Football: Extra-time header gives Liverpool 10th League Cup crown against Chelsea

Virgil van Dijk celebrates his gamewinning goal in the League Cup final.
Virgil van Dijk celebrates his gamewinning goal in the League Cup final. Photo credit: Getty Images

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk has powered home a header in extra time, as his side beat Chelsea 1-0 in the League Cup final to clinch a record-extending 10th title in the competition and crown Juergen Klopp's final season in charge with silverware.

Van Dijk rose high above his marker to head a corner back across goal and into the far corner in the 118th minute, sparking wild celebrations among the Liverpool supporters massed at that end of Wembley stadium.

With the club leading the English Premier League, and still in the FA Cup and Europa League, Liverpool's fans will hope the latest triumph provides the launch pad for more trophies in Klopp's swansong campaign, with the quadruple still within reach.

The Liverpool manager, who has said he will leave at the end of the seasonafter eight years, will take particular satisfaction in a victory achieved in testing circumstances, with the club facing an injury crisis that forced Klopp to put his faith in a host of young players who did not let him down.

In a captivating encounter, both sides had what they thought were opening goals ruled out for offside, with Raheem Sterling denied by the linesman's flag for Chelsea before the break and Dutchman Van Dijk's header after the interval chalked off in a controversial call by video review.

The chances came thick and fast in a furious end-to-end encounter, with both sides hitting the woodwork and spurning numerous other opportunities.

Liverpool overcame a devastating injury list, with the likes of Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, goalkeeper Alisson, Curtis Jones, key forwards Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai recently joining longer term absentees on the sidelines.

They ended the game with 19-year-olds James McConnell and Bobby Clark, and Jayden Danns, 18, on the pitch, with the trio possessing barely a handful of first team appearances between them.

Bright start

While Liverpool began the brighter, Chelsea had the first chance in the 20th minute, when the ball squirmed to Cole Palmer six yards out, but his effort was brilliantly saved by stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Liverpool's injury problems were then compounded, when Ryan Gravenberch was taken off on a stretcher four minutes later, after Moises Caicedo caught his ankle with a clumsy, mistimed tackle that had Klopp seething on the touchline.

Liverpool were then handed a reprieve by the lineman's flag, when Sterling tapped home from Nicolas Jackson's pass, a tight call that video took time to confirm.

Cody Gakpo headed against the post from Andy Robertson's cross towards the end of the half and that was as close as Liverpool came, until Van Dijk thought he had put them in front in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates Liverpool's League Cup victory.
Jurgen Klopp celebrates Liverpool's League Cup victory. Photo credit: Getty Images

The centre-back outjumped Ben Chilwell to head home, but video replay spotted Wataru Endo offside and deemed - somewhat harshly - to be interfering by blocking a Chelsea defender, when Andy Robertson's free-kick was crossed into the box.

Chelsea's Conor Gallagher, who spurned a number of other chances, had the opportunity to win it in the 85th, when he bore down on goal, but his shot was excellently saved by Kelleher, before the playmaker blazed another effort off target.

Harvey Elliott forced a brilliant save from Djordje Petrovic with five minutes of extra time remaining, as the Liverpool forward headed powerfully towards the bottom corner, but his effort was cleared off the line by the keeper.

It did not matter as moments later, Van Dijk headed the ball home to send the Liverpool supporters into raptures.