Liverpool dig deep into Academy and extra time to beat Chelsea in Carabao Cup final

February 26 – It may on paper have been the least valued and coveted of the various domestic trophies on offer but outgoing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted it was his most cherished yet.

Liverpool’s 1-0 Carabao Cup final victory over Chelsea on Sunday provided a remarkable logic-defying story that defied the old adage that you don’t win anything with kids and will live long in the memory.

Liverpool’s line-up was stripped of some of its most precious assets going into a meeting with Chelsea’s billion-pound squad. Among those missing were Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota, Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones. To boot, midfielder Ryan Gravenberch  had to be stretchered off in the first half following a dangerous tackle.

And yet they went on to land yet another trophy, sealed by Virgil vsn Dijk’s header  two minutes from the end of extra time but made possible by a group of teenagers hardly known by the wider public.

Chelsea’s missed opportunity – their sixth successive Wembley defeat – was labelled ‘billion-pound bottle jobs’ by former Manchester United defender and TV pundit Gary Neville.

And for manager Mauricio Pochettino, it was yet another sobering setback in his quest to win a first trophy in English football.

Chelsea will never have had a better chance but all credit must go to Klopp whose injury crisis was so severe he had to put his faith in a group of youngsters with barely a handful of first team appearances between them.

Having already started with a patched-up eleven, as the game edged towards extra time a flagging Liverpool were in need of an injection of energy to wrestle momentum back in their favour. Enter four little-known subs, including three teenagers, before the Reds found the decisive breakthrough.

“I got told outside that you don’t win trophies with kids. Write it new. In my more than 20 years (as a manager), this is easily the most special trophy I have ever won,” Klopp, who has won every trophy in the book and is aiming for an unprecedented quadruple in his last season at Liverpool, told reporters. “Academy players coming on against a top, top side, and (helping to) win it.”

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