Liverpool’s Quadruple Quest Begin: LONDON, United Kingdom — The first trophy of the English season was won on Sunday, and spectacularly, as Chelsea and Liverpool battled it out at Wembley in a Carabao Cup final to remember (see a replay on ESPN+). The two teams united to put the ball in the back of the net four times, but the offside flag was raised each time. Despite the showmanship, 120 minutes went by without a goal.
The main reasons for this were Edouard Mendy and Caoimhin Kelleher. They were outstanding, each keeping their club in the game on multiple occasions. In actuality, the keepers would decide on the outcome.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was brought on to replace Mendy in the last stages of extra time for the shootout. He and Kelleher failed to stop any of the first 20 penalty efforts. The Liverpool goalkeeper converted try number 21, only for spot-kick expert Kepa to fly his effort far over the bar, resulting in an 11-10 penalty shootout victory for the Reds.
So, what can we learn from Sunday’s historically significant game? Mark Ogden (Liverpool) and James Olley (Chelsea) discuss the match from opposing viewpoints.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has now won five trophies | Liverpool’s Quadruple Quest Begin
As Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp has now won five trophies. In three months, he might add three more and make history by being the first English team to win the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League, and Champions League all in the same season.
With so many games left to play, completing a clean sweep of tournaments appears to be an impossibility at this point. Still, Liverpool’s Carabao Cup penalty shootout victory over Chelsea means they are now a fifth of the way to an unparalleled feat.
Manchester United’s treble triumph in 1999, when Sir Alex Ferguson’s club won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League, remains the English game’s pinnacle. Liverpool won both domestic cups and the UEFA Cup in 2001, and Manchester City won all three domestic trophies in 2019, but no team has ever come close to completing a quadruple.
However, after defeating Chelsea to win the Carabao Cup for the seventh time in a row, Liverpool now has the chance to do so.
Liverpool unquestionably benefited from their good fortune in this game. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount squandered clear first-half scoring chances, with Mount hitting the crossbar early in the second half. Kai Havertz then had two goals disallowed offside, while Romelu Lukaku had another goal despite video replays showing the Chelsea striker to be onside.
Despite Chelsea’s chances and failed to create enough opportunities, Liverpool won the trophy. What about the other three competitions in which they have a chance to win?
The Premier League appears to be the most challenging obstacle to overcome in the coming weeks. Still, Liverpool is currently only six points behind City, with a game in hand and a trip to the Etihad yet to come in April. Liverpool has little room for error in the Premier League, but they have firmly re-entered the race.
In the FA Cup, Klopp’s side will play Norwich City, the Premier League’s bottom team, at Anfield on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). If they win, they will be three wins away from winning the FA Cup for the first time since 2006.
Then there’s the Champions League, which Liverpool has won more than any other English club (six times). They have a 2-0 aggregate advantage over Internazionale. They will meet them at Anfield in the round-of-16 second leg on March 8, knowing they will not be frightened by any remaining clubs in the quarterfinal draw. Liverpool knows how to progress and win in the Champions League, and they are sure that they can do it again this season.
However, winning all four titles will require luck, both in terms of results and essential player fitness. This season, Liverpool has been fortunate in that regard. They’ve had few setbacks due to injury, and in January, they welcomed winger Luis Diaz to the mix.
Diaz has already made an impression, and Diogo Jota continues to score and assist. And, against Chelsea, Kelleher made a series of crucial stops to demonstrate his worth as Alisson’s backup.
Liverpool has the strength in depth to compete for all four titles. It may come down to City blocking their path in everything they still want to win, but they have three months to win three more trophies and make history after winning the Carabao Cup.
The best that can be said for Kepa in this situation is that he kept doing what he does best: determining penalty shootouts.
Kepa’s intervention, which saw him smash the 22nd and final penalty over the crossbar to give Liverpool an 11-10 victory, resulted from a decision that, while based on statistical rationale, was clearly at odds with what had gone before. Mendy had thwarted Liverpool so well in the previous 120 minutes that he was a strong contender for man of the match, and he had done more than enough to earn his spot in Chelsea’s shootout goal.
Subbing on Kepa has shown to be a successful strategy in the past. Tuchel made the identical adjustment in the UEFA Super Cup final in August, when Kepa stopped two penalties to overcome Villarreal 6-5 in a shootout.
Kepa holds the record for most penalty saves in Chelsea history, with ten in total, eight in shootouts, including this season’s Carabao Cup last-16 match against Southampton. Even if the Senegal No. 1 recently demonstrated his own skill set by saving a spot-kick in the Africa Cup of Nations final against Egypt, the club’s internal data simply reveals that Kepa is a stronger shootout shot stopper than a stronger stopper Mendy.
However, the adjustment felt counter-productive in this situation. Because of wayward finishing, the tightest of VAR offside calls denying Lukaku, and Kelleher’s outstanding showing for Liverpool, this highly entertaining final was denied a solitary goal in two hours of football. On the other hand, Mendy had the most impact on this final, justifying his selection ahead of Kepa from the start.
Kepa had started every match on the way to Wembley, and the club has been impressed with his progress in recent months, which was seen in a string of steady performances while Mendy was away at the AFCON last month. However, sources have told ESPN that Chelsea will consider bids for Kepa, and if there was any doubt that the 27-year-old would be encouraged to leave this summer, the Wembley showpiece has dispelled it.
Three years later Kepa refused to be substituted minutes before a penalty shootout in the 2019 Carabao Cup final. Kepa will not miss this competition if he leaves England after the season.
This heinous plot served as a diversion from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a situation that feels uncomfortably close to Chelsea after Russian owner Roman Abramovich revealed on Saturday evening his decision to hand over control of the club to the club’s trustees.
Ukraine flags decorated the Liverpool end, where fans booed the English national song before play. Still, Kepa’s predicament provided sporting comfort from a stressful political backdrop towards the end of an entertaining match.
Chelsea might not have even made it to penalties if Kepa had started the game, but they might have won it in the shootout if Mendy had finished it.
Kepa never appeared to have a chance to save any of Liverpool’s 11 penalties. Even standing to the left of the centre when Virgil van Dijk lined up his penalty attempt, the Dutchman smashed his effort to the left of the goal, easily defeating his opponent. Of course, Kepa wasn’t sent on to take a penalty, but after 20 successful conversions, he couldn’t equal Kelleher’s somewhat more mature delivery with the ball at his feet.
It’s easy to assume Tuchel overanalyzed the situation
“I feel horrible for him, but I don’t hold him responsible,” Tuchel said of Kepa. “Kepa simply has more practice time [for penalties] than Edu, who plays a lot more.”
“I have no regrets; I accept full responsibility.” Of course, I accept responsibility.”
After Liverpool won the trophy, Chelsea’s players began going off to the dressing room. Mendy was the last to leave. If he’d been permitted to stay in the game for a little longer, the outcome might have been very different.