Liverpool win League Cup after Kepa . missed shoot-out

Liverpool won the League Cup final in dramatic fashion when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed the decisive penalty to give the Reds an 11-10 victory after a pulse-pounding 0-0 draw at Wembley on Sunday.

Jürgen Klopp’s side won its first domestic knockout prize since the 2012 League Cup when Kepa fired his goal high over the bar.

It was the only miss in the nerve-wracking shoot-out in which Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher scored his penalty just before Kepa failed.

Ironically, Kepa was sent off at the end of extra time to replace Edouard Mendy, given his reputation as a penalty-saving specialist, but the Spaniard couldn’t stop a single kick from Liverpool.

Kepa had already suffered a lot in the 2019 League Cup final when he angrily refused to be replaced for a shoot-out defeat to Manchester City.

Liverpool saw Joel Matip’s goal controversially disallowed for marginal offside against Virgil van Dijk in the second half, while Chelsea had three goals disallowed for offside later in the game.

The Reds have won the League Cup nine times, with Klopp becoming the first German manager to win the tournament after finally tasting Wembley success after two previous defeats as boss there.

“There has to be room for some sentiment. Caoimhin Kelleher is a young boy, plays in all competitions. I can’t tell him he can’t play the final,” Klopp said.

“I am a manager and a human being and the human being has won. He deserves it.

“I am happy for the people in dark times to celebrate such a thing. Chelsea is incredibly strong, we were evenly matched. We had to be lucky.”

Liverpool remain in contention for an unprecedented fourfold after narrowing the gap on Premier League leader Manchester City to six points with a game in hand.

They are on course for the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a last 16 first leg win at Inter Milan and hosting Norwich in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday.

Though the game was memorable, it got off to a bleak start as both teams united before kick-off in a show of support for war-torn Ukraine.

Amid the Russian invasion of his neighbour, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson carried flowers in the country’s yellow and blue colors onto the pitch.

For Chelsea, this was a painful end to a difficult week as Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich announced on Saturday that he will give “administrators of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care” of the club.

Abramovich, who remains the owner of the club, made the move following calls in British Parliament to strip Russian oligarchs of their assets.

– Relentless Reds –

Chelsea paid for a series of missed chances, with Christian Pulisic lavishly leading his effort towards Kelleher from close range in the opening minutes.

Mendy spread out to the right to fend off Naby Keita’s 20-yard drive, then scrambled across to push Sadio Mane’s follow-up over the crossbar with one hand at close range when it looked certain he would score.

Chelsea should have been in the lead before halftime when Pulisic found Havertz and he knocked off a cross to Mason Mount, who somehow shot from eight yards wide with the goal at his mercy.

Incredibly, Mount had an even worse miss early in the second half, shoving his shot against the post after Pulisic’s nimble chip left his team-mate completely unmarked in the area.

Chelsea escaped in the 67th minute when Matip Mane’s header from close range nodded into the roof of the net before Van Dijk was judged offside.

The intensity of both teams was relentless and Havertz saw his header disallowed for a much more obvious offside than the one Klopp’s side denied.

Introduced after being left on the bench for the second consecutive game, Romelu Lukaku thought he had put Chelsea ahead in extra time, but a questionable offside decision prevented his clinical finish.

Havertz was also denied a goal by another offside flag, allowing Liverpool to take the podium in the shoot-out.

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