Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk strikes late in extra time as Reds win dramatic Carabao Cup final

Virgil van Dijk was denied once but still had the final say at Wembley (Getty Images)
Virgil van Dijk was denied once but still had the final say at Wembley (Getty Images)

Virgil van Dijk headed home a 118th-minute winner as Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 in a remarkable Carabao Cup final.

The centre-back thought he had opened the scoring in normal time, only to be denied by a controversial VAR decision as a Wembley occasion full of chances and misses somehow remained goalless at the end of 90 minutes.

Chelsea offered almost nothing in extra time, despite Liverpool’s injury woes leaving them with a team largely consisting of youngsters by this point. As penalties loomed, Van Dijk rose highest from a corner and, with the 20th shot on target of a thrilling final, landed the decisive blow.

It is the first piece of silverware for Liverpool in Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge of the club - it could yet be followed by three more. Chelsea’s bid to lift their first trophy of the Todd Boehly era fell flat, with Mauricio Pochettino still yet to taste success in English football.

Liverpool were handed a triple blow ahead of kick-off, as the injured trio of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai were all left out of the squad.

It was the Reds who made a better start at Wembley, despite those absences, with Luis Diaz forcing Dorde Petrovic into an early save, as Chelsea struggled to cope with the Liverpool press in the early stages.

The best chance though came at the other end, after good work from Conor Gallagher out wide. His ball into the middle fell for Cole Palmer, who, from just a few yards out, was somehow denied by a brilliant save from Caoimhin Kelleher.

Liverpool’s injury problems then grew further, as Ryan Gravenberch was stretchered off after a nasty challenge from Moises Caicedo that left Jurgen Klopp furious.

Chelsea enjoyed their best spell from that moment onwards, thinking they had taken the lead when Nicolas Jackson squared for Raheem Sterling to finish at the back post. The offside flag was raised though, the tight decision confirmed by a VAR check.

Surviving that scare, Liverpool rallied and threatened to take the lead themselves before half-time, as Cody Gakpo rose highest to meet Andy Robertson’s cross and head an effort against the post.

Controversy hit on the hour mark, as Van Dijk seemingly headed Liverpool in front from a free-kick. The referee was advised by VAR to look at the monitor, and he returned to chalk the goal off, harshly deeming that Wataru Endo had been in an offside position and impacted play by blocking Levi Colwill.

Chelsea finished normal time well on top, as Klopp was forced to turn to a succession of youngsters off the bench. Gallagher swept an effort off the inside of the post, after Palmer picked him out, before the midfielder wasted a huge chance with five minutes remaining when clean through, as Kelleher charged off his line to smother the shot.

That momentum was, almost bizarrely, flipped up in extra time, as Liverpool dominated the ball. They were rallied by a wall of noise from the red of Wembley, one that briefly erupted into celebration as Harvey Elliott’s volley hit the side-netting.

Another cup final between these sides looked set to go to penalties, as two did in 2022, until Van Dijk had the final say.