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

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

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

But it was his sparring rival Gary Neville who put his Manchester United allegiances firmly to one side, lauding Liverpool – and criticising the beaten Blues.

“Klopp’s kids against the blue billion-pound bottle-jobs,” remarked the former England full-back on Sky Sports.

“This is Klopp’s last few months [as Liverpool boss], but it will be as proud a moment as he’s had.”

Virgil van Dijk’s header two minutes from the end of extra time settled a rollercoaster Wembley final as an injury-hit and youthful Liverpool lifted a record-extending 10th League Cup.

The Reds’ average age at the final whistle was less than 22, with five players aged 20 or under and several hugely 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 had plenty more experience than their counterparts.

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

“Pochettino’s men have shrunk right in front of our eyes and right in front of their own fans.

“I can’t believe Chelsea in extra time, what has happened? They have not played, they have not turned up.

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

‘Special managers do special things’ Cup the most special trophy I’ve ever won – Jurgen Klopp

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

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

But Klopp showed his trust in the club’s future as his starters tired, bringing several youngsters off the bench – and they more than matched the expensively-assembled Blues, particularly in extra time.

“Special managers do special things,” raved Neville. “It’s a bantamweight squad but punches like a heavyweight and that is because of Klopp.

“It is Klopp’s final lap and he has run that bend well, but he is a workaholic and he will have them ready because he knows the big, big games are still to play for.

“Those young lads, you cannot believe how important this will be in their lives. Klopp has everything you would want in a football manager.”

The German will leave the club this summer after a trophy-laden nine years in charge but has the chance to bow out with an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool are in the last 16 of both the Europa League and FA Cup – and, of course, sit atop the Premier League with 12 games of the season remaining.

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

Indeed, the only downside could be what life at Liverpool could look like after Klopp departs.

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

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

“Trying to come to Liverpool after what he’s done and what he’s created, it’s virtually impossible. It is.

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

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

‘What a captain, what a leader’

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

Van Dijk has often been pinpointed as Klopp’s most important signing in his time at Liverpool, the catalyst for a defensive improvement that has led to the Reds becoming close to serial silverware winners.

Not only did he pop up with the headline-grabbing winner, he also marshalled an inexperienced back-line – particularly after Klopp’s substitutions – that somehow, against all odds, kept the big-spending Blues at bay.

“What a captain, what a leader – everything revolves around Virgil van Dijk,” said ex-England striker Alan Shearer on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“He couldn’t come off, Liverpool needed him, the amount of times he stopped Chelsea…”

Carragher added: “We will 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 raised a few eyebrows, but he’s more than repaid it,” said former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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

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

‘Football not just about money’

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

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

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

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

“It’s unthinkable for Chelsea not to win it,” said Carragher. “Pochettino will never have a better opportunity if you look at this Liverpool team that is now out.

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

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

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