Chelsea vs. Liverpool score: Kepa gamble by Tuchel fails as League Cup final goes to Reds in penalty thriller


Liverpool are the champions of the League Cup after beating Chelsea 11-10 in a penalty-kick shootout on Sunday in the final. Kepa Arrizabalaga came off the bench for the Blues for the shootout, but the goalkeeper did not save any of the 11 attempts he faced, and then he missed his attempt that secured the trophy for the Reds. The Spanish shot-stopper came into the match for Eduoard Mendy, who had an absolutely stunning game to keep his team in it. But when it came down to the most important moments, Kepa could not replicate the Senegalese superstar.

Regulation ended scoreless and neither team could score in extra time as numerous goals were ruled out for offside and VAR.

The win gives Liverpool the first trophy for the English soccer season, and for the Blues it will bring plenty of questions as to why manager Thomas Tuchel decided to make the change in extra time as opposed to riding with the hot hand.

Arrizabalaga, considered a penalty shootout specialist, was tasked to take the decisive kick after 21 consecutive penalty conversions, which I’m sure wasn’t what Tuchel initially had in mind. The pressure mounted on the Chelsea sub as the shootout dragged on and Liverpool’s young Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher calmly converted his penalty with a striker’s finish. Ultimately, Arrizabalaga sailed his shot into the Wembley crowd to the delight of Liverpool fans behind the net.

The two sides played an incredibly entertaining match that somehow finished scoreless after 120 minutes after countless chances and a number of goals called back either via the linesman or VAR. 

Only six minutes into the match, Christian Pulisic forced Kelleher into a good save, but from there, Liverpool grew into the match. Creating multiple chances, the Reds made Chelsea’s defense bend but it didn’t break. Specifically, targeting space been Trevoh Chalobah and the right wing back for Chelsea on Sunday. 

The Reds came close to an opener when Naby Kieta forced Edouard Mendy into a save in the 34th minute. What’s more impressive is that Kieta wasn’t even supposed to be in the starting lineup — he replaced Thiago when he was injured in the warmup. Following that first shot, Sadio Mane followed up from point-blank range but his fellow countryman Mendy used his impressive reflexes to make another save. Mason Mount had the best chance of the first half in a one-on-one with Kelleher, but fired wide with no pressure on him.

The second half began how the first ended, with another Mount miss, this time ricocheting off the crossbar. It was agonizingly close, but the ball pinged off of the inside of the post before trickling out and across the line. The Blues also received a blow in the 57th minute when Ceasar Azpilicueta was subbed off for an injury after making a clearance. Reece James stepped in to make his first appearance since Dec. 29.

VAR would then take center stage. Joel Matip had the ball in the back of the net, but due to a foul by Van Dijk, referee Stuart Attwell called the goal off after going to the monitor to review himself. Mendy again took over, stopping a point-blank Liverpool chance amid chaos in the box and making a stop on Van Dijk deep in stoppage time.

Lukaku thought he had redemption from a rough few weeks that saw him begin the match on the bench with a great chance in the 94th minute. Kelleher’s foot was in the right place at the right time to make a stop sending the match to extra time. The first period of extra time should’ve been renamed Lukaku time as he found acres of space whenever he wanted. He too had the ball in the back of the net following a wonderful through ball from Chalobah but was judged to be offside by his armpit after calling for the ball seeing things end level for the wild shootout that would see Liverpool be crowned winners.

Chelsea wasn’t able to get through Liverpool’s offside trap as they were ruled off a total of seven times during the match. The lack of adjustments was surprising to see as the Blues created plenty of chances if they could stay in line with their defenders.

Liverpool ratings

(GK) Caoimhin Kelleher

120 Kelleher’s day will be remembered for the striker’s finish from the penalty spot to win the cup, but he was solid throughout making four saves when called upon.


(DEF) Trent Alexander-Arnold

120 An excellent all-around performance. While six key passes is almost the expectation for Alexander-Arnold, he also had three interceptions, won both of his tackles and had seven ball recoveries on the day.


(DEF) Joel Matip

90 A steady day for Matip, was tidy with his passing and unlucky to have a goal called off due to a phantom foul from his center back partner Virgil van Dijk. Won seven tackles.


(DEF) Virgil Van Dijk

120 I’m not knocking Van Dijk for Liverpool’s goal being called back as his performance on the defensive end was so good. Leading the offside trap for the team, he had nine recoveries, and won the majority of his tackles and aerials while protecting Kelleher. 7

(DEF) Andrew Robertson

120 Underwhelming going forward with only one shot and one key pass, Robertson made up for it with his defensive shift — six recoveries and not letting his man beat him in the dribble is good enough. 7

(MID) Jordan Henderson

79 Not the greatest performance from the captain. Only completing 71 % of his passes, Henderson didn’t perform to his normal standard, giving Chelsea too many chances to get out on the break. 6

(MID) Fabinho

120 Fabinho was fine completing most of his long balls to spring the attack but defensively he wasn’t able to influence the game heavily. Some of this was due to Chelsea sticking to the wings, but he has set lofty standards for himself. 6

(MID)Naby Keita

80 Following the trend of disappointing midfield performances for the Reds, after an early shot on target to test Mendy, Keita didn’t stand out. A decent performance considering he wasn’t supposed to start this game before Thiago was hurt in the warmups. 6

(FWD) Sadio Mane

80 Unlucky not to score two goals on the day, Mane was excellent. He forced an amazing save out of his fellow countryman Mendy and was inches away from getting his head to a chance to put Liverpool ahead. 8

