And there you have it: Liverpool have won the EFL Cup for the first time in a decade, and landed their first of what will hopefully turn out to be a number of trophies in 2022. The Reds held their nerve in a titanic penalty shootout after a pulsating 120 minutes against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium somehow passed by without a goal.
If anyone ever tries to convince you that all 0-0 draws are boring, show them the tape of this game. It had pretty much everything, with end-to-end action and a catalogue of goals ruled out for a variety of VAR-discovered infringements.
It was a game that both sides could claim to have been good value to win. Neutrals will point to Chelsea’s three ruled out ‘goals’ – but each was proven to be the right call thanks to video replays. Mason Mount also missed a couple of sitters in normal time too.
As for Liverpool, they found Blues keeper Eduard Mendy in outstanding form. Time and time again he repelled the Reds, including a phenomenal double save to deny Naby Keita and Senegalese international teammate Sadio Mane.
The two sides could not be separated in normal time or an extra 30 minutes, and so it was off to the dreaded penalty shootout. And yet neither team displayed any nerves in what was a quality set of spot kicks – pre-match practice had clearly paid off.
All 20 outfield players netted their penalties, and so it was down to a duel between the two goalkeepers – Caoimhin Kelleher, who retained his place in the Liverpool goal as the designated EFL Cup stopper, and Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had been substituted onto the field by Thomas Tuchel as a spot kick specialist.
Kelleher expertly fired his penalty home, and then watched on with glee as Kepa blazed his spot kick high into the Wembley stand to hand victory to Liverpool and spark crazed scenes of celebration.
The nature of the final made the win all the more satisfying, and there was surely a number of hangovers – both of happiness and alcohol-induced – on Merseyside come Monday morning.
Now Jurgen Klopp must dust his troops off for a tilt at the other domestic cup, the FA Cup, with a fifth round date with Norwich City at Anfield on Wednesday evening next on the agenda.
Liverpool Team News
In the previous round of the FA Cup against Cardiff City, Klopp named a sort of mix-and-match team of first-team regulars and fringe players.
Given Sunday’s exploits, he might opt to rotate extensively here – don’t be surprised to see Adrian given the rarest of starts in goal ahead of Alisson and the still-presumably-on-cloud-nine Kelleher.
In defence, we might see Conor Bradley on the right, Kostas Tsimikas on the left and Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez in the middle.
In midfield, Tyler Morton could get the nod alongside James Milner and Curtis Jones, while Harvey Elliott may be asked to play from the right of attack and Takumi Minamino from the left, with Divock Origi through the middle. Expect some game-time for Kaide Gordon, too.
Norwich City Form
It will be interesting to see how Dean Smith plays things here.
On the one hand, the Norwich boss will be determined to focus on keeping the Canaries in the Premier League – Saturday’s clash with Brentford is the archetypal relegation six-pointer.
But on the other, he may think that a cup run is good for morale and boosts the confidence of his players – Smith may also be anticipating a weakened Liverpool starting eleven.
Either way, Norwich will need to improve upon a run of three straight defeats that includes the 1-3 reverse at Anfield in February.
Liverpool vs Norwich City Betting Tips
Without knowing the exact starting line-ups of the two teams, it’s hard to make too many accurate predictions ahead of the game.
What we do know is that Liverpool were two goals better than Norwich when they met barely a fortnight ago – with a rotated Reds side, we might cut that advantage to one goal.
So, perhaps we can wager accordingly. Norwich can be backed with a +1.50 Asian handicap at 5/2 and with a +2.00 head start at even money – either has its merits. We can also back Liverpool to triumph by exactly a one-goal margin at 10/3….again, not the worst price in the world.
These games can be fruitful for an anytime goalscorer play, and Minamino – with seven goals in 814 minutes played this term – looks to be worthy of a chance at 33/20.