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Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga endures worst night possible as Liverpool win Carabao Cup | Football | Sport


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Wembley is a place for heroes and there can be no more emphatic way to win a penalty shoot-out than when every single member of the team plays their part. But goodness me our national stadium can be cruel when it comes to singling out its footballing failures.

Chelsea’s reserve goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga came on in the final minute of extra time, conceded 10 penalties out of 10 and then blazed the decisive spot kick high over the bar.

It’s hard to imagine a worse possible night under the giant arch.

Three years ago Kepa had refused to be substituted by Maurizio Sarri ahead of the 2019 final shoot-out only to prove powerless to prevent Manchester City from winning the Carabao Cup.

But after England’s final defeat at Euro 2020 last summer, surely the wisdom of bringing on replacements just for the shoot-out had been re-examined?

So why on earth after 119 minutes of playing like a goalkeeper possessed was Edouard Mendy hauled off to be replaced by his stone-cold understudy?

On a different night, Jurgen Klopp might have been criticised for leaving the world’s best goalkeeper Alisson Becker out of it completely.

Instead, he stuck with understudy Caoimhin Kelleher and the Irish rookie capped a sound performance by slamming home what would prove to be the winning penalty.

But then, aside from goals, this was a final that had something of everything.

Some superb possession play from Liverpool, and stunning counter-attacking moves from Chelsea. Woeful finishing at both ends.

An object lesson in the art of defending from both Virgil Van Dijk and Thiago Silva and arguably the best display of goalkeeping at Wembley since the 1970s.

There were even four disallowed goals involving, unsurprisingly, more than its fair share of VAR controversy.

Liverpool even thought they had won it in normal time. Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered a testing free-kick to the far post, Sadio Mane nodded the ball down and across goal and Joel Matip threw himself at it to head in at the far post.

The Anfield South Kop roared, flares were lit and Liverpool thought that was the moment their domestic cup drought had ended.

However, Virgil Van Dijk, who was in an offside position, had grabbed Antonio Rudiger to stop him tracking Mane and referee Stuart Attwell had no choice but to decide he was interfering with play.

All day, though, it had looked that there would be no fair way of getting the ball past Mendy.

The highlight had come in the 31st minute when he saved Naby Keita’s low drive then got up quickly enough to touch Sadio Mane’s follow-up over the bar.

It was Sunderland’s Jim Montgomery in 1973 and then some – goalkeeping truly fit for a Wembley final.

In the second half he denied Mane again with a punch and spotted Van Dijk’s header through a group of players and also turned that aside. Luis Diaz was blocked at close range.

The only time he was beaten was when Mo Salah rather fluffed his chip in the 64th minute when one-on-one and Thiago Silva had plenty of time to scamper back and clear Chelsea’s lines.

Jurgen Klopp’s main concern was that Chelsea would catch his side on the break – and several times they should have done.

Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount, twice, missed gilt-edged chances and even when Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku were belatedly introduced, the three times Chelsea got the ball in the Liverpool net were all ruled out for offside.

Inevitably, then it was penalties. Tuchel held a long huddle with Kepa in the middle and his players all around.

But perhaps with his goalkeeper substitution decision, the final die had already been cast.

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