(FWD) Mohamed Salah

120 Salah struggled to get into space with only 48 touches across the entire match. Him taking on multiple defenders did give the other attackers more space to operate, but it was not the best performance from him. 6

(FWD) Luis Diaz

97 Liverpool’s brightest attacker on the day. He put both of his shots on target, and he was constantly pressuring Chelsea’s defenders until he finally ran out of steam in extra time. 8

Harvey Elliott

Henderson, ’79 Lucky to not be yellow carded being involved in the coming together between Havertz and Alexander-Arnold. Elliott was pretty anonymous but took a confident penalty. 6
Diogo Jota Mane, ’80 Possibly rushed back from injury too soon, Jota wasn’t making his usual runs and had trouble finding the game. 6
James Milner Keita, ’80 A professional performance, Milner was serviceable in defense and did just enough to move the ball forward, showing why he has had such a long career.  7
Ibrahima Kounate Matip, ’90 Struggled to defend Lukaku in extra time and was lucky that the Liverpool offside trap was so effective or it could’ve been a worse day for Kounate. 5

Divock Origi

Diaz, ’97 Only touching the ball ten times, there wasn’t much room for Origi magic in this one.  6
Jurgen Klopp 5 It’s all about preparation in finals and Liverpool were more prepared than Chelsea, catching them offside seven times and executing all 11 of their penalties. Credit has to go to Klopp for that. 8

Chelsea ratings

(GK) Edouard Mendy

117 Selected over regular cup goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mendy justified his place with an outstanding reflex save from Sadio Mane after he had failed to divert Naby Keita’s low drive to safety. This was by no means perfect — a loose clearance was nearly punished by Mohamed Salah — but in the clutch moments he delivered in style. If there were to be one further criticism to offer to Mendy he could have lent into the narrative by refusing to come off when Kepa was introduced for him. 9

(DEF) Trevoh Chalobah

120 Whatever task Thomas Tuchel throws at this youngster he rises to it as best he can. His commitment to the cause was typified when he took a Naby Keita boot to the groin chasing. 7

(DEF) Thiago Silva

120 There is no moment that better reflects what Silva brings to this side than his relatively comfortable goalline clearance when Salah looked to have chipped Mendy. This was vital defending that would be the difference between a goal or not. He made it look easy. 8

(DEF) Antonio Rudiger

120 Plenty of late interceptions and last-gasp clearances came from the boot of Rudiger. When Salah drove at him the German international would stand his ground. Often that was just about enough. 7

(MID) Cesar Azpilicueta

56 The Chelsea captain went close with a curling effort in the first half and offered pretty solid defense against the challenges coming down the Liverpool left. His passing was a little loose until injury forced him off early. 6

(MID) N’Golo Kante

120 First to so many loose balls, Kante ensured that the waves of Liverpool pressure never felt unbearable for Chelsea’s defense. In the first half in particular there were spells where it looked like he might be able to turn back the tide on his own. 7

(MID) Mateo Kovacic

105 As this game grew more fractured Kovacic’s soothing influence became more valuable. Increasingly he would pick the ball up in the middle of the pitch and just ensure Chelsea could have an extended spell on the ball. 8

(MID) Marcos Alonso

120 Some impressively probing passing from the left flank made for a more effective Alonso display than might have been expected… even if Liverpool did continually find pockets of space on his side. There were still baffling moments, like passing the ball into touch when Rudiger was only a few yards away, but this was not bad at all. 7

(FWD) Christian Pulisic

73 Though his sixth minute miss off a Kai Havertz cutback hung over much of this final, Pulisic was one of the most dangerous attackers on the Wembley pitch. He committed Liverpool defenders, attacked space and was not afraid to carry the ball far up the pitch. 7

(FWD) Kai Havertz

120 He knits this front three together in a way Romelu Lukaku simply can’t, a roving playmaker-cum-target man who can make the quick lay offs that Chelsea’s No. 9 cannot. Throughout the 120 minutes he was everywhere, cleaning up at the back one moment before charging up the field the next to make a telling pass. 8

(FWD) Mason Mount

73 Switched to the left perhaps so he could offer some defensive ballast ahead of Alonso, Mount struggled to influence this match in a positive way as he wasted two clear cut chances to fire Chelsea into the lead. 6
Substitutes Replaced How did they do? Rating

Reece James

Azpilicueta, 57′ The best compliment you could offer James is he did not look anything like a player who had been sidelined for the last two months. He swiftly settled into his groove and looked to be a dangerous weapon on the Chelsea right. 6

Timo Werner

Pulisic, 74′ Werner almost immediately proved to be a problem for Liverpool, darting into the spaces Trent Alexander-Arnold was leaving and not giving him a chance to get back. As ever the German ran himself ragged in pursuit of the ball. 6

Romelu Lukaku

Mount, 74′ This certainly was not as bad as the performances that saw him cast out of the side, though Lukaku will have believed he should have won this tie in the dying moments of normal time. 6
Jorginho Kovacic, 106′ In a brief cameo he kept things steady as Liverpool looked to up the pressure late on. 6
Kepa Mendy, 118′ You could not question the confidence of a man who stood a foot to his right, baiting Virgil van Dijk to hit the ball there. He did not manage to save any of the nine he faced though that was more down to the quality of the ball striking as any failings of Kepa. Sadly he could not say the same for his own ball striking. 4
Manager Subs used How did the manager do? Rating
Thomas Tuchel 5 It says everything about Tuchel’s ability to influence his squad that after a trying few days for the Chelsea squad, his players were able to focus so impressively on the task at hand. His attempt to swing the shootout in his favor clearly backfired. Whilst Kepa is excellent from 12 yards out might he not have been better backing Mendy’s hot hand? 5

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