Missed chances cost Blues as they crash to EFL Cup final heartache in extra time

Virgil Van Dijk scored a late, late goal which left Chelsea potless at Wembley this afternoon as Liverpool took the first domestic trophy of the season.

It was a game of mild drama throughout with little serious top-level quality.

Both sides had some excellent chances to kill the game off in the regulation 90 minutes, but strikers of the quality both sides had in yesteryears are in short supply.

It looked like the game was heading to another penalty shoot-out, but in the 28th minute of extra time a simple header from unchallenged centre-back Van Dijk saw the glancing effort zip past an otherwise excellent Djordje Petrovic.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino still hasn’t won a trophy on English soil.

This was the best chance this season.

It’s the FA Cup on Wednesday as the Blues face Leeds United at Stamford Bridge, and the hopes and dreams of another visit to Wembley will rise again.

Luis Diaz forced the first save of the game on nine minutes, when a sweeping Liverpool counter-attack saw the Colombian hitman loop a header towards goal from an angle. But Petrovic was equal to the task, plucking the ball out of the air with ease.

Malo Gusto had the west Londoners’ first shot on target, on 13 minutes, a weak volley did not trouble Caoimhin Kelleher.

Petrovic again thwarted Diaz a minute later, scooping his daisy-cutter away from the goal.

A quick break by the Blues on 20 minutes saw Kelleher deny Cole Palmer a goal when his close range shot was parried away by the stopper. The follow-up by Nicolas Jackson saw his effort deflected away by Ibrahima Konate.

Chelsea were denied a goal by VAR when Raheem Sterling tucked home a Jackson right byline cross on 32 minutes.

Liverpool hit Petrovic’s left upright with a regulation cross from the left and Cody Gakpo’s header pinged the base of the woodwork before being cleared.

Ben Chilwell and Conor Bradley had a bit of handbags just before the half-time whistle which was accompanied by a melee of pushing and shoving by players.

Referee Chris Kavanagh gave a yellow card to the main protagonists.

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

A snap shot by Endo two minutes after the restart signalled the Reds’ intent in trying for a quick goal.

Chelsea’s best option is to absorb the attacks from Liverpool and resort to counter-attacking.

It almost worked on 52 minutes but the ball fell awkwardly to Enzo Fernandez and he couldn’t get control of it and it drifted to Kelleher.

A stupid and needless foul by Gallagher on 60 minutes saw a perfect left-footed in-swinging curler to Van Dijk. The giant skipper headed home virtually unchallenged from Ben Chilwell but VAR intervened again for a possible offside.

Quite why the referee was asked to go to the pitch side camera is unknown – it was either on or offside.

But Kavanagh decided to disallow the goal.

Ex-Liverpool winger Sterling’s day ended when he was replaced by Christopher Nkunku on 66 minutes.

Gusto missed a sitter at the far post on 69 minutes when a Chilwell corner was knocked to the far post. But the right-back could not direct the ball in. Instead, it looped into the air and was clutched gleefully by Kelleher.

A lovely quick break by the Blues saw Palmer pass to Gallagher. The midfielder’s first-time strike rebounded off the base of Kelleher’s right post.

Gallagher should have scored from another break, but Kelleher smothered the goal-bound effort.

Chelsea brought on Mykhailo Mudryk for Jackson on 90 minutes.

Then there was a period of pinball in the six-yard box which saw Kelleher once again come to the Reds’ aid as it looked as if the Blues were going to score.

Petrovic made a fine fingertip save to prevent Jayden Danns’s header from eight-yards out from going into his net.

That prompted the end of Gallagher’s game with Noni Madueke taking his place.

A Madueke run and shot 20 minutes into extra time took a slight deflection on its way, reducing the pace a little. It was enough to allow Kelleher to dive to his right and snaffle the ball.

Trevoh Chalobah replaced Chilwell on 23 minutes.

Petrovic made a double save to keep the final alive and the woodwork was once again involved as the players tired and mistakes increased, increasing the jeopardy as the seconds ticked by.

But with two minutes left, Chelsea were undone and it was so simple as to be infuriating for the west Londoners.

A basic inswinging corner was met unchallenged by Van Dijk and Liverpool went ahead.

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