From Wembley Stadium – Substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed the decisive spot-kick as Liverpool won a ridiculously dramatic 2022 Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
The build-up to the showpiece had been overshadowed by the outbreak of war in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, which led Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to hand over the running of the club to its charity foundation.
In his attempts to be diplomatic in his pre-match press conference, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel had admitted that events in Ukraine ‘clouded’ his players’ thoughts. Both sets of players and fans came together to show their support for Ukraine before kick-off in a minute’s applause, with a smattering of blue and yellow flags visible at both ends.
When the football finally got underway, the first half was punctuated by two pieces of world-class goalkeeping – one at each end – although Chelsea would rue missing two glaring chances.
Inside six minutes, Caoimhin Keller produced a wonderful reaction save to deny Christian Pulisic from point-blank range, although the American should have scored. It was Edouard Mendy’s turn to be the hero on the half-hour mark, first palming away Naby Keita’s low drive after it came through a crowd of players, before springing up and miraculously turning Sadio Mane’s rebound over the crossbar with an outstretched arm.
Liverpool eventually began to exert themselves after a cagey start and dominated the ball, although Chelsea always looked threatening on the break before half-time. On one those counters, Kai Havertz ran clear but could only lift a tame finish wide – although his blushes were just about saved by the flag.
The Blues twice came within a whisker of taking the lead in the final five minutes of the half. Cesar Azpilicueta’s drive sailed just over from the edge of the box before Mason Mount somehow smashed wide, unmarked and close in, when Havertz found him at the end of a sweeping move.
Mount squandered another huge opening four minutes into the second half, squeezing a low finish beyond Kelleher but agonisingly onto the inside of the post from Christian Pulisic’s lofted through ball.
After Chelsea’s fast start Liverpool would gain momentum and dominate large portions of the half. The imperious Thiago Silva was forced into a last-ditch clearance when Mohamed Salah lifted the ball over Mendy – although it may have been squirting wide.
The Reds thought they had the lead three minutes later when a training ground routine ended with Joel Matip nodding Mane’s knockdown into the roof of the net, but Virgil van Dijk was controversially adjudged to have impeded Mane’s marker Reece James in the build-up from an offside position.
It was Chelsea’s turn to be denied by the flag with 12 minutes to go when Havertz headed home, with substitute Timo Werner well offside in the build-up.
Both goalkeepers were forced into wonderful saves before the full-time whistle. Mendy kept Luis Diaz out from close range with just five minutes left, before Kelleher demonstrated his fine reactions once again to stop substitute Romelu Lukaku’s near-post flick in the final minute of stoppage time.
The drama continued into extra time, with Chelsea having the better of the first period. Werner curled an ambitious effort just over the upright before another offside call saw Lukaku’s fine strike chalked off after very good work from Trevoh Chalobah down the right. It looked marginal.
Havertz had the ball in the back of the net again five minutes into the second period, sweeping home. But – you guessed it – the linesman’s flag was raised. The rest of the half passed largely without incident, although penalty expert goalkeeper Arrrizabalaga was an unorthodox introduction off the bench for Mendy.
Liverpool won the toss and had the advantage of having the spot-kicks taken in front of their own fans. After ten flawless penalties each, it was up to the goalkeepers to potentially decide the outcome. Kelleher stuck his away, and Kepa’s introduction would backfire as he sent his strike rocketing into the London night sky.
Here’s how the players rated at Wembley…
Mendy makes his incredible save / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages
Edouard Mendy (GK) – 9/10 – World-class double save to keep it goalless. You will not see many better. Another huge stop with just five minutes left of normal time, and again in stoppage time. Monstrous. Subbed – crazily enough.
Trevoh Chalobah (CB) – 8/10 – Always tested by Luis Diaz but stood up to the test and persevered. Did so, so well.
Thiago Silva (CB) – 8/10 – Watchful, making a couple of crucial interventions before the break. Some monumental defending under the cosh in the second half. A behemoth.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – 7/10 – Displayed an aggressive determination to get to absolutely everything. Not as key as the two alongside him.
