Gary Neville admits his “bottle jobs” jibe at Chelsea was harsh but stands by his claim the Blues froze in the Carabao Cup final.

Sky Sports pundit Neville branded Mauricio Pochettino’s side “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” during Sunday’s 1-0 extra-time defeat to injury-hit Liverpool.

Pochettino has overseen a disappointing campaign since arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer and his expensively-assembled squad were beaten by Virgil van Dijk’s late header.

Former Manchester United defender Neville explained the thinking behind his comment when speaking on Sky Bet’s Stick to Football podcast, saying: “I got progressively angrier during extra time with Chelsea… then I thought, should I say it, is it too strong?

“I was thinking that as I said it, and sometimes when you think that you might think that it’s a reason not to say it, but I felt as though it needed to be said, it’s a harsh line.

“I said that they froze in extra time, there is no doubt that they were playing with fear and froze.

“Bottle doesn’t mean cowardness, they just froze on the day, we froze in games sometimes, in Champions League semi-finals.

“Sometimes you do freeze – Manchester United, the year before they won the Premier League title against Leeds, they bottled the run-in.

“We bottled the run-in, when we were without Roy (Keane) in 1998, against Arsenal – we’ve all bottled run-ins.”

Pochettino reiterated his rejection of Neville’s dig after Chelsea’s battling 3-2 FA Cup win over Leeds on Wednesday night.

“I cannot be angry about that,” he said. “With all my love to Gary, it’s not fair to use this type of word for a team that is so brave, a club that always fights for big things.

“We know that we are brave and that we are working really hard. For us, it’s not an important comment.”

Conor Gallagher wanted to give Chelsea fans something to celebrate after their 3-2 victory over Leeds in the FA Cup fifth round at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues bounced back from Sunday’s Carabao Cup defeat to Liverpool thanks to goals from Nicolas Jackson, Mykhailo Mudryk and Gallagher.

Gallagher, who scored a 90th-minute winner with a tidy finish in the box past Illan Meslier, dedicated the victory Chelsea’s supporters.

“Sunday was a big disappointment and we wanted to bounce back and give the fans something to celebrate,” Gallagher told Chelsea’s official website. “Thankfully we did that last night.

“It was a great atmosphere. Leeds fans are always very passionate and loud, but I think our fans were great as well, especially considering the disappointment the other day.

“So I have to say thank you to them and hopefully we gave them something to celebrate.”

Virgil van Dijk scored the only goal in the 118th minute at Wembley as Mauricio Pochettino’s side sustained a big blow to their campaign.

Gallagher admitted it has been difficult to overcome the defeat following the short turnaround between the two games, with the FA Cup representing the only chance of silverware for the club this season.

He added: “It was really tough for the players to bounce back. Obviously everyone has been down over the last few days, but we had to make sure we were right for this match because it was such an important game.

“Physically, it was fine for me coming off the bench, but the lads who played the full game against Leeds after playing 120 minutes the other day were fantastic and we’ve got to give a lot of credit to them.

“It was a big shift and a good performance. I thought we dug deep and thankfully we got the win in the end.”

The midfielder’s strike rounded off a spirited Chelsea performance and took his tally for the season to four in all competitions.

“It’s nice. I obviously like to score goals and I struggled to do that before the goals started to come, so hopefully I can continue to get more,” Gallagher said.

“It was a great pass from Enzo (Fernandez) and a good goal. We were really happy to get one right at the end because obviously it meant we didn’t have to go into extra time, and I think we were looking a bit tired.”

Mauricio Pochettino hailed a “needed” victory as Chelsea bounced back from Sunday’s Carabao Cup final extra-time heartbreak to edge past Leeds and reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Conor Gallagher, who missed two glorious chances in the closing stages of normal time in the Wembley loss to Liverpool, came off the bench to hit the winner at Stamford Bridge as the Championship side were dispatched 3-2 to set up a last-eight meeting with Leicester.

Axel Disasi and Moises Caicedo combined to gift Mateo Joseph an eighth-minute opener but the Blues turned it around before half-time as Nicolas Jackson equalised and Raheem Sterling set up Mykhailo Mudryk to make it 2-1.

