase Man City in the Premier League and could renew their rivalry with Chelsea during the Champions League if both teams go all the way. They also remain alive in the FA Cup and play Norwich City in their next home game on March 2nd, 2022.
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