Liverpool have new element that could be Champions League edge as Jürgen Klopp handed 14-man boost

The 2022 League Cup final was a dramatic spectacle from first to last — another to add to the canon of classic battles between Liverpool and Chelsea. As was the case in the 2007 Champions League semi-final and the 2019 European Super Cup final, when these teams go to penalties, the Reds come out on top.

This was a genuine team effort, with crucial contributions all over the pitch across 120 minutes in which both sides had moments where they should have scored, as well as moments where they thought that they had. Liverpool’s depth has been lauded in recent victories where the game has been changed from the bench, but at Wembley, with silverware on the line, is where it matters most and Jurgen Klopp’s men delivered.

The original 19-man squad was stretched to 20 once Thiago Alcântara suffered an injury in the warm-up, with Harvey Elliott promoted to the bench, and Naby Keïta chosen to start. Keita can be pleased with his performance in the circumstances, as was the case for all who left the pitch early — Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mané, Joel Matip and in particular Luis Díaz.

However, the most potent example of Liverpool’s strength in depth was that every man left on the pitch at the final whistle took a penalty, whether they wanted to or not. All eleven men scored, the first time an English team from the top four divisions has achieved that feat since Dagenham & Redbridge & Leyton Orient scored 27 consecutive penalties between them in the first round of the 2011 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This was the first time a Premier League team had ever done it, although Manchester United were on the receiving end against Villarreal in last year’s Europa League final, with David De Gea playing the part of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Taking into account Liverpool’s shootout success over Leicester City in the quarter-final, 14 different players have scored a penalty for Liverpool this season. That list does not include Mané, who won AFCON 2022 for Senegal with the decisive kick. As Liverpool go deeper into both the FA Cup and the Champions League, there’s no doubt this knowledge will breed confidence for any future battles.

In celebration of this unprecedented penalty excellence, Liverpool.com has rated each kick on three important metrics:

Confidence: often cited as a reliable indicator of potential success, despite a lack of statistical analysis for such a subjective topic. Considered absolute gospel by nervous supporters watching on.

Technique: ultimately the most critical aspect. Under the intense pressure of a final, a player’s trust in his technique can overcome any nerves or tiredness.

Celebration: The immediate aftermath of taking a penalty in a shootout produces an expression of authentic emotions, unlike very few other situations. Is there pure relief, or are they inspiring their teammates by exuding calm or inspiring fans with a guttural roar?

These elements will decide who can be relied on the next time penalties are required and who was lucky to get away with it?

Number 1 – James Milner

Confidence – Having the confidence to go first is almost a guarantee of top marks in itself, but Milner’s granite-jawed stare at Kepa’s attempts at distraction sealed the deal. 10/10

Technique – From the stutter-step school of approaches, Milner sends Kepa the wrong way with a penalty arrowed into the side netting. 10/10

Celebration – The cool facade melts away, as Milner screams in the direction of the Liverpool fans behind the goal, raising the volume a few notches. 7/10

Number 2 – Fabinho

Confidence – Another open and shut case. The panenka is the calling card of the confident, but in some instances the overconfident. As Fabinho stood hands on hips waiting for Kepa’s antics to end, there was no outward signs of what was about to unfold. 10/10

Technique – A purposeful run-up was the perfect disguise for the laziest of dinks. A fake that fooled Kepa so badly that he was on one knee and then back up before the ball had crossed the line. A shot that floated barely two feet from the floor as it nestled in the centre of the net. 10/10

Celebration – The merest of jogs away from the scene of the crime oozed nonchalance, pausing to offer encouragement to Kelleher on the way back to his teammates. Job Done. 8/10

Number 3 – Virgil Van Dijk

Confidence – Confidence is one of the Dutchman’s superpowers, and yet it was still a surprise to see him so early in the shootout. The exterior looked ‘calm as you like’ as normal, yet the intensity with which his eyes were locked on the ball betrayed the maelstrom within. 6/10

Technique – Most observers in my immediate vicinity believed he would ‘just smash it’, and while the ball did rocket into the top left corner, there was no lack of finesse, as Van Dijk stroked it in at 90mph. 9/10

Celebration – Van Dijk only celebrates wildly when Matip is involved. On this occasion, all we saw was a stare in the direction of the opposition fans, and a salute to his own. 6/10

Number 4 – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Confidence – A positive stride towards the spot was coupled with a very deliberate placement of the ball. In some instances, an obsession with the spot can lead to disaster, but for Alexander-Arnold it appeared as if he was going through his process in the same way he would for a free kick. 8/10

Technique – Striking a dead ball has never been a problem, and with remarkable echoes to Milner’s penalty, a stutter step was followed by a ball whipped into the side netting, well beyond Kepa’s grasp. 10/10

Celebration – The right-back was going to opt for nonchalance, before remembering the greater task of acting as cheerleader for his young goalkeeper. A point and a clenched fist in his direction erupted in a full-bloodied fist pump to the crowd as he allowed himself to get swept up in the emotions. 10/10

Number 5 – Mohamed Salah

Confidence – Liverpool’s penalty taker had every right to be the most confident man on the pitch, having dispatched two penalties in midweek against Leeds United. A kiss for the ball and a moment to compose himself betrayed a man who has been here before, and accepts the pressure of the highest stakes. 9/10