Leeds levelled just before the hour mark when Joseph headed home his second but Enzo Fernandez set up Gallagher to avoid extra-time and put Chelsea through.

“We needed this result,” said Pochettino. “It wasn’t a great performance. (Leeds) were a team full of confidence, a very strong team, they are doing fantastic in the Championship.

“It was tough for us, when you concede after a few minutes. But the character we showed after in this situation, it’s a thing to learn from the team. I’m so happy. We avoided extra-time. We’re in the quarter-final which was our objective.

“It’s always tough when you lose a final in extra-time. We had 72 hours or less to recover, it’s always difficult. The effort was massive and I say thank you to the players because they made a fantastic effort.”

Pochettino reiterated his rejection of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville’s jibe that Chelsea had “bottled” the Carabao Cup final against a Liverpool side bested by injuries.

“I cannot be angry about (Neville),” he said. “With all my love to Gary, it’s not fair to use this type of word for a team that is so brave, a club that always fights for big things.

“What can we do? Only with this type of performance show that we are brave and that we can win games. Nothing to say, only to keep moving.

“It’s not important for us. Because we know how we are and who we are, and how we behave. We know why we lost the game against Liverpool. It’s nothing to do with this.

“We know that we are brave and that we are working really hard, For us, it’s not an important comment.”

Leeds boss Daniel Farke reflected on a game that slipped away at the hands of clinical finishing from Chelsea.

“That second goal (from Mudryk), class finish,” he said. “The third goal, really good action of Gallagher.

“I’m disappointed because wherever we go, we want to win. I know it’s not realistic we will win the FA Cup, but I wanted to win this and go in the next round. We are a young side, without several key players.”

Manchester United will host Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals after the two sides advanced with fifth-round victories on Wednesday night.

The Reds remain in contention for three more trophies after their rousing 1-0 extra-time victory over Chelsea in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, and booked their place in the last eight with a 3-0 win over Southampton.

United left it late to ensure they would be next to try spoiling Jurgen Klopp’s extended leaving do, with Casemiro’s 89th-minute header sending his side through with a 1-0 win to eliminate Nottingham Forest and ensure the 12-time FA Cup winners took one step closer to reaching what would be a record 22nd final.

Holders Manchester City, in search of their eighth FA Cup trophy, will host Newcastle in an all-Premier League clash.

The quarter-final draw took place before kick-off of Chelsea’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Leeds, one of just four Championship sides who had survived past the fourth round.

Former Arsenal and Manchester City keeper David Seaman drew the balls, but it was not an entirely joyous night for the childhood Leeds fan and four-time FA Cup champion after substitute Conor Gallagher netted a dramatic late winner to send the Blues through on the stroke of full-time.

Chelsea will now host Championship leaders Leicester, who booked their quarter-final place with a 1-0 fifth-round victory over Bournemouth on Tuesday night.

Joining them in the last eight are Coventry, who, sitting ninth in the Championship, are the lowest-ranked side remaining in contention for the cup, progressing to the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2008/09 season.

They will travel to Molineux to meet Wolves, who on Wednesday night beat Brighton to reach the last eight for the first time since 2019.

Quarter-final ties will be played on the weekend of March 16.

Chelsea survived an FA Cup scare as Conor Gallagher came off the bench to score a last-minute winner and seal a 3-2 victory over Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

The substitute lashed the ball past the visitors’ goalkeeper Illan Meslier to grab what had looked an unlikely victory for much of the game, never more so than when the Blues fell behind inside eight minutes to the first of two goals from Mateo Joseph.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side rallied and looked to have put their woeful start behind them when first Nicolas Jackson and then Mykhailo Mudryk netted to send them in 2-1 up at the break.

Leeds would not lie down easy though, and Joseph headed them level after evading Trevoh Chalobah at the far post on the hour mark.

The home support bubbled with disquiet, sensing another cup mishap after Sunday’s Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool.

Then came Gallagher’s late intervention to keep hopes of a Wembley return in May alive.

The opening 10 minutes were dominated by Leeds. They might have taken the lead when Daniel James found space on the edge of the box and acrobatically lobbed an effort wide.

