Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool (aet): 3 Blues Talking Points

Chelsea once again fell short at Wembley, losing to a late Liverpool goal in extra time in the League Cup final. Virgil van Dijk's header sealed the win for Jurgen Klopp's side, leaving Mauricio Pochettino's team back to square one.
Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final
Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Raheem Sterling believed he had scored for Chelsea in the 32nd minute by slotting in from the far post. However, Nicolas Jackson was deemed offside in the preceding play, resulting in the goal being nullified following an extensive VAR review.

A similar scenario unfolded on the hour mark when Van Dijk nodded the ball past Djordje Petrovic, seemingly giving Liverpool the lead. Yet, the referee consulted the pitchside monitor and disallowed the goal due to an offside infringement. Despite numerous attempts, neither team managed to score in regulation time, leading to the need for extra-time in the cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool.

In extra-time, Van Dijk once again found the net with a header past Djordje Petrovic, this time with the goal standing, and beating the west London club in three consecutive final appearances. This result also means Chelsea will not be given an automatic spot to play in the Europa Conference League next season.

Liverpool dealt with injuries well

Although there was a momentary hope of Mo Salah's inclusion in the Liverpool squad when he was seen on the Wembley turf before the match, but it was clear he would only be a spectator. Despite Klopp's two changes from the 4-1 win over Luton, which strengthened the team, Salah's absence was just one part of a larger injury problem evident from the youthful bench. The injury toll continued as Ryan Gravenberch was stretchered off after a tough challenge from Moises Caicedo. With many key players missing, Liverpool's focus shifted to determination over finesse. Klopp later leaned towards the youth players due to limited options, disproving Chelsea's excuse of injuries and inexperience being decisive factors on why they’re so poor. While Virgil van Dijk, a senior player, secured the win for Liverpool, Chelsea were having trouble playing their way through Klopp’s inexperience midfield.

The ‘who’s at fault’ dilemma

Following the defeat, the Chelsea players will likely dwell on the missed opportunities to take the lead. Despite numerous chances on the break, Pochettino's side continued their season-long struggle with clinical finishing. Conor Gallagher, Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Jackson, Cole Palmer—all had their opportunities but failed to capitalize, particularly towards the end of normal time. Despite these misses, Chelsea maintained control of the game before extra time. Liverpool, fielding a youthful lineup, appeared vulnerable, yet Chelsea failed to capitalize in the final 30 minutes. Whether due to fitness or tactical decisions, Chelsea's approach in extra time was puzzling and ultimately contributed to their second-place finish. Nicolas Jackson's departure from the field exacerbated Chelsea's struggles, as his replacement, Christopher Nkunku, didn't pose the same threat to the Liverpool defense. This change disrupted Chelsea's effective in-behind approach, which had been successful earlier in the game.

Record breaking losers

Chelsea has made history on Sunday - but for all the wrong reasons. Chelsea's recent history in domestic cup finals has been marked by disappointment, as they have now become the first club ever to suffer defeat in six consecutive such finals. The streak began with the League Cup loss in 2019, followed by FA Cup defeats in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, Chelsea fell short in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals, extending their streak. The trend continued into 2024 with another loss in the League Cup final. This string of defeats highlights the struggles Chelsea has faced in converting their cup final appearances into victories, undoubtedly a source of frustration for the club and its supporters.