EFL Cup review

Van Dijk ensures quadruple is still on for Klopp's farewell

25 Feb 2024
Klopp trophy lift

Liverpool captain heads in extra-time goal as youthful Reds beat Chelsea 1-0 in EFL Cup final

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Virgil van Dijk's extra-time header earned Liverpool a dramatic 1-0 win over Chelsea in the EFL Cup final, keeping the dream of a quadruple alive in Jurgen Klopp's final season as manager.

The Liverpool captain glanced in substitute Kostas Tsimikas' corner in the 118th minute for a Reds team ravaged by injuries, ending the match with arguably only two of their strongest starting XI.

It was heartbreak for Chelsea, who had perhaps the better chances of the match but fell to a sixth straight final defeat at Wembley Stadium, with Mauricio Pochettino still looking for his first major trophy in English football.

How the match unfolded

Chelsea were unchanged from the side that drew 1-1 at Manchester City last weekend. Jurgen Klopp made two changes from the team that beat Luton Town 4-1 in midweek, with Ibrahima Konate and Andrew Robertson replacing Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah. Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai were among the big-name absentees due to injury.

Despite their absences, Liverpool started brightly, with Luis Diaz twice denied by goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic. But Chelsea had the biggest chance of the first half. The ball fell to Cole Palmer six yards out, but his powerful shot was saved by Caoimhin Kelleher before Nicolas Jackson's follow-up was blocked.

Liverpool were forced into a change on 28 minutes, when Ryan Gravenberch was taken off on a stretcher following a late challenge by Moises Caicedo.

Gravenberch stretchered off

It took Liverpool's lengthy injury list to 12 players.

Chelsea thought they had taken the lead through Raheem Sterling but the goal was disallowed for an offside against Jackson in the build-up. Cody Gakpo then headed against a post from Robertson's cross. 

Liverpool then had a goal of their own chalked off. Van Dijk headed in from Robertson's free-kick but a VAR review found Wataru Endo was offside and interfering with play as he blocked the run of Chelsea defender Levi Colwill. 

Klopp brought on Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns, the most teenagers to feature in an EFL Cup final since Arsenal also had three in 2007.

Somehow the match remained goalless at the end of 90 minutes. Conor Gallagher struck a post before being denied by Kelleher in a 1v1, while Liverpool survived an incredible goalmouth scramble in the fourth minute of added time, with three Chelsea shots repelled.

Gallagher, Chelsea

Liverpool seemed revitalised in extra-time and after Harvey Elliott had a header kept out by Petrovic, Van Dijk struck the telling blow. 

The Liverpool skipper glanced in from Tsimikas' corner to send the red half of Wembley into delirium.

Nineteen of the Dutchman's 23 goals for Liverpool have been headers, but he had never scored in the EFL Cup before today, his 13th appearance in the competition.

It was also the latest winning goal scored in an EFL Cup final since Aston Villa’s Brian Little in 1977, who netted in the 119th minute against Everton.

Not only do Liverpool lift the first major trophy of the season, it also keeps alive their hopes of winning the quadruple in Klopp's final campaign in charge. 

Liverpool's trophy wins under Klopp

Premier League (2019/20)
UEFA Champions League (2018/19)
FA Cup (2021/22)
EFL Cup (2021/22, 2023/24)
UEFA Super Cup (2019)
FIFA Club World Cup (2019)

What's next? 

Liverpool's hopes of another trophy can be boosted in midweek. They play Southampton at home in the fifth round of the FA Cup. They then visit Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday, when they have the chance to restore their four-point lead at the top, given Manchester City and Arsenal play on Sunday and Monday respectively. 

After that, they face Sparta Prague in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 on Thursday 7 March, three days before a mouthwatering title-rivals clash against Man City at Anfield in the Premier League.

For Chelsea, they host Leeds United in the FA Cup on Wednesday, after an energy-sapping 120 minutes at Wembley.

The results of the midweek FA Cup ties will impact Matchweek 29 in the Premier League, which is the same weekend as the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Liverpool's EFL Cup win also guarantees them a place in the playoff stages of next season's UEFA Europa Conference League, although their current league position suggests that qualification place is likely to be passed on to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League come the end of the season.

Next five Premier League fixtures

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