Liverpool won the English League Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday in a remarkable 11-10 penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• That was the best 0-0 game I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Until today, I would have said that was the 1999 women’s World Cup final between the USWNT and China. But this one was better. There was goal-scoring chance after goal-scoring chance. There were several disallowed goals, and one by each team that I think shouldn’t have been disallowed: Romelu Lukaku’s late strike that was struck for a hairline offside (I much prefer MLS using “clear and obvious” and not telemetry for offside VAR calls), and Joel Matip’s earlier goal that VAR disallowed for Virgil van Dijk setting a pick (which was a lame call). By the time it was over, Christian Pulisic’s should-have-been finish in the opening minutes seemed like it had happened an eternity earlier. Then we had every single penalty converted by every player until the keepers decided things: Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher boldly converted his, and poor Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea sent his kick hurtling into the stratosphere above the bar. Game over. I’m exhausted.
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• If I were a coach, I would never pull my keeper for a sub before a penalty shootout. Look, Kepa should hardly be viewed as the goat in this game. Chelsea had 120 minutes of chances to win it before the penalty shootout and didn’t do it. But ever since Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal pulled his keeper for Tim Krul and won that penalty shootout against Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, a lot of people think that’s the smart thing to do. And I just disagree. Why would you bring a cold keeper into a game like that? Why, if you’re Thomas Tuchel, would you bench Édouard Mendy, the world’s best keeper, the guy who just a couple weeks ago made a huge save to help give Senegal the Africa Cup of Nations title in a penalty shootout? Mendy’s replacement, Kepa, didn’t make a single save in 11 attempts. I’m shaking my head right now imagining the look Mendy is giving Tuchel in the locker room.
• Chelsea’s club statements on the Russian invasion of Ukraine are embarrassing. Yes, I realize this is a big transition from the game itself, but it’s important to bring up when it comes to what really matters right now. Chelsea, owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who has been inextricably tied to the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, issued a statement on Saturday in which Abramovich said he was giving “stewardship” of the club to Chelsea’s charitable foundation. Not once in that statement did Abramovich say anything about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which says everything. Then in a follow-up statement on Sunday, Chelsea called Russia’s invasion “the situation in Ukraine” and said it was “praying for peace,” as if it was both-sidesing a violent and unlawful action taken by one country unilaterally against a neighbor. Russia should be viewed as a pariah nation, and Abramovich’s ill-gotten wealth and ties to Putin are inextricably tied to what is happening right now.
What were your thoughts on the game? You can share them in the comments below.
Kepa has been brilliant saving penalties this season. It was the right move. Despite the 1 save at AFCON, Mendy hasn’t been good at penalties
“Russia should be viewed as a pariah nation“
Completely agree, but let’s not confuse the vast majority of the Russian *people* with the Russian powerful, especially Putin. That FIFA didn’t dump immediately Russia from the WC qualifiers reminds you of FIFA’s priorities. Will Russia “qualify” as other countries refuse to play them, and is it possible they could WIN for the same reason?