[League Cup, Final]
When these two great teams met last time for a final, two and half years ago in Istanbul playing for the Super Cup, it also went to penalties. I was there in person. I sat perpendicular to the goalside where the penalties were taken, and here is a somewhat embarrassing admission – I couldn’t look. At least not when we took ours. I suffered from a similar problem today, as every time someone in a red shirt walked up to the spot, I found myself drifting perpendicular to the edge of the TV. But just like Joel Matip in THAT famous photo, this time I cocked my head over just enough to watch them all. Every single one was remarkable.
Especially the last one.
How often do you get to rotate through the entire team before a shootout is decided? How often does it happen without any misses along the way? How incredible that it should all come to rest on a duel between the young Liverpool keeper, whose selection for this final was questioned by many, and the much maligned (and in my opinion, unfairly so) Chelsea second keeper, who was brought on precisely because they deem him a penalty specialist? Didn’t it feel like a western? A showdown at high noon? Kelleher and Kepa, facing each other, guns at the ready.
Somebody better make a meme of that.
It was only fitting, because this game was ultimately a game of keepers. Mendy and Kelleher both earned their teams the right to be at that incredible penalty shootout. If it needs saying, then both of them together share the man-of-the-match award. Others of note include Luis Diaz, who was again excellent before he ran out of gas, and Kovacic, who was just as excellent in his turn. But perhaps we should award it to the ball, which just refused to accede to the wishes of the players, and would just not… go… in. It was as if it was bewitched, teasing and taunting the players on both sides, time and again.
When it did finally make it into the net, VAR stepped in the make sure nothing stops the fun. In two cases, one for each team, the decision was extremely marginal. In that sense, it was perhaps honors even. And truly, it was an honorable and magnificent effort by two teams who clearly shared much respect for each other. It could have easily ended 4-4 in regulation time, and still led to this intense finish, with a blackjack of penalties going through before somebody finally missed one. It only ended at 0-0 because the ball decided to play its own tricks.
I can try to write more about the game itself, but it’s still hard to make sense of the spectacle we’d just been through. Truly, if you missed this game, go watch it. It’s worth every second of your time. Hat’s off to Chelsea. Next time we meet for one of these, we may not come out on top again.
With that… one down… three to go? Who knows? Could happen.
Glad this one’s in the bag.