‘Klopp’s Liverpool defy logic – and are not finished yet’

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Written By Maya Cantina

Jurgen Klopp revealed his desire to write another chapter in Liverpool’s “wonderful book” before taking his leave at the end of the season, but this Carabao Cup final victory over Chelsea provided an unlikely story even by his own remarkable standards.

Klopp’s line-up was stripped of some of its most precious assets going into a meeting with Chelsea’s billion-pound project, the odds on a Liverpool victory lengthening with the arrival of the team-sheet before kick-off.

Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez were added to a list of casualties already containing keeper Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones.

And yet, in defiance of logic, Klopp ended up celebrating another landmark Liverpool win as he was courageous enough to summon kids from the club’s Kirkby creche to lift the first trophy of a potential four-trophy haul, the win sealed by Virgil van Dijk’s header two minutes from the end of extra time.

Much will be made of Chelsea’s missed opportunity and the label of “billion-pound bottle jobs” attached to them by former Manchester United defender and TV pundit Gary Neville.

And yet the credit must go to Klopp and Liverpool.

The manager was mocked by neutrals for comparing the midweek Anfield comeback to beat struggling Luton Town 4-1 to the famous Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona, but he has every right to reflect and bask in a truly remarkable win here at Wembley.

Chelsea, to their agony, will surely never have a better chance to avenge those FA Cup and League Cup final losses on penalties to Liverpool in 2022, and yet the latest chapter of Klopp’s book ended with the familiar storyline of more red celebrations.

It is hard to measure just how much Klopp will be missed when he leaves Liverpool in the summer, but it is patently clear that no matter who comes in, a huge hole will be left to fill.

The good news for the next manager is that this Wembley win provided hard evidence of the golden future Klopp has laid out for his successor, both in terms of established world-class talent and a speeding production line from Liverpool’s Kirkby academy.

Liverpool had the tried and trusted world class of defender and match-winner Van Dijk, while keeper Caoimhin Kelleher produced another Wembley display to sit comfortably alongside his heroics when they had their ninth win in the competition against Chelsea two years ago.

What was arguably even more memorable, and something for which this final will be remembered in future, was Klopp’s astonishing show of faith and trust in Liverpool’s emerging youngsters, showing not a care of worry for any Wembley nerves or caution as they were thrown into the fray with a tense final hanging in the balance.

Bobby Clark, just 19, came on to replace 20-year-old Conor Bradley after 72 minutes then with three minutes left of normal time, Jayden Danns (18) and James McConnell (19) were sent on to replace Cody Gakpo and Argentina World Cup winner Alex Mac Allister with nerves shredded all around Wembley stadium.

Clark, McConnell and Danns had a grand total of 15 Liverpool appearances to their name when they came on, the latter sent on for his debut with only a minute left in the midweek win over Luton. Bradley had only played 16 games.

They now each have a cup winners’ medal to treasure with careers still in their infancy. And there was a sense that this EFL Cup win is just the start of another Liverpool era of success for Klopp’s “reloaded” – his word – team, with plenty more to come this season.

Klopp may not be the manager next season but his fingerprints will be all over Liverpool for the foreseeable future.

Liverpool and Klopp have the appearance of a team and manager on a mission to give the German a silver-lined farewell at the end of a nine-year Anfield reign, and they are in a perfect position to achieve it.

The EFL Cup is now won. They are leading the Premier League, favourites for the Europa League and have an FA Cup fifth-round tie at home to Championship side Southampton on Wednesday.

If fortune favours the brave, this was a classic example as Klopp threw his lot in with Liverpool’s youngsters while some of Chelsea’s big names, assembled at vast cost in one of the most dysfunctional and scattergun transfer sprees in Premier League history, simply failed to deliver.

Chelsea’s malaise was exemplified by the fact it was Liverpool who were stronger in extra time, despite playing in midweek, the mixture of experience (not much admittedly) and young legs taking charge.

Liverpool’s injury list even worsened during the game, Ryan Gravenberch taken off on a stretcher after 28 minutes following a rotten challenge from Moises Caicedo, the man Klopp was willing to pay £110m for in the summer but who chose Chelsea.

At the final whistle, Klopp sported a smile that looked like it might have to be surgically removed while opposite number Mauricio Pochettino resembled a man who had seen a ghost as a first success in England continues to elude him.

And so to the rest of Liverpool’s season.

The FA Cup is next on Wednesday and the belief will now grow that whatever team Klopp is able to field, self-belief and confidence will be so strong that anything is possible.

Klopp will be a massive miss in every aspect of Liverpool when he leaves but the manner of this win suggests there is every chance he will give his adoring fans even more to remember him by when the time comes to say goodbye.

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