Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Sports / Soccer

Klopp's kids crowned as Blues blow it

Outgoing Liverpool manager savors 'most special trophy' as Reds' reserves stun Chelsea in League Cup final

Updated: 2024-02-27 09:21
Share - WeChat
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his players celebrate winning the English League Cup after beating Chelsea 1-0 in Sunday's final at Wembley Stadium in London. [Photo/Agencies]

Jurgen Klopp just couldn't keep the smile from his face.

It was deep into extra time at Wembley on Sunday and the English League Cup final against Chelsea was locked at 0-0. A penalty shootout loomed.

Yet, with tensions running high, Klopp turned to the Liverpool fans, savored the moment and produced that trademark toothy grin.

Perhaps he knew what was coming. That Virgil van Dijk was about to score a 118th-minute winner to finally break down Chelsea's resistance and secure a record-extending 10th League Cup trophy for Liverpool.

Perhaps not.

"That would be cool if I could see goals coming. That would relax a lot of moments in my life," Klopp said afterward — his voice hoarse, likely from the wild celebrations that greeted his eighth trophy as Liverpool manager.

Klopp is stepping down at the end of the season and this may well be his last Wembley final with the club.

He said he was simply taking it all in and enjoying watching a new generation of Liverpool players that may turn out to be his lasting legacy after he goes.

"I loved it ... What I see today is so exceptional, we might never see it again. Not because I am on the sidelines but because these things don't happen in football."

Van Dijk, Liverpool's 32-year-old captain, might have produced the decisive moment but it was the efforts of a string of young players, called upon to help ease Liverpool's extensive injury list, that had Klopp so enthused.

Seven of his winning team were aged 21 or under.

Jayden Danns, aged 18, came on for only his second senior performance. Bobby Clark and James McConnell are both 19.

Their efforts meant that even without the injured Mo Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold and more, Liverpool still triumphed.

Victory keeps Klopp on track for a quadruple of trophies in his final year with Liverpool as he looks determined to go out on a high.

His team is currently top of the Premier League and still in contention to win the FA Cup and Europa League. But even if Klopp cannot add those trophies to the full set he has already delivered, he provided Liverpool with another memorable day at Wembley.

Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, must wait for his first piece of silverware in English soccer after failing to lift trophies with Southampton and Tottenham before taking charge at Chelsea.

While he won three trophies including the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain, he is still to taste glory in England.

A first trophy at Chelsea would have eased the pressure after a troubled season in the league.

"If you ask the players how they feel, I feel the same. (It is) so disappointing, so painful," Pochettino said. "I am a guy that (has) less time to win titles (than the players). They are younger than me, they have time. In football it is always about when you have the opportunity (you take it).

'Proud of everyone'

In the circumstances, Klopp ranked the seventh major trophy of his nine-year Liverpool reign as the most memorable of his career.

"In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won. It is absolutely exceptional," he said.

"Sometimes people ask me if I'm proud of things and it's really tricky, I wish I could feel pride more often but tonight is an overwhelming feeling.

"I was proud of everyone involved in everything here. I was proud of our academy, I was proud of my coaches, I was proud of so many things. It was completely overwhelming."

Former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen famously criticized Alex Ferguson's decision to blood a host of Manchester United youngsters, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, by saying "you can't win anything with kids".

It was a turn of phrase that came back to bite Hansen as United's kids dominated the Premier League.

Klopp had never heard Hansen's quote until the aftermath of Sunday's triumph, when it struck a chord with the emotional German.

"I got told there is an English phrase you don't win trophies with kids. I never knew that," he said.

"I loved it. Can you create stories in football that never happened before? It is so difficult. If you can find any story about a group of academy kids coming on against a top team like Chelsea and winning, it's incredible."

Wreathed in a bewildered grin in the moments after Van Dijk's goal and at his fist-pumping best in the post-match celebrations, Klopp reveled in every moment of what might be his last visit to Wembley after his recent announcement that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

"I couldn't care less about my legacy. I'm not here for that. It had nothing to do with maybe my last game at Wembley," he said.

"It was about seeing the faces of the kids. For me it's a really nice memory forever."

Asked when he knew Liverpool's rookies were ready to step up on the big stage, Klopp said: "Obviously age is not a problem at all. It was clear in training, these were the boys we would take (to the final). We needed fresh legs."

While Klopp hopes Liverpool's success boosts its bid to stay top of the Premier League and win the FA Cup and Europa League, Chelsea boss Pochettino was left to urge his players to embrace the pain of defeat.

'Bottle jobs'

Pochettino's side paid for wasting a series of chances to kill off Liverpool toward the end of regulation.

"We didn't get the reward we wanted. They need to feel the pain. We played for a trophy we didn't get. There is nothing you can tell me to feel better," said the Argentine.

"They need to realize we need to work more, do better things, to compete at this level against a team that has been doing big things for many years.

"Liverpool lost finals in the past, but they kept moving and kept believing. That is an example to us."

In his role as a Sky Sports pundit, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville described Chelsea as "blue billion-pound bottle jobs", prompting Pochettino to leap to the defense of his team.

"We have a young team, and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished with young players on the pitch," said Pochettino. "It's not fair to talk in this way, if he (Neville) said that. We're going to keep being strong and believing in this project."


Most Popular


What's Hot
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349