KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: Jurgen Klopp will end his final season at Liverpool with at least one major trophy after captain Virgil van Dijk rose gloriously in extra time to deliver a 1-0 League Cup Final victory over Chelsea – the 51st major trophy in the club’s history.

A record-extending 10th League Cup triumph was all the more remarkable because Liverpool were missing a string of senior players through injury, lost another in Ryan Gravenberch in the first half and had to bring on a clutch of inexperienced youngsters as fatigue ate away as Klopp’s team.

Van Dijk’s ultimately decisive captain’s strike was appropriate. He was the outstanding individual on the pitch, his leadership was faultless and he had seen a goal controversially disallowed in the second half.

Jurgen Klopp in triumph – again

Chelsea’s fate was a sixth successive Wembley defeat and further failure for manager Mauricio Pochettino in his pursuit of a first personal trophy in English football. Bizarrely in extra time, his players appeared more interested in playing for a shootout than for the victory which had appeared to beckon at the end of the 90 minutes.

Klopp had made two changes from the midweek win over Luton with Ibrahima Konate and Andrew Robertson replacing Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah at the back. This still left them without Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota, Curtis Jones, Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai.

Chelsea, by contrast, were unchanged from the side who had drawn a week earlier at Manchester City. All the promise of that result dissipated when they lost their grip and confidence drained in the extra 30 minutes.

Exacerbating the depression of defeat will be knowledge that they had missed a chance to secure the guarantee of a return to Europe via the UEFA Conference League play-off round. Now, far off the European places in the Premier League, one last European shot remains via the FA Cup. Pochettino, with only win over Klopp in 14 meetings, will pray they do not have to face Liverpool here too.

Both teams made a nervy start but Liverpool were quicker to settle and could have opened the scoring in the 13th minute. A slip by Alex Disasi handed possession to Luis Diaz on the edge of the Chelsea penalty box but the Colombian’s low drive was saved at the near post by keeper Djordje Petrovic.

Six minutes later and Chelsea should have scored on their first break. Raheem Sterling had a shot blocked and then Cole Palmer’s attempt at the rebound was brilliantly saved by keeper Caoimhin Kelleher, leaping to his left.

Carried off

More trouble followed for Liverpool when Gravenberch had to carried off after being trodden on by Moises Caicedo. Klopp was furious that the Chelsea player escaped without punishment even while he had to reshape his side on bringing Joe Gomez into defence by moving Conor Bradley up on to the right of attack.

Both defences enjoyed escapes before the interval. First Liverpool breathed a sight of relief when Nicolas Jackson was caught marginally offside in a right-wing move which ended with Sterling putting the ball in the Liverpool net. Then Chelsea’s defenders were helpless as Cody Gakpo headed an Andrew Robertson assist against a post.

Liverpool thought they had broken through one minute before the hour mark when Van Dijk rose above Ben Chilwell to head home. This time it was Liverpool’s turn to have a goal disallowed by referee Chris Kavanagh, after a VAR screen check penalised the offside Wataru Endo for blocking off a defender.

Cole Palmer had barely featured in Chelsea’s attacks before, in the 76th minute, he drifted wide on to the right to find both space and time to drill in a short cross which Conor Gallagher clipped against Kelleher’s right-hand post.

Crucial saves

Gallagher had more chances to win the final. First he was played into space by Palmer again only to be foiled by the onrushing Kelleher then he fired over the bar. How Gallagher will rue those misses – and how Kelleher will be celebrated at Anfield for his defiance.

Klopp, fearing that his team were running on wearied legs, gambled with the introduction of youngsters Bobby Clark, Jayden Danns and James McConnell for Bradley, Gakpo and Alex Mac Allister. The changes brought the team’s average age down to 24.

That was encouraging for Chelsea who flew forward yet again with redoubled belief. Twice Kelleher saved with his feet in quick succession in a goalmouth scramble to close out the 90 minutes.

Now, however, Chelsea lost their nerve. Danns had a header palmed over the bar in the early minutes of extra time then Elliott volleyed wide as Liverpool, remarkably in all the circumstances, reclaimed command. Their due reward was Van Dijk’s most important goal for Liverpool, two minutes from the end of the 120.

The teams:

Chelsea: Petrovic – Gusto, Colwill, Disasi, Chilwell (Chalobah 113) – Caicedo, Fernandez – Palmer, Gallagher (Madueke 96), Sterling (Nkunku 67) – Jackson (Mudryk 90). Subs not used: Sanchez, Bettinelli, Gee, Gilchrist, Tauriainen.

Liverpool: Kelleher – Bradley (Clark 72), Konate (Quansah 105), Van Dijk, Robertson (Tsimikas 87) – Mac Allister (McConnell 87), Endo, Gravenberch (Gomez 28) – Elliott, Gakpo (Danns 87), Diaz. Subs not used: Adrian, Koumas, Nyoni.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 88,868.