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Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson both paid tribute to Liverpool’s “special” EFL Cup triumph over Chelsea after securing a dramatic penalty shootout on Sunday.
A captivating final in which both teams were denied goals had to be decided from the spot, and after a run of 21 successful spot kicks, Chelsea’s replacement goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga blasted over the crossbar to give the Reds record success in the competition.
Van Dijk hit the red third kick in the penalty shootout, but he was instrumental in yet another of the match’s most important turning points.
Joel Matip had a goal in the second half rejected after his center-back partner was ruled offside when he blocked defender Reece James.
Speaking to Sky Sports after lifting the trophy, Van Dijk praised his team’s maturity and work speed, but expressed his confusion over the decision to reject Matip’s goal.
“[It was] very special, ”said the 30-year-old about the victory.
“There was a lot of hard work, as we expected before the match, a lot of calm nerves [needed]. Overall, the penalties were all quite good except for the last one [from Kepa].
“We’ve matured and been through a lot over the last two seasons, the way we play and the additions we’ve made.
“It was an intense match, and offside goals were also a thing, and the rule of continuing to play until anytime [when an offside call is tight] is annoying. That’s something we should consider taking out for next season.
“I told the judge I did not understand [the offside decision]. I did not even participate, the ball went over my head and I did not even go after the ball. It’s a game of challenges and you’re allowed to block a move.
“I think when Manchester United played away at Burnley [in a Premier League draw earlier this month]there was a similar thing that was also forbidden, and I do not understand it. “
It’s Boss to be a red pic.twitter.com/5im1PXUWsn
Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) February 27, 2022
Club captain Henderson, who was Liverpool’s only survivor of their last EFL Cup victory in 2012, was delighted to win the first major final of the English season and thought it could “kickstart” their attempts to secure the Premier League and Champions League the titles.
“It was amazing, [it’s] very special to win trophies in this football club, ”the 31-year-old told Sky Sports. “[It’s] always difficult when it comes to penalties.
“We have used the whole squad, the academy, the first team, they have all used it, which makes it very special.
“It’s wrong to think it was 10 years ago [since] we won it. Today was a really special day. We never take for granted to play for this club. The fans deserve it, and hopefully it can give us a kickstart for the rest of the season. “
The result means that Jurgen Klopp’s team remains in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple; they are behind Premier League leaders Manchester City by six points with one game in hand, visiting Norwich City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday and holding a 2-0 lead halfway through their Champions League round of 16 with Inter.