5 things we learned from Liverpool's remarkable Carabao Cup triumph

  • Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 after extra-time in Carabao Cup final
  • Virgil van Dijk with winner to hand Reds their tenth League Cup
  • Key analysis and takeaways from Wembley

Van Dijk scored the winner
Van Dijk scored the winner / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Liverpool won their record tenth League Cup with a 1-0 victory against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday.

The much-depleted Reds stood tall and conquered the Blues under the arch to take home the first major domestic trophy of the 2023/24 season.

Much has been made of Chelsea's collapse, but we're here to honour Liverpool for their success. Here are five things we at 90min learned from Sunday's classic.

A real triumph of coaching

Jurgen Klopp
One of football's greatest ever managers / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Football management is not simply about picking a team and devising tactics. It is about connection and feeling, coaching and developing, turning boys to men.

Jurgen Klopp is not just the guy prowling the Liverpool technical area, but an embodiment of the club. There is no better figurehead, no modern great more legendary around Anfield.

It wasn't by design to have so many academy kids running around out on the Wembley turf, but this season has been about needs-must for the Reds. Everyone needs to be ready to step up, including youngsters in a cup final. That starts and ends with Klopp.

It's poetic that he managed to win a Carabao Cup with a lineup that has so often resembled ones that have been accused of disrespecting the competition at earlier stages. Maybe that's why Klopp hailed this as his 'most special trophy'.

The £75m bargain

Virgil Van Dijk
Van Dijk was named Player of the Match for his contributions / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Liverpool were almost universally criticised for agreeing to Southampton's £75m demands to sign Virgil van Dijk in January 2018. Yet over half a decade later, he's still delivering the goods on the biggest stages.

Now club captain, Van Dijk is leading with the armband as well as by example. He thought he'd opened the scoring with a fine header on 60 minutes, only for it to be ruled out for offside against Wataru Endo. The Dutchman would eventually get an even sweeter reward with a 118th-minute winner instead.

At the other end, Van Dijk covered a lot of open space to combat the threat of Chelsea's counter attacks, while he was never given any bother by Nicolas Jackson despite the Senegal striker's Darwin Nunez-like penchant for chaos and mania.

Imagine if Ibrahima Konate could stay fit

Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate
Konate was similarly excellent / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Alongside Van Dijk was the equally dominant Ibrahima Konate, who was serenaded by shouts of 'IBOUUUUU' from the Liverpool end every time he made a recovery challenge.

Konate doesn't often get talked about among the Premier League's best defenders due to his patchy fitness record, but that's the only thing keeping him out of those conversations. He showed up in a big way in a cup final again.

These are the performances that matter. Liverpool probably need to start planning for a successor to Van Dijk and perhaps bring in another to fill the void when Konate isn't available, but they should still be the first-choice duo for the coming year.

Caoimhin Kelleher becomes Liverpool's latest strange cult figure

Caoimhin Kelleher, Conor Gallagher
Kelleher played out of his skin / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum against Barcelona. Adrian in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup. Kostas Tsimikas in the 2022 FA Cup final. And now, Caoimhin Kelleher in the 2024 Carabao Cup final.

The Irish goalkeeper pulled off similar heroics in 2022 against Chelsea, but Sunday's heroics went above and beyond even those efforts. Cole Palmer was somehow denied by Kelleher in the first half before the pick of the saves came late in the second, sprawling himself to deny Conor Gallagher when one-on-one.

"We have the best goalkeeper in the world, and we have the best number two in the world," Klopp gushed post-match.

The kids are alright

During last month's 2-0 FA Cup third-round triumph at Arsenal, Klopp put Mikel Arteta to shame by turning to the kids and still eeking out a win on their travels.

On Sunday, he put every manager in world football to shame. Liverpool's maturity did not wane despite their average age plummeting with some of their substitutions.

There is a clear link between the academy and first-team. There is an incentive for teenagers and adolescents to keep working, keep pushing. They will be rewarded. It would have been very easy for Klopp to make no changes at all and use the excuse that he simply didn't have the senior players required to play in a cup final, but there's hope for anyone to get some minutes in any match if they're good enough.

Conor Bradley didn't shy away from having to play on the wing, relishing the chance to get under Ben Chilwell's skin. James McConnell and Bobby Clark both looked like they belonged. Jayden Danns wasn't scared to go toe-to-toe with the physical and aggressive Axel Disasi.

Liverpool have found unity, and the only real shame for them is this era of their history is coming to a close.