April 24, 2024

Carabao Cup: ‘Jurgen Klopp’s kids beat Chelsea’s billion-pound bottle jobs’ – pundits react to Liverpool’s victory

Liverpool have now beaten Chelsea in three Wembley finals in the last two years, having also beaten them on penalties in both the 2022 FA Cup and EFL Cup finals
Liverpool have now beaten Chelsea in three Wembley finals in the last two years, having also beaten them on penalties in both the 2022 FA Cup and EFL Cup finals

Many might have expected a Liverpool love-in from Jamie Carragher after his beloved Reds’ dramatic Carabao Cup victory over Chelsea.

But it was his rival Gary Neville who firmly put his loyalty to Manchester United aside, praising Liverpool and criticizing the defeated Blues.

“Klopp’s children against the blue billion dollar jobs,” the former England full-back commented on Sky Sports.

“These are Klopp’s last months [as Liverpool boss]but it will be as proud as he ever had.

Virgil van Dijk’s header two minutes from the end of extra time set up a rollercoaster final at Wembley as an injury hit gave young Liverpool a record 10th League Cup.

The Reds’ average age at the final whistle was less than 22, with five players aged 20 or under and several wildly inexperienced.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea fielded a youthful side themselves, with the average age of their starting XI under 24 and younger than Liverpool’s, but they were far more experienced than their counterparts.

“Chelsea will regret it, these moments will stay with you for a long time. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever,” Neville said of a Blues side that missed a host of chances in regular time and were outplayed in extra time.

“Pochettino’s men have shrunk before our eyes and before their own fans.

“I can’t believe Chelsea in extra time, what happened? They didn’t play, they didn’t show up.

“You can lose every game but you can’t back down like that when Liverpool had five kids on the pitch.”

‘Special managers do special things’

Injury-hit Liverpool went into Sunday’s final with a squad full of teenagers, amid an injury crisis that has landed several superstars on the treatment table at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Dominik Szoboszlai and goalkeeper Alisson Becker were among those who could only watch at Wembley.

But Klopp showed his confidence in the club’s future as his starting players tired, with several young players coming off the bench. They were more than able to match the Blues who gathered for a long time, especially in extra time.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has won the Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League during his nine years at Anfield

“Special managers do special things,” Neville cheered. “They are a bantamweight team, but they hit like a heavyweight and that is because of Klopp.

“It’s Klopp’s last lap and he ran that corner well, but he is a workaholic and he will have them ready because he knows there are still big games to be played.

“Those young boys, you can’t believe how important this will be in their lives. Klopp has everything you could want in a football manager.”

The German leaves the club this summer after a nine-year spell in charge packed with trophies, but has the chance to finish with an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool are in the last sixteen of both the Europa League and the FA Cup and are of course at the top of the Premier League with twelve games to go.

“If there was ever a game that summed up Klopp as a manager, it was this,” said former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp. “The passion, the desire, absolutely incredible. What a victory.”

The only downside could be what life at Liverpool could be like after Klopp leaves.

“He has absolutely transformed this club,” Carragher added. “I said when he announced he was leaving that these players would want to send him out with a bang and they have started well.”

“How do you follow Jurgen Klopp?” added Redknapp. “As a leader of people, he led a city. An incredible human being.

“Trying to get to Liverpool after what he has done and created is virtually impossible. It is.

“Every Liverpool fan around the world has looked up to that man and what he has achieved.”

Even ex-Chelsea and England winger Karen Carney agreed, adding: “I’m not a Liverpool fan but I feel emotional because he will be leaving. What he has achieved is incredible, what a guy.”

‘What a captain, what a leader’

Van Dijk is often seen as Klopp’s most important signing during his time at Liverpool, the catalyst for a defensive improvement that has led to The Reds have come close to being the series winners.

Not only did he come out on top, he fielded an inexperienced backline – especially after Klopp’s substitutions – who somehow, against all odds, kept the big-spending Blues at bay.

Virgil van Dijk cost Liverpool £75m from Southampton in 2018
Virgil van Dijk cost Liverpool £75m from Southampton in 2018

“What a captain, what a leader; it’s all about Virgil van Dijk,” said ex-England striker Alan Shearer on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“He couldn’t get away from it, Liverpool needed him, the number of times he stopped Chelsea…”

Carragher added: “We’ll talk about Klopp’s kids but that was colossal from Van Dijk,” while Redknapp described the winner as “fitting” for “one of the Premier League greats.”

“When he first came in, the fee [£75m] paid has raised a few eyebrows but he has more than paid it back,” former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“All their success coincided with the arrival of Van Dijk and Alisson.”

‘Football is not just about money’

Chelsea have spent more than £1 billion on transfer and loan costs since Todd Boehly took over ownership of the club in the summer of 2022.

But they finished 12th in the Premier League last season, are 11th this season and have not won a trophy since Thomas Tuchel led them to the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2021.

Such glory days seem a long time ago for a club that has now lost its past six domestic cup finals, including three against Liverpool.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino also remains without a trophy in English football after several near misses with former club Tottenham.

“It’s unthinkable that Chelsea don’t win the game,” Carragher said. “Pochettino will never get a better opportunity when you look at this Liverpool team that is now eliminated.

“This is really a bad thing for Chelsea, it was so important for Pochettino to get that trophy.

“This shows that football is not just about money. It’s about character, playing for the manager. Chelsea just haven’t found that at the moment.”

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