Technique – Salah clearly decided that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and placed the ball in exactly the same place as he had past Illian Meslier on Wednesday. Another rifled into the side netting. 10/10

Celebration – Not much of a celebration, more a wry smile. Perhaps born out of bemusement at the vociferous noise made by the Chelsea fans to put him off, although in truth by this stage he shouldn’t be surprised. An extra point for whatever he said to Jorginho on the way past, even if it was unsuccessful in putting him off. 7/10

Number 6 – Diogo Jota

Confidence – Confidence is usually viewed harshly for anyone outside of the initial five, but that doesn’t take into account the possibility that more than five were willing, and it was down to Klopp to decide who was chosen. That said, Jota was the first man to look nervous, after 40 minutes on the pitch that showed that he wasn’t yet back to full fitness. 5/10

Technique – A penalty straight down the middle seemed to confirm the suspicions of nerves, taking the approach normally expected from defenders (see Virgil Van Dijk) to just run up and smack it. Kepa’s early dive helped to make it a formality. 7/10

Celebration – In contrast to the strong send-off given to the Leicester fans after he clinched Liverpool’s place in the semi-finals, this was a more restrained affair. The tension had gone up a notch, and Jota’s stone-faced walk back to the centre circle was drenched in relief. 5/10

Number 7 – Divock Origi

Confidence – Origi is a hard man to read at the best of times, and true to form there was no sense of the magnitude of the moment as he made his way to retrieve the ball. Confidence in the room wasn’t quite as strong, but a large portion of that was based on his narrative as a part-time hero, part-time whipping boy. We can’t hold that against him here. 8/10

Technique – The stutter step is obviously popular at Kirkby, although it’s clear to see why as another early move from Kepa allows Origi to sweep the ball into the opposite side with ease. 8/10

Celebration – Aside from his customary salute to the skies, there’s no celebration to speak of from the Belgian. He strolls back as if it were a training game, like he can’t see the pain and desperation written across every other face in the stadium. Exactly as expected. 7/10

Number 8 – Andy Robertson

Confidence – Andy Robertson was nervous. Very nervous. Skulking down the pitch like a live interpretation of the Jordan Peele sweating gif, his heart may have been brave but it certainly hadn’t told his face. 4/10

Technique – A deep breath before approaching a strong run-up shook the nerves loose, as he was able to send Kepa the wrong way with a smooth and true strike of his left foot. 8/10

Celebration – The Braveheart was back in full effect as the Scot let out a roar that could be heard back in Glasgow. A man who has formed a special bond with Liverpool fans for his endeavour and his passion waves them on to give the team more, and they respond 10/10

Number 9 – Harvey Elliott

Confidence – There’s a confidence about the way Elliott expresses himself on the pitch, but even for one so young and fearless, this was a big step at a big time. There was a moment when he reminded us all that he’s a teenager by biting his lip — a move that sent concerned glances around the room. Otherwise he did a good job of keeping himself under control with another slow deliberate build-up. 6/10

Technique – A less exaggerated stutter breaks into a confident stride, as Elliott delivers an impeccable carbon copy of Robertson’s penalty, almost hitting the exact same square of the net. 8/10

Celebration – The Robertson impression continues with another roar, and a feverish slapping of the badge on his chest. Elliott has been to Liverpool finals as a fan in the stands, and knew what was going through the minds of all 33,000 in red as they screamed back at him. A moment to relight any waning fires. 10/10

Number 10 – Ibrahima Konaté

Confidence – The man they call Ibou is another cool customer in a Liverpool dressing room now full of them, and was happily smiling to himself about something as he wandered down towards the Liverpool end. The stance of both hands on his hips as referee Stuart Attwell blew his whistle showed Kepa how unbothered he was with the Spaniard’s attempts to make himself bigger. 10/10

Technique – This facade was immediately shattered by a run-up of a man chasing a bus, followed by an abrupt stop and a push with his right instep that was too strong for Kepa’s fingertips. Comfortably the closest anyone came to missing. 5/10

Celebration – A much more sheepish jog than Fabinho’s turned into more cheerleading, conducting the crowd with both arms, as much to detract from his own performance as anything else 7/10

Number 11 Caoimhim Kelleher

Confidence – The young Irishman started his career as a striker, something which no doubt stood him in good stead here. There was no sign that any of the previous 10 penalties that went past him were playing on his mind, as he dribbled the ball towards the spot. 9/10

Technique – His penalty was a clear demonstration of where all of that confidence came from. Kelleher picked his spot and thumped it there emphatically, the ball hitting the back of the net with a satisfying thwack. 10/10

Celebration – The most confident jog of them all, bouncing across the turf past his opposite number as he got in position to do his real job. Rather than delivering a death stare, the casual glance towards Kepa was a gentle rattle of a cage already shaking, having failed in the mission he was brought on to fulfil. 10/10

Eleven slightly different ways of getting the job done, each one cheered to the rafters as Liverpool collected a record ninth League Cup, and the first trophy of a potentially historic Quadruple. Only time will tell if these penalty ratings will be updated before this season is over.

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