It was a let-off for Chelsea, but they did not heed their good fortune. From the goal-kick, Axel Disasi played a short pass inside the penalty area that left Moises Caicedo vulnerable. Leeds snapped at his heels, dispossessing him, and the ball broke to Joseph, who cracked it past Robert Sanchez as Chelsea’s defence pointed fingers.

The first mutterings of discontent among the home support started, but they were doused before they had time to take hold. Caicedo made partial amends for his earlier error, sliding a precise ball through that split Leeds’ defence. Into the space strode Jackson, and he placed it into Meslier’s bottom corner to ease Chelsea nerves.

Thereafter they settled, and deservedly took the lead after 37 minutes. Noni Madueke carried the ball up through midfield and poked it to Malo Gusto wide on the right. He fed Raheem Sterling, who crossed for Mudryk to cap the move with a delightful finish, glancing it with a deft right foot wide of the goalkeeper and in.

James skied one over the bar from six yards as Leeds threatened an instant reply. Jaidon Anthony went closer when he curled wide from outside the box, a reminder that a stiff challenge might await Chelsea in the second half.

Daniel Farke’s team had won nine in a row in the league. Here they went up against Premier League opponents with the courage and skill to suggest they would fare well should they return to the top flight, but their hosts were giving ample encouragement.

The equaliser was straight forward and entirely avoidable from Chelsea’s point of view. Anthony was given space on the right to assess options and size up a cross. Stealing away at the far post was Jospeh, and his marker Chalobah paid him little heed as he stepped outside the defender and nodded past an exposed Sanchez.

The murmurs of disapproval began again from the stands, though they were largely drowned out by the away fans’ vocal support. They deserved better than the heartbreak that came as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes.

Enzo Fernandez was the architect of the winner, darting infield and through the heart of the defence and finally finding the pass that Chelsea had craved throughout the half. Gallagher, with fresh legs from the bench, let the ball run across him and with a swing of his right boot lashed Chelsea into the quarter-finals.

Mauricio Pochettino finds constant talk of Chelsea’s billion-pound spend tiresome and remains convinced his under-fire players will develop into “an amazing team”.

Blues boss Pochettino has overseen an underwhelming campaign since arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer and his expensively-assembled squad faced further criticism following Sunday’s Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville branded them “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” late in their 1-0 extra-time defeat to opponents deprived of a host of star names due to injury.

Former Tottenham and Paris St Germain manager Pochettino is confident he retains the backing of Chelsea’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali and is adamant the club’s costly long-term project in the post-Roman Abramovich era is destined for success.

“The problem is so annoying when after eight months always people talk about one billion,” Pochettino said ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at home to Leeds.

“I feel that’s a little bit unfair.

“The new owners arrived with the right intention and they want to build something that is different from the past.

“For me the players have an amazing quality, they only need time.

“It’s not an excuse for me because if I am here or not, it’s not dependent on me, it’s dependent of my job and I think we are doing an amazing job.

“We cannot see maybe great results. But I think with time we are going to have an amazing team because we are young, we are learning, because we create something that starts to appear in the training ground.”

Chelsea sit 11th in the Premier League, 17 points adrift of the top four and 15 above the relegation zone.

European qualification already looks to be a major ask, while the big-spending Blues must overcome the side sitting second in the Sky Bet Championship to progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals and keep alive hope of silverware this term.

“People that work here for many years say they start to feel in a different way how the club is,” said Pochettino.

“But unfortunately we cannot relate in points. Always this type of process needs time.”

Asked if he expects the club’s ownership to remain patient with him, Pochettino replied: “Why not? I am confident until they tell me something.

“I feel the support from them. When I go up (to receive his runners-up medal at Wembley), I was so upset, nearly crying when I arrived there.

“And then Todd sent a very, very nice text to me, and then I met Behdad and he was really, really good.

“Our responsibility is to match the expectation, and when the expectation and the reality is close it’s easy.

“We need to translate to our people that they need to trust and be patient because we are building in a different way to succeed.”

Pochettino has been encouraged by his players’ response to the weekend disappointment and feels they are motivated to prove a point against Leeds.

