Soccer-Energy-sapped Chelsea rue missed chances against Liverpool


Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Final - Chelsea v Liverpool - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 25, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino reacts REUTERS/Carl Recine

LONDON (Reuters) - There was little to separate Chelsea and Liverpool for effort, entertainment and intent through most of the League Cup final on Sunday but the Reds came through 1-0 winners and their opponents will rue missed chances and a drop in intensity in extra time.

Desperately disappointed Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino said he was proud of his young side, who were feeling pain.

"They are very competitive ... They need to feel the pain. Nothing you can tell me can make me feel better. Nothing," he told a news conference after Virgil van Dijk's late winner.

The Argentine coach said he made a few changes in extra time such as substituting stalwarts Conor Gallagher and Ben Chilwell because of fatigue.

"But it's true, we didn't keep the energy how we finished the second-half," Pochettino added.

Liverpool captain Van Dijk took advantage and headed home from a corner two minutes before the end of extra time.

Many would argue that overall Chelsea enjoyed the better opportunities and could have been several goals up in normal time but for outstanding play from stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher who kept the forwards at bay.

Cole Palmer, Conor Gallagher and Christopher Nkunku all tested him during normal time.

"We created four, five, six big chances and we didn't score. In a game like today and in a final to score first, it is a big advantage," Pochettino said. "We conceded in the last minute and it is difficult to react.

He said Chelsea were a young team and could not be compared to Premier League leaders Liverpool, even though their opponents were playing without some of their biggest names.

Chelsea have suffered from a lack of sharpness in front of goal throughout the season.

"We need to improve and compete at this level against a team that is competing for big things in the last eight years," Pochettino said.

FRENETIC MATCH

In a sometimes frenetic encounter, both sides had goals ruled out, Raheem Sterling for Chelsea because Nicolas Jackson was marginally offside in the build-up and Van Dijk in the second half for a defensive infringement by Wataru Endo.

Both sides also hit the post, Liverpool's Cody Gakpo in the first half and Chelsea's Palmer in the second.

Liverpool, too, were fielding a young side because of injuries to many of their first-team players.

"I think we really competed (but) if you don't score with chances we had it's difficult to win the final," Pochettino said.

Chelsea's players left the Wembley pitch pretty quickly after accepting their runners-up medals.

It was the third domestic final in a row that the London side had lost to Liverpool. Chelsea lost on penalties to their northern rivals in both the League and FA Cups in 2022.

They are also the first team ever to lose six successive domestic major finals in English football history.

The defeat will intensify the pressure on Pochettino, who has failed to produce consistent results since arriving this season, despite heavy spending by Chelsea's U.S. owners.

Like Liverpool, they remain in the FA Cup and will have to regroup to face Leeds United in the fifth round on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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