Liverpool won the FA Cup final
Liverpool won the FA Cup final following a tense penalty shootout victory over Chelsea. This Liverpool team has something special about it.
For all of its attributes — aggressive pressing, defensive stability, whirlwind assaults — arguably the most important is a feeling of drama on situations like these.
Jurgen Klopp’s side required penalties to beat Chelsea and win silverware at Wembley, just as they did in the League Cup final earlier this year.
The Reds are still in with a chance of becoming the first English side to win all three domestic tournaments as well as the European Cup, due to their FA Cup victory.
This season, there are two trophies in the cabinet, with room for two more. This is why Liverpool supporters fantasise. It is still possible to make history.
A scoreless 120 minutes, like the League Cup final, belied the match’s quality. Chances were created, goal posts were shaken, but it was perhaps fitting that the final was decided in the most dramatic of ways on the 150th anniversary of football’s oldest cup tournament.
Chelsea’s second penalty (Cesar Azplicueta) was missed, while Liverpool’s fifth was missed (Sadio Mane).
The match went to sudden death after the first 10 penalties failed to settle the outcome, and the League Cup final concluded 11-10 on penalties, with the goalkeepers forced to step up.
Fewer penalties were required this time, as Alisson Becker stopped Mason Mount’s penalty kick, allowing Kostas Tsimikas to become the new captain.
The Greece international isn’t a regular starter for Liverpool, but he calmly tapped home to send the Reds fans wild.
Liverpool’s players swarmed Tsimikas, manager Jurgen Klopp dashed towards his team, and supporters erupted in a blaze of red flares.
The club’s hymn, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ reverberated around the stadium as Liverpool supporters serenaded a squad that had just handed them their first FA Cup victory at Wembley in 30 years.
The quality of this Liverpool team, though, means that celebrations will be short-lived, as the Reds have a Champions League final at the end of the month and two Premier League matches in which to try to catch Manchester City.
Even a classic event like this recognises international events: a marching band before kickoff, Royalty handing the prize.
Political remarks were made, as they are at many major athletic events. The English national song was booed first, then captains and officials stood with the Ukrainian flag, which featured the words ‘PEACE’ imprinted in black capital letters, and the players took the knee moments before the oldest of competitions began.
Liverpool’s first chance came mere minutes into the game. Because of their dominance in the first 15 minutes, the Reds should have scored at least once, but Thiago, the exceptional Luis Diaz, Mo Salah, and Mane all struggled in front of goal.
Despite playing second fiddle for the majority of the first half, Chelsea had the finest opportunity of the half, with only a world-class stop from Liverpool’s Alisson — a diving save low to Marcos Alonso’s feet — saving them from going up.
The early absence of Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer this season, due to injury contributed to Liverpool’s growing unease as the half went, but the Reds were able to restore their control before the interval, even without the Egyptian.
Indeed, Diogo Jota, Salah’s replacement, could have put Klopp’s side up shortly before the interval.
Chelsea had a strong start in the second half, just like Liverpool did in the first. Alonso was denied a goal once more, this time by a goalkeeper.
Two of English football’s best sides were facing off, and there were plenty of chances: Jota, Diaz, and Andy Robertson for Liverpool, and Christian Pulisic (twice) for Chelsea.
It was exhausting. It was fascinating. On a lovely London July evening, both sets of supporters boosted the decibels, creating a fantastic atmosphere.
The only thing needed was a goal. Minutes passed, substitutes came in, tired legs made blunders, but no one could find the back of the net.
Diaz raised his eyes to the heavens as Edouard Mendy saved another of his chances, this time in the 82nd minute, and his gesture echoed the thoughts of many onlookers: can either goalie ever be beaten?
With seven minutes remaining, Robertson struck the post before Diaz launched another shot. But, despite all the opportunities and fun, the match remained scoreless when the final whistle blew.
As penalties loomed big in the future, the energy level decreased in extra time, and few opportunities were generated.
Chelsea, who are still subject to UK government fines, suffered another crushing defeat, becoming the first team to lose three FA Cup finals in a row.
After the game, manager Thomas Tuchel commented, “We are disappointed, but also pleased since we left everything on the field.”