“Always the pressure is to win and to go through,” he said.

“To arrive to the first final of the season in England is a massive achievement but after you don’t get the title it’s tough.

“Now is a game that is going to be tough. We need to be strong, with good energy and the players want to show that we are in the way that is going to be good for the club.”

Mykhailo Mudryk is "the most talented and unique player in the world", and patient work on the training ground will see Chelsea get the best out of the winger.

That is the view of Serhiy Palkin, Shakhtar Donetsk's chief executive who struck the £89million deal which took Mudryk from Ukraine to Stamford Bridge last January.

Like many of the big-money recruits of the Todd Boehly era, Mudryk has struggled for consistency since arriving in west London, after emerging as one of Europe's hottest prospects at Shakhtar.

Between the start of 2021-22 and his move to the Premier League, Mudryk averaged a goal involvement every 70 minutes in the Ukrainian top flight, scoring nine goals and adding 13 assists in just 23 appearances during that spell.

However, Mudryk has just three goals and four assists to his name in 34 Premier League appearances, and he attracted more criticism for an ineffective substitute appearance in Sunday's EFL Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

Palkin, however, remains convinced of the 23-year-old's talent and feels he simply needs close attention from Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff. 

"I can tell you that for me, Mudryk is the most talented and unique player in the world," Palkin told Stats Perform.

"I believe that in order to get from Mudryk the maximum, as they anticipate, you need to invest in him. These investments are not money. 

"It's time for the coaching staff to communicate with him and to work closely with him. He is a young boy, he changed from the Ukrainian Championship to the Premier League. 

"It's a completely different world, with completely different levels, completely different football. 

"Therefore, I believe that if the coaching staff dedicates him some time, he will return three, four, or five times more."

One former Shakhtar man who made a far more immediate impact in the Premier League is Roberto De Zerbi, who led Brighton and Hove Albion to Europa League qualification last term while implementing a daring style of play. 

The Seagulls are in the hunt for European qualification again this season, and they rank second in the Premier League for average passes per sequence (5.01), third for build-up attacks (127) and joint-first for high turnovers resulting in goals (seven).

After overseeing Brighton's dramatic rise, De Zerbi has been tipped to move on to pastures new, with both Barcelona and Liverpool suggested as possible landing spots for the Italian.

Palkin has no doubt De Zerbi is destined for the top, saying: "I can tell you that he did a lot for Brighton, he did brilliant work for Brighton. 

"I believe 100 per cent that he can jump into a top club tomorrow, even today, 100 per cent. The most important thing is he must accept the proposition.

"I believe he has a lot of propositions, including in Italian football and English football. Therefore, everything, everything, everything depends on him."

Mauricio Pochettino is confident he retains the backing of Chelsea’s owners but conceded his future was out of his hands after defeat in the Carabao Cup final increased scrutiny of his position.

The under-fire Argentinian said he had supportive conversations with the club’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali following Sunday’s 1-0 extra-time loss to Liverpool.

Defeat at Wembley sparked further criticism of Pochettino and his expensively-assembled squad – including scathing comments from Gary Neville – as they failed to overcome inexperienced rivals who were missing a host of star names.

Chelsea, who are languishing in 11th place in the Premier League and sit closer to the relegation zone than the top four, return to action on Wednesday evening at home to Championship club Leeds in the FA Cup fifth round.

“I said hello to the owners when I saw them in the stadium and after (the final) I met Behdad and we were talking,” said Blues boss Pochettino, who has lost forward Christopher Nkunku to another injury.

“We were sharing our opinions about the game and the opportunity we missed to win a trophy because I think we played really well during the 90 minutes.

“We created the best chances, we were not clinical enough but that is what has happened since the beginning of the season.

“They (the owners) showed their support and after the game, Todd sent a nice message.”

Asked if he would be given time to turn things around, Pochettino replied: “It’s not in my hands. We have a very good relationship with the owners, with the sporting director.

“It’s up to them to trust or not. It’s not the coach’s decision.”

What the papers say

Big changes could be in the pipeline at Chelsea on and off the pitch this summer, according to various reports. The Daily Mail says Sporting Lisbon boss Ruben Amorim is a possible replacement for manager Mauricio Pochettino.

