Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 1 Chelsea 0 in the League Cup final at Wembley…


FOOTBALL Miracles. On a weekly basis. Season after season.

He’s come to this place. He found these people and he changed this football club forever.

He’s changed me forever. Hopefully for the better. It’s hard to think of any one figure who you’ve so little to do with, in real day-to-day life, who has had such an impact on your life. Who has brought you such joy and such collective pride in every possible circumstance.

Today was yet again implausible, becoming theoretically ever more implausible as it wore on, and yet there was this thing eating away at me as we went on the highs and lows – Virgil van Dijk is going to have something to say about this. Virgil van Dijk will have other ideas.

There has been this growing sense this season that we live in Virgil’s world, that he is in some way inevitable, irresistible, implacable.


Virgil Van Dijk sweeps across the front post for the second time and it’s overwhelming.

He at least has the good grace to be overwhelmed himself. Grace. He is made of grace, grace and steel.

The man of the match. He didn’t just win it for us with his head, he won it in defence. Chelsea are a skilled and forthright side. They needed Sterling to be lucky, or to Chalobah at the final moments to get the better fall of the ball. It never came for them because Virgil Van Dijk marshalled Liverpool’s defensive play with calm. Nobody panicked for 120 minutes, no matter what. Because there is Virgil. This was the Van Dijk Final. God like grace.

It may not be the last Van Dijk Final either.

The Carabao Cup. In so many ways, the better trophy than its domestic cup rival. It is an exaggeration to say that all great Liverpool seasons contain a League Cup win, but there are times it feels like that.

The timing of it with so much undecided, so much up in the air, so much going on across four fronts with so few first-team players — it would be easy to just write it off.

Because you live in the moment and you take the opportunities that you are afforded, because you want to bring emotion and joy to the fans, because we only get one go round and you want it all.

Because there are miracles to be had, weekly, seasonally, because we can change these people forever, because it is an act of love and you dig each other out and push each other on and support.

If it’s silver we want it. We wanted it today. Every battle, every tackle, every push forward. Liverpool wanted this and in the stands, every hand lifted a scarf. A sea of red from beginning to end, making waves of sound for our team. We wanted it. Let’s be absolutely clear about that. This season has a long way to run, and this was an exceedingly long game, but every player, young and old, fought for this victory today. They deserved it, each and every one.

Each and every one. Harvey. Elliott. We watch him mature before our eyes in this game. His influence on the game is both his passing in the middle and his potential going forward, combined with his desire to win his battles.

Tell you another one. Wataru Endo. Dominates the midfield. Never gives in to the Chelsea press, the physical battle in midfield, yet still manages to be creative, to pass forward, to look after all of his mates. His first half block kept everything alive.

Ibou Konate sets a tone first half and fights for our lives second.

Caoimhin Kelleher, though. It is a man of the match performance if not for his captain being the whole fucking show. He smothers, is quick and smart, leaping to his feet after every save and he keeps his cool.

In many ways, the manager turns the injury problems into a young legs solution. To keep going without goals for 120 minutes is hard. But this young, inexperienced Liverpool, in part, manage it because they are young and inexperienced.

But they are also excellent. James McConnell comes on and is as good as Alexis Mac Allister which is useful as Mac Allister was excellent. Bobby Clark just wins everything first 15 he is on. Jayden Danns does the running of two. Jarrell Quansah again is calm, the essence of unruffled.

The thing is this — no excuses. Yet also no blame. No negativity. Everyone is bought into what this is, on the pitch, in the dugout, in the stands. What this is is a set of footballers making you proud, precisely because they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They keep playing and keep attacking and keep trying to win because they are a product of what one man has been leading for eight years.

The thing is this — Levi Colwill stoops to conquer with three to go for Chelsea and we have to swallow it then I wouldn’t be any less proud than I am now.

Honestly, I wouldn’t, I couldn’t adore them and him and you and us any more than I do. It would be impossible. The backing they were given when they needed it said it all. That was Liverpool. Walk around it.

Another chapter in the manager’s book. Another chapter which no one would have believed 12 months ago and no one would have believed it on the first of January, when some of those lads hadn’t kicked a ball for the first team.

The book is almost too good, overwhelmingly so. Miraculous on a weekly basis, but always a new way to be miraculous.

People from all over everywhere have paid loads to get to Wembley today to see the men in red go home with the silver thing in hand. We drift away in the cold February air with all our best tunes ringing out. People get captured by this football club whether they are born to it or adopt it from afar. They see our miracles and hear our songs. It is something special, you know.

We get to share in it and in him guaranteed now at the end of the campaign. They will come from all over for the parade. We have the silverware now to justify it, but really we would have wanted to do it anyway. Three laps of the city. For him. For us. For the best years of our lives. For being changed forever.

I mean, we could have done it anyway and, in fact, we always should have. To quote:

“You do what you do for yourself and your people and what the outside world thinks about it I couldn’t give a shit to be honest. And you can write that exactly like that. This is for us and nobody else.”

His quote.

His football team.

His culture.

His impact.

His miracles.

Our lives.

Jürgen Klopp.

And he isn’t finished yet.


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