There will be a point in the coming days when Jordan Henderson finds himself feeling melancholic, wrestling with the sense that something is missing.
Liverpool’s captain only began to experience it a few years ago but the more he has afternoons like Sunday, the more acute the emptiness becomes.
‘It’s the come down,’ he once explained to Sportsmail. ‘You have this high but then you get withdrawal symptoms. You cross a line and there is huge relief but then you starting thinking to yourself: ‘I want to do that again.’ All it has ever been about here is winning.’
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifted the Carabao Cup on Sunday at Wembley
Henderson is not alone in having that view. This Liverpool squad is full of outstanding players connected by a desire to collect as much silverware as possible. They have recognised the haul that they have collected so far under Jurgen Klopp does not reflect their talents.
It is why there was so much riding on the outcome of the Carabao Cup final. A loss to Chelsea could have punctured the momentum they have spent two months building and would have seen dreams of a Quadruple disintegrate at the first hurdle.
‘People are talking about that but it all changes very quickly if you do not perform well,’ Henderson said in his pre-match press conference. ‘It’s a final we want to win but we will only win it if we get to the right level.’
That’s exactly what Liverpool did. They walked across the high wire at Wembley, trading blows with superb opponent in a quite magnificent game during which they were taken to the edge on several occasions. Mason Mount struck a post and three Chelsea goals were disallowed.
Liverpool rode their luck at times as Mason Mount hit the post for Chelsea in the second half
If any of those incidents are a millimetre the other way, the chance to pursue immortality is over. The emptiness Henderson and Co would have felt would have stemmed from failure, not from the fading of euphoria.
But, critically, they found a way to win. To see what it meant to them, you only had to be standing at the bottom of the stairs to the Royal Box, where James Milner started hollering: ‘Come on!’ to a group including Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain.
Sadio Mane was there, too, and said: ‘Let’s do this!’ as he prepared to go up and get his medal. A few moments later Henderson came back down, prize in hand, clearly fizzing with the joy that is only reserved for these occasions.
This group has the winning feeling, a point emphasised by Virgil van Dijk showing Klopp the Alan Hardaker Trophy for being named Man of the Match. His manager roared in approval, slapping the defender on his back for good measure.
Virgil van Dijk picked up the man of the match award after an imperious performance
All this underlined that this squad is in the mood to attack the rest of the season, knowing they may never get such an opportunity again. History tells you a clean sweep is impossible but what will give Klopp hope is the fact every member of his squad is contributing.
A record-breaking ninth League Cup triumph would not have been possible, for instance, without Caoimhin Kelleher. This, was the Irishman’s competition and he showed why with an outstanding display, which began with a stunning sixth-minute save from Christian Pulisic.
Kelleher will have his image put on a mural at the club’s training ground soon and without his performances against Leicester and Arsenal in previous rounds, this trip to Wembley would not have been possible. There were arguments to start Alisson Becker but it was never in the mind of Liverpool’s manager.
Jurgen Klopp put his faith in Caoimhin Kelleher who played a crucial role in Liverpool’s win
‘Even in professional football there should be space for some sentiment,’ said Klopp. ‘Kelleher is a young boy, plays in all the competition, what do I do? I am a professional manager and a human being and the human being won. He deserves it.’
He was not alone. Substitutes defender Ibrahima Konate and teenager Harvey Elliott were fearless, striking thumping penalties in the shootout when the pressure was intense.
Putting the first trophy on the board will bring relief — Trent Alexander-Arnold insisted this month that was the minimum requirement for the club — but it will not release the pressure. Every game Liverpool play now will carry huge significance.
Put a foot out of line against Norwich on Wednesday, in the FA Cup fifth round, or against West Ham on Saturday and the aspirations they have will come crashing down but, as it stands, they are fully entitled to dream.
Henderson will hate that the buzz of lifting a trophy has, for the moment, gone, but from what we have seen in 2022 this might not be the last time he gets to do it. Liverpool have got the eye of the tiger. There are plenty of big days ahead.
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