On the field, the club are looking to sell defender Trevoh Chalobah, 24, and Albania forward Armando Broja, 22, according to The Daily Telegraph. England midfielder Conor Gallagher, 24, and Spain left-back Marc Cucurella, 25, could also leave in the summer.

Summer changes are also expected at Manchester United. The Manchester Evening News says Brazil winger Antony, 24, is among the players they would be prepared to sell.

Victor Osimhen is eyeing a move to the Premier League, according to The Sun. Arsenal and Chelsea are believed to be heading the race for the Napoli striker, 25, although Manchester United and Paris St Germain are also reportedly  interested.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Alphonso Davies: Real Madrid have reached agreement to sign the Bayern Munich and Canada left-back, 23, in the summer or next year, according to The Athletic.

Joao Palhinha: Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing the Fulham and Portugal midfielder, 28, reports Football Insider.

Liverpool beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday with a side containing a number of inexperienced youngsters due to a host of injuries to senior players. Here, the PA news agency looks at the fresh faces who took the chance to shine at Wembley.

Conor Bradley (starter)

A relatively familiar name among the group having been given an opportunity in the second half of the campaign in the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Northern Irish right-back, 20, who spent last season on loan at Bolton, has shown promise for his attacking and defensive qualities.

Bobby Clark (substitute)

Another to have been given a handful of opportunities in recent weeks, the 19-year-old is an attacking midfielder or forward. The son of former Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark, he joined the club from the Magpies in 2021 and signed a long-term contract last December.

James McConnell (substitute)

Also 19, the midfielder has featured a handful of times off the bench after making his debut against Toulouse in the Europa League in October. Joined Liverpool as an Under-15s player after catching the eye at Sunderland.

Jayden Danns (substitute)

An 18-year-old forward who only made his first-team debut as an 89th-minute substitute in the 4-1 win over Luton last Wednesday. Has been with the club since the age of eight and is the son of the much-travelled former Colchester, Crystal Palace and Bolton midfielder Neil Danns.

Jarell Quansah (substitute)

Warrington-born defender who has established himself in the first-team squad this season. The 21-year-old, who had a loan spell with Bristol Rovers last season, is a ball-playing centre-half who has come through the ranks at Liverpool after joining them at the age of five.

Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final victory over Chelsea was manager Jurgen Klopp’s “most special trophy” after they overcame more injury adversity to win 1-0 at Wembley after extra time.

Already without 11 first-team players, they lost Ryan Gravenberch to an ankle problem after half-an-hour and finished the match with four academy players on the pitch but the youngsters held out long enough for captain Virgil van Dijk to head the 118th-minute winner.

“In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won. It is absolutely exceptional,” said Klopp, who is leaving the club at the end of the season and looked emotional on the pitch at the final whistle.

“Sometimes people ask me if I’m proud of things and it’s really tricky, I wish I could feel pride more often but tonight is an overwhelming feeling.

“I was proud of everyone involved in everything here: I was proud of our people (fans) for the way they pushed us, I was proud of the staff for creating this kind of atmosphere surrounding where these boys can just do what they are best at.

“I was proud of our academy, I was proud of my coaches, I was proud of so many things. It was completely overwhelming.

“It was nothing to do with it being maybe my last game at Wembley.

“Can you create in football stories which definitely nobody will ever forget? It’s so difficult because ‘this’ happened before, ‘this’ happened before: this tonight, if you find the same story with academy players coming on against a top side and still winning it, I’ve never heard of it.

“I loved it. What we see here today is so exceptional. We might never see again. Not because I’m on the sidelines but because these things don’t happen in football.

“I got told there’s an English phrase ‘you don’t win trophies with kids’. I didn’t know that.”

Victory extended Liverpool’s own record to 10 League Cups and was the seventh major trophy he has won since arriving at the club in 2015.

His side are top of the Premier League and are one of the favourites for both the FA Cup and Europa League but Klopp has no interest in the sentimentality of his final few months.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy, I am not here to create one,” he added.

