Chelsea suffered cup final heartbreak as a tight match with Liverpool was decided by a set-piece deep into the second period of extra time, after we had been denied goals by the offside flag, the woodwork and a series of saves by the Reds keeper.

For almost 120 minutes there was virtually nothing to pick between the two sides at Wembley. Liverpool had marginally more of the ball, but Chelsea arguably produced the better of the chances.

Both sides hit the woodwork and had a goal ruled out by the officials - for Chelsea that was a close-range finish from Raheem Sterling chalked off for offside, and Conor Gallagher turning Cole Palmer's square-pass off the post.

However, with the Carabao Cup final looking for all the world like it was heading for a penalty shootout, just like the previous two Wembley finals between these sides, Virgil van Dijk headed in from a corner to inflict defeat on the Blues in the most painful of circumstances.

Tense opening

We got ourselves into trouble a couple of times in dangerous positions, attempting to play out from the back instead of clearing our lines during an edgy start. Once the first 10 minutes was out of the way the Blues settled into the game, taking back a measure of control and launching quick attacks.

Neither team had really tested the goalkeeper until approaching 15 minutes, when an Axel Disasi slip allowed Luis Diaz a sight of goal from the edge of the box, but Djordje Petrovic was more than equal to his low drive.

Chelsea were unlucky not to take the lead on almost exactly 20 minutes, being denied by goalkeeping heroics from Caoimhin Kelleher. A good move to escape pressure in the middle released Conor Gallagher to cross low from the right. Raheem Sterling was crowded out as he waited for the ball to settle, but when Cole Palmer reached the loose ball first it looked like a certain goal, until Kelleher threw himself into the way and Jackson’s follow-up was also blocked.

Close at both ends

Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark, Sterling turning in from close range after Jackson had been played in on the right by Palmer and squared across goal. However the offside flag went up and it was disallowed for what looked like an extremely tight call.

It was still an evenly contested tie at Wembley, but Chelsea were increasingly looking the more dangerous team going forward, especially when finding space down the flanks behind Liverpool’s advanced full-backs. However, it was the Reds who were close to opening the scoring five minutes before half-time, when Cody Gakpo headed an Andy Robertson cross against the foot of Petrovic’s left-hand post.

Levi Colwill then put his body on the line with a pair of brilliant blocks in quick succession as we endured a brief spell of pressure right at the end of the half. The two teams went in for the break goalless, though.

Looking for the breakthrough

There was little sign that would change at first, but there was a glimmer of hope when Jackson did well on the left and found Gallagher inside the box. There were three Chelsea men in dangerous positions as he cut the ball back, but Enzo Fernandez wasn't able to bring it under control on the spin.

For the second time of the day, celebrations were cut short by the officials, but this time it was Liverpool left disappointed when Van Dijk headed in from a set-piece, but replays showed Wataru Endo had been in an offside position and blocked Colwill from reaching the ball, so VAR chalked the goal off.

Tension continues to rise

That tense moment seemed to add a bit more urgency into the game, on and off the pitch. Axel Disasi was furious at himself when he couldn't get a clean connection from close range, when a corner was flicked on to the back post, but Kelleher was able to gather and we went into the last 20 minutes still awaiting a goal.

Next it was Chelsea's turn to hit the woodwork, leaving it pretty even for chances as we approached the end. Gallagher was the man left with his head in his hands when he flicked a cross from Palmer - who was becoming increasingly influential down our right flank - towards goal, only to see it come back off the left-hand post with Kelleher beaten.

The tension in the stands was almost unbearable for the last 10 minutes, as it became increasingly clear that one slip or moment of inspiration at either end would likely prove decisive at this stage of the game. The best chance of those closing stages fell to Gallagher, when he was played in on the counter by Palmer, but Kelleher was quick off his line to smother the shot.

Extra time beckons

There was a late scramble inside Liverpool's six-yard box, but somehow the ball still would not go in and the Reds survived for now, as for the third time in as many years, a Wembley cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool went to extra time. The big question was, would the additional 30 minutes produce a winning goal this time around?

It started with the Blues defending our box and Petrovic doing well to tip a Jayden Danns header over the bar. Elliott then volleyed into the side-netting at the back post in a worrying period for Chelsea.

We finished that first section of added time on the attack, pinning Liverpool back around their own box, but we had been unable to trouble Kelleher any further at half-time in extra time.

There was heartbreak to come in the second period of extra time, though. Petrovic had already produced one brilliant save with his feet to keep out Elliott's back-post header when Liverpool got a winner in the 118th minute, Van Dijk heading in from a corner, and there was to be no reprieve from VAR this time around.

What is next

The cup action continues as attention switches to a midweek FA Cup tie. We host Leeds United in the fifth round at Stamford Bridge, with kick-off at 7.30pm on Wednesday 28 February.

The teams

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petrovic; Gusto, Disasi, Colwill, Chilwell (c) (Chalobah 113); Caicedo, Enzo; Palmer, Gallagher (Madueke 97), Sterling (Nkunku 67); Jackson (Mudryk 90)
Unused subs: Sanchez, Bettinelli, Gee, Gilchrist, Tauriainen
Booked: Chilwell 45+3, Palmer 120+2

Liverpool (4-3-3): Kelleher; Bradley (Clark 73), Konate (Quansah 106), Van Dijk (c), Robertson (Tsimikas 87); Gravenberch (Gomez 28), Endo, Mac Allister (McConnell 87); Elliott, Diaz, Gakpo (Danns 87)
Unused subs: Adrian, Koumas, Nyoni
Scorer: Van Dijk 118
Booked: Bradley 45+3, Mac Allister 81, Konate 82, McConnell 108

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

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