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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Wembley Stadium

Kepa experiences League Cup karma as he misses 22nd kick in dramatic penalty shootout

By Paul Lagan at Wembley Stadium

Chelsea 0 v Liverpool 0 (0-0 after extra time. Liverpool win 11-10 on penalties.)

Kepa missed the 22nd kick of a tortuous penalty shootout and there will be those who felt that karma had a hand to play.

The Spain goalkeeper hacked his kick high over Caoimhin Kelleher’s crossbar to hand the Scousers the first domestic trophy of the season - the League Cup after a scoreless 90 minutes and extra-time.

Kepa was brought onto the pitch with a minute remaining of regulation time because it was perceived and suggested by statistics that he was a better stopper of penalties than Mendy.

The Senegal stopper was sensational through the the match making six match saving saves.

But he was deemed by head coach Thomas Tuchel to be surplus to requirements when it came down to the shootout.

Kepa famously refused to come off the pitch when then coach Mauricio Sarri wanted to bring on Willy Caballero in the League Cup final of 2019 against Manchester City.

That unique action has left a taste in football fans mouths ever since.

Kepa’s miss will go some way assuaging that feeling.

In the shootout neither goalkeeper got close to saving a spot kick.

At 10 apiece it fell to the men between the sticks to do their bit. Kelleher smashed his away, much to the delight of the Reds fans behind te goal. Kepa’s is still in the air and heading for the M1 motorway.

Christian Pulisic should have put the Blues ahead after six minutes when a quick counter-attack saw the ball fed wide to the right for Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spain right back drove the ball first-time into the six-yard box, where in-running Pulisic took a swipe at the ball. But it went straight to Caoimhin Kelleher and was cleared.

Liverpool responded will with some concerted attacking play. But nothing that looked like breaching the Chelsea rearguard.

A brilliant deep pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold on 19 minutes was met on the header by Naby Keita. But the midfielder fluffed his lines and failed to connect properly and headed horribly wide.

Keita was a last-second replacement for Thiago Alcantara who injured himself in the pre-match warm-up.

Liverpool took control of the game midway through the first half. It also saw Mendy produce two terrific saves to thwart firstly Keita, and then the follow-up from Sadie Mane.

This was followed by a period of attack versus defence on both sides. But both defences held the upper hand - just.

Azpilicueta tried an edge-of the penalty area left-footer on 41 minutes which only just went over Kelleher’s crossbar.

Mason Mount missed a sitter two minutes from the break when a terrific short pass by Kai Havertz bisected the Liverpool defence and Mount somehow put his shot wide of goal.

There was no changes by either side at half-time.

The first effort of the second half fell to the Blues on 47 minutes. Havertz Got to the byline and sent across a powerful cross but Pulisic failed to connect with the ball,

Seconds later and Mount beat the Liverpool offside trap, clipped a low right-footer from the edge of the penalty area. The ball beat Kelleher, bit bounced off his left upright and was cleared.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel was forced into a substitution on 57 minutes when skipper Cesar Azpilicueta limped off the pitch. On came a ready replacement in Reece James.

Mount had another shot on goal a minute later - again Kelleher was equal to the task.

Mendy gifted Liverpool with the ball on 64 minutes which saw Mohamed Salah race clear. He chipped the goalkeeper, but the ball slowed down enough for tracking back Thiago Silva to hack the ball off the line.

When Salah won a free kick on the edge of the Chelsea, the resultant ball was fed to the far post by Trent-Alexander. Mane was thereto nod the ball across goal where Joel Matic was on hand to head it home.

But VAR intervened and asked referee Stuart Attwell to check his monitor. The referee deemed that a Liverpool player was offside and disallowed the goal.

Tuchel decided the period of dominance by Liverpool warranted a double substitution. On came strikers Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, off came Mount and Pulisic.

Mendy again saved the Blues, this time Luis Diaz got free on the left. Mendy blocked his goal-bound shot for a corner.

Havertz thought he had scored on 78 minutes but he while he was onside, Werner who crossed him the ball was offside.

Mendy again denied Liverpool a draw wit another set of successive saves with five minutes left on the clock.

And again, just as the clock headed into added time the goalkeeper powered away a Virgil van Dijk Header from a corner.

Kelleher then saved Liverpool after a neat near post flick by Lukaku was cleared by the stopper.

Lukaku was deemed to be offside on 98 minutes when he slotted home. VAR confirmed the linesman’s decision.

Twenty minutes into extra time, Havertz again had the ball in the back of the net, again a chelsea player was offside - this time him.

Tuchel made his final substitution bring off his heroic goalkeeper Mendy for Kepa.

There was no injury - simply a belief in the statistics that Kepa is a better penalty shot-stopper than Mendy.

It proved not to be the case and Liverpool took the crown 11-10.

Penalty shootout:

The kick were taken at the Liverpool end of the ground.

Milner goal 1-0

Alonso goal 1-1

Fabinho goal 2-1

Lukaku goal 2-2

Van Dijk goal 3-2

Havertz goal 3-3

Alexander-Arnold goal 4-3

James goal 4-4

Salah goal 5-4

Jorginho goal 5-5

Jota goal 6-5

Rudiger goal 6-6

Origi goal 7-6

Kante goal 7-7

Robertson goal 8-7

Werner goal 8-8

Elliott goal 9-8

Silva goal 9-9

Konate goal 10-9

Chalobah 10-10

Kelleher 11-10

Kepa missed 11-10

Teams: Chelsea: Mendy, Rudiger, Alonso, Silva, Kante, Kovacic, Pulisic, Chalobah, Mount, Azpilicueta, Havertz

Subs: Kepa, Jorginho, Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Hudson-Odoi, James, Sarr

Liverpool: Kelleher, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Thiago, Mane, Salah, Henderson,Diaz, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold

Subs: Becker, Konate, Milner, Keira, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jota, Tsimikas, Origi

Referee: Stuart Attwell


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