“Nothing we’ve done in the last eight or nine years is replaceable, we couldn’t have done the same at another club. It was exactly made for this combination. It is fantastic.

“We learned so much in that time, the people (fans) learned so much. That’s the one thing – it’s not a problem if a manager leaves, if these people would leave, our supporters, that would be a problem.

“As long as they are the way they are, Liverpool Football Club will be fine and that’s the most important thing.

“From time to time you need something to really celebrate. This was so special, you saw the game and saw the circumstances, they become bigger.

“We had a ref (Chris Kavanagh) who was not up to the level of the game, that didn’t help one team or the other. There was no common sense again.

“Then getting through all things. You see tired players. I have no clue who can play on Wednesday (against Southampton in the FA Cup) because we have players on the pitch until the end of the game who had problems.”

Klopp reserved special praise for his captain, who put in a real leader’s performance to lift his first trophy since taking over from Jordan Henderson.

“From the first day coming into the club (Van Dijk) was absolutely outstanding. Thank God he is in form, top shape. I think he learned an important lesson for himself: you always can win the game,” he said.

Mauricio Pochettino defended his players after “not fair” criticism from Gary Neville – who labelled Chelsea “blue billion pound bottle jobs” as they lost the Carabao Cup final to Liverpool in extra time.

Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk’s glancing header secured a 1-0 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who were missing as many as 11 injured players for the Wembley showpiece and relied on young, inexperienced players to come on late in the game.

Chelsea had the likes of £100million midfielders Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo on the pitch and were able to turn to almost £150m worth of talent from their own bench.

After Van Dijk – who had controversially seen a header chalked off by VAR in normal time – headed in the winner, Sky Sports pundit Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, said: “In extra time it has been Klopp’s kids against the blue billion pound bottle jobs.”

Pochettino, though, defended his stars and pointed to the age of his own players as a comparison to Liverpool’s teenagers.

“I don’t hear what he said but if you compare the age of the two groups, I think it is similar,” he said when told what Neville had called his team.

“But look, I have a good relationship with Gary and I don’t know how I can take this but I respect his opinion. Of course, we made a few changes like (Conor) Gallagher and (Ben) Chilwell in extra time but it is true we didn’t keep the energy that was how we finished in the second half.

“I don’t know how you can describe this situation but for sure I feel proud of the players, I think they made a big effort.

“We are a young team and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished also with a few young players. It is impossible to compare and he knows that. He knows the dynamics are completely different.

“I think it is not fair to talk in this way if he says that. But we are going to keep strong and believing in this project and see what we can do in the future.”

Pochettino, who has now lost the three major finals he has reached while managing in England at both Chelsea and Tottenham, told his squad they needed to feel hurt by the setback.

“They need to feel the pain,” he added.

“We played for a trophy we didn’t get and now, it is the same – what can you tell me to feel better? Nothing. They need to feel the pain like us and of course, they need to realise we need to work more, do better things, we need to improve.”

The Argentinian pointed to Liverpool’s own progression under Klopp as an example for Chelsea to follow in the coming years.

“To compete in this level with this team that in the last five, six, seven years is competing for big things, it is about to arrive here and then feel what it means to play for a big trophy,” he said.

“I remember after three or four years at Liverpool, they lose the Champions League, the Europa League, they keep believing and moving the project (forward) and work on the next season stronger until they get what they wanted.

“That is a good example. If we want to challenge a team like Liverpool, it is not to be frustrated today because we didn’t get the trophy. It is taking the example that we need to keep believing.”

Chelsea had also seen a goal ruled out after former Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling tapped home a Nicolas Jackson cross in the first half, only for the Senegal international to be marginally ahead of the defence.

In slipping to defeat, the Blues become the first English team to lose six successive domestic cup finals, with Chelsea now turning an eye to Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash with Leeds.

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk headed the winner deep into extra time as Jurgen Klopp’s massively-depleted side beat Chelsea 1-0 to claim a record-extending 10th Carabao Cup.

The Dutch defender, who controversially had another header ruled out at the same end in the second half after VAR intervention, rose above Mykhailo Mudryk to nod in Kostas Tsimikas’ corner in the 118th minute.

