Liverpool win the FA Cup final after beating Chelsea in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout

Liverpool win the FA Cup final after beating Chelsea in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout

For all his qualities – intense pressing, defensive solidity, whirlwind attacks – perhaps the best thing on occasions like these is a sense of drama.

Just like in the League Cup final at Wembley earlier this year, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed penalties to beat Chelsea and take silver at the same stadium.

As unlikely as the Reds will become the first English team to win all three domestic competitions and the European Cup, quadruple is still possible thanks to that FA Cup win.

Two trophies in the cabinet this season, space reserved for two more. That’s why Liverpool fans dream. History could yet be written.

As in the League Cup final, a goalless 120 minutes belied the quality of the game. Chances were created, goalposts smashed, but perhaps it was also fitting that the final was decided in the most theatrical way on the 150th anniversary of football’s oldest cup competition.

Liverpool's Greek defender Kostas Tsimikas was the unlikely shootout hero.

Chelsea missed their second penalty (Cesar Azplicueta), Liverpool their fifth (Sadio Mane). There was déjà vu when the first 10 penalties failed to decide the outcome and the game ended abruptly – the League Cup final ended 11-10 on penalties, with the goalkeepers having to step up.

Fewer penalties were needed this time, however, as Alisson Becker saved Mason Mount’s penalty, giving Kostas Tsimikas a chance to become the unlikely hero.

The Greece international is not a regular starter for Liverpool but is a cool home game to spark celebrations at the Reds.

Liverpool’s players gobbled up tsimikas, manager Jurgen Klopp sprinted towards his men and fans set off flares to saturate the air with a hue of red.

The club’s anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ echoed through the stadium as Liverpool fans serenaded a team that gave them their first FA Cup win in 30 years at Wembley Stadium.

That’s the caliber of this Liverpool side but the celebrations will be short-lived with other challenges on the horizon – a Champions League final later in the month and two Premier League games to try to overtake Manchester City’s three-point lead at the top of the league.

Liverpool fans can celebrate their first FA Cup triumph since 2006.

Opportunities galore

Even an occasion as traditional as this – a marching band before kick-off, royalty presenting the trophy – recognizes world events.

As with so many major sporting events, political statements were also made. First Liverpool fans booed the English national anthem, then captains and officials stood with the Ukrainian flag emblazoned with the words ‘PEACE’ in black capital letters, and just before this oldest of all competitions began, the players dropped to their knees.

The game was only minutes old when Liverpool got their first chance. Actually, the men in red should have scored at least once, so they dominated in the first 15 minutes, but Thiago, the outstanding Luis Diaz, Mo Salah and Mane failed in front of goal.

Although Chelsea played second fiddle for most of the first half, the Londoners arguably had the best chances of that period as only a world-class save from Liverpool’s Alisson – a hop at the feet of Marcos Alonso – prevented them from going on.

The early injury absence of Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer this season, added to Liverpool’s mounting fears as the half progressed, but even without the Egyptian, the Reds were able to reassert their dominance before the break.

Indeed, Salah’s replacement, Diogo Jota, should have put Klopp’s men ahead just before the break.

Mo Salah was a huge mistake for Liverpool as he limped off injured.

Just like Liverpool in the first half, Chelsea got off to a brilliant start in the second. Again Alonso was prevented from making the scorers list, this time off the crossbar when his menacing free-kick hit the woodwork.

Two of the best teams in English football met and there were plenty of chances: Jota, Diaz and Andy Robertson for Liverpool; Christian Pulisic (twice) for Chelsea.

It was breathless. It was entertaining. It made for a brilliant atmosphere as both fans pumped up the decibels on a beautiful summer’s London evening.

Only one goal was missing. Minutes passed, substitutes came, mistakes crept into the game of tired legs, but nobody found the goal.

Diaz looked to the skies as the impressive Edouard Mendy prevented another of his chances, this time in the 82nd minute, and his gesture reflected everyone’s sentiments: will either goalkeeper ever be beaten?

Robertson hit the post with seven minutes left before Diaz aimed again. But when the final whistle blew, despite all the chances, despite all the entertainment, the game remained goalless.

Inevitably, the energy waned in extra time and few chances were created as penalties loomed on the horizon.

Once again, Chelsea, still under British government sanctions, suffered the most gruesome defeat, becoming the first team to lose three consecutive FA Cup finals.

“We are sad but also proud that we left everything on the field,” said coach Thomas Tuchel after the game.

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