Kovacic challenges Mane / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages
Cesar Azpilicueta (RWB) – 6/10 – Solid and supported the attack well before being forced off early in the second half. Almost scored.
N’Golo Kante (CM) – 7/10 – Ubiquitous as ever, breaking up Liverpool’s play at every given opportunity.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – 8/10 – Energetic but always so intelligent in his decision-making. So calm under pressure and always picked the right pass. Booked and subbed.
Marcos Alonso (LWB) – 7/10 – Did surprisingly well up against Salah. His delivery was mostly on the money.
Mason Mount missed two huge chances / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages
Mason Mount (RF) – 5/10 – Should have scored at least once either side of half-time. Dangerous running, but subbed.
Kai Havertz (CF) – 7/10 – Movement and passing caused Liverpool real problems. Thought he’d scored another final goal but ruined by the flag. Ran tirelessly.
Christian Pulisic (LF) – 5/10 – Should have scored with pretty much his first touch, but denied by Kelleher. His dribbling caused problems but he faded before being subbed.
Reece James (RWB) – 6/10 – Back from injury! Won some crucial aerial duels to relieve the pressure.
Romelu Lukaku (ST) – 6/10 – So nearly onside before finishing confidently. Caused Liverpool a different kind of problem. Cool penalty.
Timo Werner (LF) – 6/10 – Made a real difference, causing Alexander-Arnold problems down the left. Just about squeezed his penalty in.
Jorginho (CM) – 5/10 – Introduced with penalties in mind.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – N/A – An ill-fated introduction. Didn’t save a penalty and skied the crucial spot-kick.
Kelleher had a good game / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages
Caoimhin Kelleher (GK) – 8/10 – Top-class reaction save early on. Made his own brilliant late stop to keep out Lukaku’s flick.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) – 7/10 – Exquisite set-piece delivery but denied by a VAR offside call. Excelled defensively and played the quarter back role as usual. Booked.
Joel Matip (CB) – 7/10 – Stout at that back and thought he’d scored the opener, only to be dramatically denied by VAR. Subbed.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 7/10 – Imperious as ever. Passed supremely and won the vast majority of his 20-plus duels.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 6/10 – Solid but not able to attack with as much freedom as he is used to, and his crossing wasn’t at its very best.
Keita is sandwiched by Chelsea players / Marc Atkins/GettyImages
Jordan Henderson (CM) – 5/10 – Probably lost the midfield battle against his tenacious opposite numbers. Quiet. Subbed.
Fabinho (CM) – 6/10 – Passed well but struggled against Kante and Kovacic too, not seeing too much of the ball. Delightful Panenka penalty.
Naby Keita (CM) – 5/10 – A late replacement for the injured Thiago Alcantara. Fortunate not to be punished for catching Trevoh Chalobah in the nether regions. Subbed.
Mane couldn’t beat his compatriot / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages
Mohamed Salah (RW) – 6/10 – Dangerous when he did have it but kept relatively quiet for the most part. Battled hard and actually got through plenty of defensive work. Lost control when he had a huge opening in extra-time.
Sadio Mane (ST) – 6/10 – Denied incredibly by his compatriot. Looked threatening but didn’t have any further chances. Clever assist ruled out after the VAR check.
Luis Diaz (LW) – 7/10 – Looked in the mood and always willing to take on Trevoh Chalobah. Occasionally guilty of taking too many touches but so good on the ball.
Diogo Jota (ST) – 5/10 – Struggled to get involved.
James Milner (CM) – 6/10 – Passed very smoothly and battled hard as you might expect.
Harvey Elliott (CM) – 5/10 – Game passed him by somewhat.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 6/10 – Slotted in seamlessly. Just about netted his penalty.
Divock Origi (LW) – 5/10 – Didn’t have the desired effect in open play.
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