Liverpool win epic Carabao Cup final as Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga misses decisive penalty kick
Liverpool edged Chelsea in a nerve-wracking 11-10 penalty shoot-out to win the Carabao Cup at Wembley – their first domestic cup in a decade and their ninth League Cup.
After 120 minutes without a goal and 20 perfect penalties it was down to the goalkeepers to take one with Kepa Arrizabalaga missing the crucial spot-kick after Caoimhin Kelleher had converted.
Thomas Tuchel’s decision to substitute on the Spaniard for No.1 Edouard Mendy for the shoot-out ultimately backfired as Kepa blazed his effort over the bar to gift Liverpool the trophy.
A thrilling final in which VAR played its part was a story with all three goalkeepers playing an important role in truth.
Chelsea had the first big chance of the match after just seven minutes as Kai Havertz found Cesar Azpilicueta on the right, who squared it to Christian Pulisic, but the American’s first-time shot from close range was palmed away by Liverpool keeper Kelleher.
The Blues were showing more intensity in the early stages with Liverpool’s frightening front three of Mo Salah, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane seeing little of the ball.
But it wasn’t long before Mane had a golden chance and forced Mendy into an incredible save.
Chelsea’s No.1 initially got down low to his right to deny Naby Keita’s drilled effort from the edge of the box, and as everyone expected Mane to tap home the rebound from four yards, Mendy scrambled to his feet, incredibly tipping the ball over the bar with his fingertips.
Chelsea should have headed into the break a goal up but Mason Mount missed a glorious chance on the stroke of half-time, failing to hit the target unmarked from 10 yards out when he connected with Havertz’s chipped in pass.
Tuchel’s side came out strongest once again with Mount spurning another chance within five minutes of the second half, this time hitting the post when one-one-one with the goalkeeper.
Everything positive Chelsea were trying to do came through Havertz with Tuchel’s decision to start him over £97.5m signing Romelu Lukaku proving effective.
But the German winger was left wondering what more he could do as Mount failed to slot past Kelleher after latching onto his ball over the top of the Liverpool defence – Tuchel hit the ground in frustration as a result.
At the other end of the pitch, Salah’s first real chance saw him denied by Thiago Silva as the Brazilian raced back to clear his lines after the Egyptian had dinked the ball over an on-rushing Mendy having found some space.
On 67 minutes Joel Matip thought he’d given his side the lead but Virgil van Dijk was ruled offside in the build up to the goal from the free-kick having interfered with play.
Chelsea’s defence switched off as Mane’s back post-header from a well worked Trent Alexander-Arnold cross bounced across the six-yard box for Matip to head home but Van Dijk’s offside interference saw VAR intervene and chalk the goal off.
Not long after, Chelsea too suffered the heartbreak of a goal being disallowed as Havertz’s header was ruled out with Timo Werner offside from Mateo Kovacic’s through ball.
With the game on a knife edge and into the six minutes of injury-time, Chelsea again needed Mendy to keep them in the tie, this time denying Van Dijk’s header with a one-handed save.
Kelleher then denied Lukaku from close range down the other end to send the game into extra-time. The Belgian had the ball in the back of the net in the first period of extra-time but was ruled offside by the tightest of margins.
Chelsea fans would celebrate prematurely again in the second half, this time Havertz converting but the linesman immediately raising his flag for offside again.
Kepa, who infamously refused to be substituted off in the 2019 final in similar circumstances, came on for the penalty shoot-out but it was not to be a fairytale ending for the shot-stopper.
Chelsea’s penalty takers in order: Marcos Alonso, Romelu Lukaku, Kai Havertz, Reece James, Jorginho, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah, Kepa Arrizabalaga (missed).
Liverpool’s penalty takers in order: James Milner, Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold , Mo Salah, Diogo Jota, Divock Origi, Andy Robertson, Harvey Elliott, Ibrahima Konate, Caoimhin Kelleher.