It was no more than the Netherlands international, lifting his first trophy as Liverpool captain, deserved after a monumental performance in defence in a win which seemed against the odds for long periods.

Klopp became the third Liverpool manager to win the trophy more than once as his long goodbye to his departure at the end of the season began with the first of a potential four pieces of silverware.

But for opposite number Mauricio Pochettino his long wait for an English domestic trophy continues.

Liverpool’s 2022 Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhin Kelleher will be more than happy to stay out of the limelight at Wembley.

The Republic of Ireland international scored what turned out to be the winning spot-kick after a goalless final against Sunday’s opponents Chelsea in an epic shoot-out which finished 11-10 when Kelleher’s opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga blazed over, the only failure from either side.

It was fitting for the Irishman, who has been Liverpool’s League Cup goalkeeper for the last few seasons, but he would prefer a quieter afternoon this time around.

“To be fair, I was just in the moment. I didn’t even realise it was my go and I looked at the lads and they were pointing at me,” said Kelleher.

“I didn’t have much to think so I just ended up smashing it in.”

Asked whether he had practised his penalties again he added: “I’ve done bits and bobs but I’m hoping we win it in the 90 minutes. I think it’s easier for the fans.

“I have great memories from the cup. I think the clear thing will be the penalty, that is a really nice moment.

“Then after Chelsea missed their penalty, our celebration with the fans and the team was a special moment and one I’ll never forget and hopefully we can recreate something similar on Sunday.

“It was a good experience to look back on but I’m just trying to focus on getting good results.”

Kelleher is set for his longest run in the team as first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has already missed the last three matches with a hamstring injury, is sidelined until after next month’s international break.

As back-up the 25-year-old has never played more than three consecutive games for the club but, after a similar run in November and December when Alisson was injured, he now has a chance to play a big part in the quest for silverware as the club continue to fight on four fronts.

“It can only help having a run of games as it gets you in a good rhythm and it fills me with confidence playing week in, week out,” he added.

“It’s good for me as I can get that rhythm and that relationship with the team. It can only help.”

Alisson is one of a significant number of absences, which includes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones, with Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai facing late fitness tests.

Liverpool’s midweek win over Luton showed how much their resources were stretched, with three defenders and five academy players on the bench, but assistant manager Pep Lijnders said there would be no excuses made.

“I think the good thing we always did in the past is look at what we have,” he said.

“It’s also good in life to just accept what you have and don’t look (at) what you don’t have, so that’s what we are trying to do.

“It brought us success in the past, so we try to keep that up.

“This season is a season where we created already three or four new teams in one season – that didn’t happen a lot in the last years.

“It’s a compliment for our squad, it’s a compliment for the academy.”

Mauricio Pochettino has urged the match officials not to be swayed by the focus on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool farewell in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Klopp will leave Anfield in the summer after almost nine years in charge and Sunday marks this season’s first chance to add to his seven trophies with the club.

Pochettino insisted his side “want to win because of Chelsea,” rather than being motivated by a desire to spoil Klopp’s farewell.

But he admitted he was unhappy with refereeing decisions in the recent league meeting between the teams, feeling his side should have had penalties for Virgil van Dijk’s challenges on Conor Gallagher in the first half and Christopher Nkunku in the second.

In quotes reported by several national newspapers regarding pressure on the outgoing Reds boss, the Argentinian added: “It is not pressure for him. Maybe it is for the people who want to celebrate with Liverpool.

“We need to be sure we are going to compete and be fair in every decision. At Anfield, I think too many decisions… not one key decision was for us.

“Two penalties were not given. Duels, 50-50s, always for another colour. Always red. I want to be treated in a fair way.

“The first decision after five minutes was a clear penalty. In the second half it was a penalty. The pressure is about not delivering the job for Klopp, the pressure is not to be part of the (hype).

“Of course, we are going to celebrate (Klopp’s reign). I am the first who is going to say that Liverpool is amazing and Klopp is one of the best coaches in the world.

“But I think after my last experience, what I want in Wembley is to not feel the pressure. It is to play a game at the same level and the best team will win. But not to feel the pressure of people around.”

Page 5 of 106
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.