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Team of heroes as Klopp’s kids are alright! – 5 talking points from Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea

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Liverpool secured Carabao Cup success at Wembley as Virgil van Dijk‘s late winner condemned Chelsea to a 1-0 defeat, with Jurgen Klopp‘s legacy once again front and centre.

Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (AET)

Carabao Cup Final, Wembley Stadium
February 25, 2024

Goals: Van Dijk 118′


Jurgen Klopp’s legacy underlined

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the League Cup widely perceived to be a ‘lesser’ trophy, it felt this game was being billed as little more than the first and least important leg of Liverpool’s unlikely quadruple push.

But, when all is said and done, this victory may eventually be viewed as the iconic moment of Jurgen Klopp‘s farewell tour and an encapsulation of the legacy he will leave behind in May.

As Chelsea found to their cost, the character and quality the German has instilled in the first team runs all the way into the club’s youth setup and beyond.

As such, while it has regularly been said that following Klopp is the impossible job, the reality is that his successor is set to inherit a winning culture that promises future success.

 

McConnell the picture of composure

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Virgil van Dijk captain of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

It might be unfair to pick out any one of what Gary Neville called ‘Klopp’s Kids’ given all deserve huge credit for their contributions to this win.

But James McConnell‘s arrival into the game with three minutes of normal time remaining should be heralded as crucial to Liverpool going on to win the game.

Alexis Mac Allister had played brilliantly up until that point, but evidence of the work he had put in could be seen in Chelsea dominating the closing stages.

However, McConnell helped turn things back in the Reds’ favour, completing 34 out of 39 passes, creating three chances, and contesting six duels.

With midfield control secured again, Liverpool stemmed the flow of Chelsea chances and worked themselves into a position from which the game could be won, and McConnell was a major part of that.

 

Kelleher the hero – again!

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher makes a save during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Had you told Caoimhin Kelleher prior to his last League Cup final outing that he would be Liverpool’s hero, he probably would not have imagined it to be through scoring the winner in a penalty shootout.

Fortunately for the Irishman, he was able to take on that mantle yet again this time around in rather more conventional fashion for a goalkeeper.

Kelleher kept out a frankly ludicrous 2.95 xGOT (expected goals on target) in making nine saves across the 120 minutes, almost single-handedly keeping the Reds’ chances of victory alive at times.

It was a performance worthy of two medals and a reminder that, when Klopp says he has the best number two keeper in the world, he isn’t simply attempting to boost his player’s confidence.

 

Van Dijk a true Liverpool captain

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring the winning goal in extra time during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was suggested last summer that Liverpool could possibly live to regret the loss of two major dressing room leaders in James Milner and Jordan Henderson.

But, while that pair’s influence on creating a strong dressing room culture deserves to be recognised, so too does the seamless manner in which Van Dijk has continued it.

It helps that the Dutchman is arguably the best defender in the world, as he showed here in winning seven duels and clocking up 14 defensive actions to keep Chelsea at bay.

And then to top it all off by scoring a late winner having previously been cruelly denied one by VAR – that’s what you call a captain’s performance.

 

Injury woe the only concern

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch is treated for an injury during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It feels almost perverse to focus on the negatives after one of the truly great days in Liverpool’s history, but you can bet Klopp’s mind will quickly turn to what is next for his side.

And that will involve assessing an injury list that was added to here by the loss of Ryan Gravenberch in the first half.

The Dutchman was seen wearing a protective boot and using crutches at full-time, which suggests there are fears that ankle ligament damage has been sustained.

The hope is that this was just a precautionary measure, as Liverpool can ill afford to have Gravenberch join the 11 others currently on the sidelines when there are six games to come in the next 21 days.