Liverpool to face Chelsea in Caraboa Cup final

Liverpool’s Colombian midfielder #07 Luis Diaz (L) celebrates with Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker #09 Darwin Nunez after scoring the opening goal during the English League Cup demi-final second leg football match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage stadium, in London, on January 24, 2024. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Liverpool will face Chelsea in the League Cup final after surviving a scare in their 1-1 draw against Fulham in the semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

Holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg, Liverpool took the lead through Luis Diaz early in the first half at Craven Cottage.

That should have been the signal for a comfortable evening for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

But they missed several chances to kill off Fulham before Issa Diop’s late goal set the stage for a dramatic denouement.

Liverpool barely held on under Fulham’s barrage of pressure before finally clinching a 3-2 aggregate success.

“This was not a night to shine or play a bit of fancy football, it was a night to qualify for a final. The boys did really well and I’m really happy,” Klopp said.

“The very young ones have been incredible. I’m so happy to see their reaction in the dressing room.”

In a repeat of the 2022 final won by Liverpool on penalties, the Reds will make their 14th appearance in the League Cup showpiece against Chelsea at Wembley on February 25.

“It’s fantastic. We had the experience before, we know what to expect. Again Chelsea. Wow what a story that is,” Klopp said.

“You should never take for granted if you are part of the team who can qualify for trophies.”

Liverpool have won the League Cup a record nine times, while Chelsea, who routed Middlesbrough 6-2 on aggregate on the other semi-final, have lifted the trophy on five occasions, most recently in 2015.

With Mohamed Salah suffering a serious hamstring injury on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Egypt, Liverpool will be bereft of star power for several weeks.

But in Salah’s absence, Liverpool’s victory over Bournemouth on Sunday took them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds are also competing in the FA Cup and Europa League, giving them a chance for an incredible quadruple trophy haul this season.

Black and white billboards with the slogan ‘dare to dream’ had surrounded the Craven Cottage pitch in a pre-match message to the Fulham fans, who responded with a raucous atmosphere that belied their sedate reputation.

It didn’t take long for Liverpool to puncture Fulham’s optimism.