X reacts as Virgil van Dijk wins Carabao Cup for Liverpool against wasteful Chelsea

  • Sunday's Carabao Cup final was goalless for 118 minutes
  • Van Dijk nodded in the winner after an earlier header had been ruled out by VAR
  • Chelsea had ample opportunities to win the game in normal time

Winning goal
Winning goal / Nigel French/Allstar/GettyImages

"A final is about winning," Mauricio Pochettino declared ahead of Chelsea's showdown with Liverpool in the Carabao Cup showpiece. “Being second is the worst thing in the world."

One can only imagine how low Pochettino sunk after Virgil van Dijk's towering header won the contest for Liverpool with just seconds remaining of extra-time in Sunday's final.

Chelsea started skittishly, cheaply turning the ball over deep inside their half during the opening exchanges, but the first clear chance of the match fell to those in blue. Raheem Sterling couldn't tame the bouncing ball but Cole Palmer followed up with a swipe towards goal from point-blank range which Caoimhin Kelleher rebuffed immaculately.

The Irish number one would likely have started regardless of Alisson's fitness but has been called upon since Liverpool's first-choice shot-stopper pulled up with a hamstring problem.

Alisson was one of 11 senior players not included in Liverpool's injury-ravaged squad. Ryan Gravenberch joined the bulging brigade on the sidelines within the opening half-hour after getting caught by Moises Caicedo with a late tackle.

On-pitch referee Chris Kavanagh didn't even award a free kick, let alone dish out a booking or the red card that a visibly enraged Jurgen Klopp demanded on the touchline. Plenty of onlookers shared the Liverpool manager's disdain.

Klopp turned to his reliable Swiss army knife Joe Gomez, forcing Conor Bradley into a right-wing position and nudging Harvey Elliott centrally.

An even and open contest that swung from one end of Wembley to the other was almost decided by a prosaic dead-ball situation. Van Dijk towered above Ben Chilwell to break the deadlock in the second half but was left with his arms outstretched when VAR got involved.

Wataru Endo blocked Levi Colwill's run from an offside position, prompting VAR to chalk off Liverpool's opener and the internet to unleash its disgust.

Liverpool may have outshot Chelsea in normal time but the Blues had the clear chances. But there was just no way past Kelleher. As impressive as Alisson's understudy was, Chelsea helped the keeper out by firing each effort directly at him.

The inefficiency of Pochettino's side was captured by a bonkers sequence of four shots in a handful of seconds from within the confines of Liverpool's penalty box at the end of normal time. This fixture has form for finishing frustrations. The two clubs met in both domestic cup finals during the 2021/22 season and failed to score across four hours of football.

While some onlookers were enthralled by the chaotic spectacle - the clubs shared 31 shots, 12 of which were on target before extra-time - others needed a goal.

By the end of the match, Liverpool had three teenagers on the pitch, with 218 minutes of senior football in their careers between them.

Van Dijk, halfway through his 32nd year, proved to be the match winner - eventually. There was no pesky VAR intervention this time as the experienced Dutchman steered Kostas Tsimikas' 118th-minute corner inside the far post.