Soccer-Klopp puts faith in kids to win 'most special' trophy of his career

Credit: REUTERS/PAUL CHILDS

By Toby Davis

LONDON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The old saying that you can't win anything with kids was thrown out of the window on Sunday as Juergen Klopp put his trust in a host of youngsters who repaid his faith in spades as Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 after extra time to lift the League Cup.

Klopp, facing an injury crisis so severe it threatened to derail Sunday's plans at Wembley, turned to a group of young players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them to dig him out of a hole.

As the game edged towards extra time with Chelsea on top, a flagging Liverpool were in need of an injection of energy to wrestle momentum back in their favour.

The Liverpool manager brought on 19-year-olds James McConnell and Bobby Clark and Jayden Danns, 18, before also throwing on 21-year-old Jarell Quansah off the bench.

All four looked calm on the ball and unruffled by the occasion as Liverpool found the decisive breakthrough in extra time when Virgil van Dijk headed the winner in the 118th minute.

The League Cup may be the least important of England's domestic trophies but Klopp, a Champions League and Premier League winner with Liverpool and double Bundesliga champion with Borussia Dortmund, said Sunday's victory was something special.

"I got told outside that you don't win trophies with kids. Write it new. In my more than 20 years (as a manager), this is easily the most special trophy I have ever won," he told reporters.

"Sometimes I get asked if I am proud of this or that, I wish I could feel pride more often, but I was proud of absolutely everything today.

"Seeing the faces of the kids after the game, Jayden Danns, can you create stories in football that nobody would ever forget - this tonight if you find the same story with academy players coming on against a top, top side, and winning it, that's how we do it."

The Liverpool manager had already started the game with 20-year-olds Conor Bradley and Harvey Elliott in a lineup that was largely dictated by the players they had missing.

He will rarely have been so depleted in his managerial career with the likes of Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, goalkeeper Alisson and Curtis Jones, key forwards Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai recently joining a number of longer term absentees on the sidelines.

The loss of Ryan Gravenberch to a nasty looking ankle injury after 28 minutes also did not help the cause, forcing Klopp into a reshuffle that resulted in right back Bradley playing up front.

Yet against a Chelsea side assembled at an eye-watering cost, Liverpool's youngsters did not wilt.

"This was so special," added the Liverpool manager, who said age was not in his thought process when he chose his squad.

"You saw the circumstances, we had problems before the game. They became bigger during the game. Tonight is a night I will never forget and if nobody else sees it like that no problem. For me it's a really nice memory forever."

(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris)

((TobyDavis1@thomsonreuters.com; 0207 542 7933;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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