Liverpool are adding a second piece of silverware to the trophy case this season after defeating Chelsea 6-5 on penalties in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
The sun shined down into Wembley for the occasion, just a few months after the Reds and Chelsea met at the stadium when Liverpool lifted the Carabao Cup after their 11-10 penalty shootout win over Thomas Tuchel’s squad.
It was the first trip to the FA Cup Finals for Jurgen Klopp, having never made it past the 3rd round prior to this campaign. Now, Klopp is the first German manager to ever win the competition.
Straight out of the gate, Liverpool found a weakness in the right side of the Chelsea defense with Luis Diaz able to shred through with ease and building a few early opportunities. But the Chelsea side found a few chances of their own, requiring Alisson Becker to thwart one opportunity by Marcos Alonso and Christian Pulisic just pulling an open shot wide.
Then, a moment that Liverpool fans held their breath. Mohamed Salah down early with an injury. Though he got back to his feet on his own, he was subbed off for Diogo Jota before the halftime whistle, a concerning sight for the Reds with just a fortnight until the Champions League final.
Despite close chances for both teams, the match was still scoreless at the halftime whistle, and the memories of the 0-0 Carabao Cup final crept back into fans’ minds. Up to the break, Liverpool were undoubtedly the more impressive team, but the lack of decent chances created even with the majority of possession saw the Reds with no advantage heading into the second half.
Chelsea were off to the races in the second half, putting Alisson to work right away with attacks, including a smashed shot from Pulisic that Alisson was able to push away and a shot from Alonso that hit the crossbar. It was all Chelsea early after the break, a complete turnaround from the pace of the game before halftime, and it was a long fifteen minutes before the Reds could regain some semblance of control and start a few attacks of their own.
It seemed to be a repeat of the Carabao Cup final, with both teams attacking the opposing thirds but neither team able to put anything on target. Nothing personified that more than Liverpool hitting both uprights on attacks in a matter of about 90 seconds toward the end of regulation.
For just the sixth time in its history, the FA Cup final headed to extra time. The exhausted squads agonized through 30 more minutes, with both sides getting a few chances but none of massive quality, before the Carabao Cup deja vu truly settled in and the sides headed to penalties, for just the third time in the FA Cup’s history.
It was another marathon. With Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta hitting the post in the second round, Liverpool were given an edge. Sadio Mane was given the 10th and final shot with a chance to win the silverware for the Reds, but Mendy was able to come up with a huge save to send the penalties to sudden death with a score of 4-4 after five rounds.
After an even round, Alisson managed a brilliant stop on Mason Mount, placing the pressure solely on the shoulders of Kostas Tsimikas to score and bring the trophy to Merseyside, and with a shot in to the lower left corner, the Greek Scouser became the hero.
It is Liverpool’s first FA Cup victory since 2006. But the celebration will be short, for now, as Liverpool are back with Premier League action against Southampton on Tuesday.
Alisson – 8
Alisson was solid when called upon early, stopping a scoring chance from Alonso one-on-one in the first half. For the most part, Chelsea’s attacks wound up off target, but Allison was ready when needed. Came up with a massive save in penalties on Mason Mount.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Alexander-Arnold had a number of brilliant offensive passes, including a lovely play-in to Diaz to set him free behind the Chelsea defense and a number of dangerous crosses. He seemed to struggle a bit more defensively, being dribbled past twice and letting a few crosses through in front of Alisson. However, he did have a few heroic defensive moments including putting a tackle on Pulisic at close range in the middle of the second half and another stop in extra time. Scored in penalties.
Ibrahima Konate – 7
Konate did well handling Lukaku when he came his way, and used his size and physicality well. He won 3 aerials and had a clearance. In addition to his defensive contributions, Konate also lead the Reds in pass accuracy with 95% on 42 passes.
Virgil van Dijk – 7
Van Dijk stood extremely solid in the battle against Lukaku. The Dutchman was subbed off at the beginning of extra time, finishing with an aerial duel win, a clearance, a header off target, and 89% pass success.
Andy Robertson – 8
Robertson was mostly held back to protect against Chelsea counterattacks but on a late trip up into the final third he chipped in a brilliant cross that Jota unfortunately could not finish. He unfortunately hit on the post on what was arguably the Reds’ best scoring opportunity on a volley just a few yards off the goal line. After being seemingly everywhere on the pitch for 110 minutes, Robertson was subbed off.