Liverpool won an epic League Cup final 11-10 on penalties over Chelsea on Sunday to claim the trophy for a record ninth time and complete step one of an unprecedented quadruple this season.
The match, played against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s decision to hand over stewardship of the club, was won in dramatic style as Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel saw his late gamble backfire.
After 20 successful penalties, Caoimhin Kelleher was the Liverpool hero, first stepping up to make it 11-10 and then seeing Kepa Arrizabalaga smash his spot kick high over the bar to settle an extraordinary game.
Tuchel introduced Kepa in the 119th minute ahead of the shootout — an intervention that brought back memories of the 2019 final when Kepa refused to be substituted by Maurizio Sarri ahead of the penalty shootout with Manchester City. Kepa prevailed in that standoff, only to see City win the shootout 4-3 to lift the cup. And once again the goalkeeper was on the losing side as Liverpool celebrated a remarkable victory.
Ahead of the final Chelsea released a statement on Sunday saying the situation in Ukraine was “horrific” while both sets of players stood and applauded in solidarity, with a message that read “Football stands together” before kickoff. The match itself was a gripping spectacle of chances at either end, a litany of disallowed goals and high drama, settled on penalties following a gruelling 120 minutes of football.
Liverpool’s success means the club remain on for an unprecedented haul of four trophies this season, with Jurgen Klopp’s side still in the FA Cup and Champions League as well as fighting Manchester City for the Premier League title.
Success at Wembley represented Klopp’s first domestic cup for Liverpool after winning the Champions League and Premier League title — and the club’s first League Cup win for 10 years.
For Chelsea, Tuchel was unable to add to his collection of three trophies since taking over as manager last year and questions will be asked over his decision to replace the outstanding Edouard Mendy with Kepa, who failed to save a single penalty before hitting his spot kick high over the bar.
The match was defined by a succession of golden missed chances, fine goalkeeping displays and VAR controversy, with Mason Mount particularly culpable of two big misses in each half.
Klopp and Tuchel both had goalkeeping conundrums ahead of the game, with the Liverpool manager choosing to keep faith with 23-year-old Republic of Ireland international Kelleher ahead of first choice Alisson and his Chelsea counterpart opting for Blues No.1 Edouard Mendy instead of Kepa despite the world’s most expensive goalkeeper playing in every round prior to the final. Tuchel also made the call to bench Romelu Lukaku.
Kai Havertz started in place of Lukaku and began brightly, with the ball finding its way to Christian Pulisic early on but Kelleher kept him out from close range when the United States forward should have done better.