Van Dijk's extra-time header wins English League Cup for Liverpool over Chelsea

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LONDON (AP) — Virgil van Dijk came up with a crucial header to secure Liverpool a record-extending 10th English League Cup trophy on Sunday.

The center back's goal in the 28th minute of extra time sealed a 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley after the game had ended 0-0 in regulation.

It clinched an eighth piece of silverware for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and ensured he will not end his final year at the club empty-handed.

“You should always savor the good moments, this is definitely one of them," Van Dijk said. “I’m so proud, proud to be part of this club and especially proud of the boys.”

Klopp will step down at the end of the season, but victory in the League Cup has kept his team on course for an improbable quadruple of trophies.

Liverpool currently leads the Premier League table and is still in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League.

Victory was particularly satisfying for Klopp, given he had to call upon a host of the club's emerging talent in the absence of injured stars like Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He used seven players who were aged 21 or under.

“What happened here was absolutely insane, these things are not possible. The team, a squad, an academy full of character. I am so proud I could be part of that tonight," he said. “The craziest thing is we deserved it. We had lucky moments, they had lucky moments. The boys showed up, it was really cool.”

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino was hoping to win his first major trophy in England after previous spells with Southampton and Tottenham.

He will have to wait.

“They (the players) are professional. They need to feel the pain. We played for a trophy we didn’t get. They need to feel the pain like us," Pochettino said. “The players feel the disappointment because we were so close to winning the game after 90 minutes.”

Liverpool and Chelsea had met in both domestic finals in 2022 and on each occasion Liverpool came out on top to lift the League Cup and FA Cup on penalties after two goalless draws.

This was another close match that saw both teams have goals ruled out for offside and the woodwork hit on three occasions.

Chelsea could have gone ahead early on when Cole Palmer’s effort was saved by Caoimhin Kelleher from close range.

Later Raheem Sterling thought he had put Chelsea in front after sliding home Nicolas Jackson’s cross, but the goal was ruled out for offside in the buildup.

Cody Gakpo’s header then left Chelsea goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic standing shortly before halftime, but his effort came back off the foot of the post.

Van Dijk sent Liverpool fans wild in the second half with a powerful header to beat Petrovic, but it was Chelsea’s supporters who were left cheering when after a lengthy review it was also disallowed for offside.

Conor Gallagher hit the post in the 76th after flicking Palmer’s cross beyond Kelleher and later denied when one-on-one with the keeper.

Liverpool had the better chances in extra time but when Harvey Elliott struck the post with a header it looked like it would go down to penalties again.

That was until Van Dijk came up with the decisive moment and perhaps the start of a trophy-laden end to Klopp’s reign.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer