ADVERTISEMENT

Liverpool win the FA Cup after beating Chelsea again on penalties | FA Cup

ADVERTISEMENT

Liverpool continue to make heroes during an unforgettable season, to accumulate trophies, to hint at something historic. On this occasion, it was substitute left-back Kostas Tsimikas who made the difference, proving that even the lesser-known members of Jürgen Klopp’s side can be counted on.

Introduced as a substitute in the closing stages of extra time, the Greek international, who joined from Olympiakos in the summer of 2020 for £11.7m, stepped up to take Liverpool’s seventh penalty in the shootout. of penalties. It was the kick that won the FA Cup.

Liverpool had been in the same situation at the end of the fifth round. César Azpilicueta had hit the Chelsea post with the first shot of the second round and Sadio Mané made the mission to the point with the intention of completing phase two of Operation Quadruple.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mané seemed to be taking her time during the walk, savoring it. He had scored the decisive penalty for Senegal in their victories in the African Cup of Nations final and World Cup play-offs. Everyone knew that he was going to score. But he didn’t do it, his partner in Senegal, Édouard Mendy, came out on the right track to save.

It was a moment of sheer drama. Thomas Tuchel, the manager of Chelsea, hit the grass with delirium. He was back for his team; the chance to end a traumatic season on a high. And then it was snatched away again after Alisson read Mason Mount’s intentions to make an excellent save to the left of him.

Enter Tsimikas. What a moment for the 26-year-old. And he made it a career defining one of his with the coolest endings. Half of Liverpool’s stadium exploded, red flares lit up the scene and Klopp was able to celebrate the addition of the FA Cup to his resume.

Kostas Tsimikas rolls in Liverpool’s winning penalty. Photograph: Robin Jones/Getty Images

Klopp wants more. The Premier League feels like a big question, with his team trailing Manchester City by three points with two games to play, and a lower goal difference. Then there is the matter of the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

There was a scare here when Mohamed Salah was forced to go off injured in the 32nd minute, but this was no time to stop there, as the club were enjoying their first FA Cup since the Steven Gerrard-inspired victory over West Ham in 2006, which was also won on penalties.

Is there a team that has shown more composure in shooting over the years than Liverpool? Their first trophy this season had been won on penalties, the Carabao Cup against Chelsea, and there were parallels to that day, particularly in how both teams failed to seize their chances during a deadlock.

It was not as open as the previous installment, heavy legs after a long season. For Chelsea, there has been an emotional drain from the impending takeover; for Liverpool, the relentlessness of a schedule that could bring ultimate glory. But there were still plenty of opportunities.

The tension steadily mounted and Liverpool thought they had overcome it not once but twice in a whirlwind 60 seconds into the 83rd minute. Instead, they hit the post twice. First the excellent Luis Díaz finished off the outside of the right side and then Andy Robertson, arriving to receive a cross from substitute James Milner, crashed into the other.

Jürgen Klopp celebrates with the trophy and his backroom staff
Jürgen Klopp celebrates with the trophy and his backroom staff. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

Chelsea craved what Tuchel called an “injection of positivity” from this masterpiece and they almost got it in normal time, before the inevitable slow march to penalties. There were great chances for Christian Pulisic and Marcos Alonso in the first half and Alonso was back on the ball just after the break. The left back would also hit the crossbar with a free kick from a tight angle in the 48th minute.

Tuchel made the same move he had made in the Carabao Cup, bringing in a player specifically for the penalty shootout in the 119th minute. Then it had been the goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, and we all remember how it worked. This time, it was Ross Barkley for a bewildered Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had come on as a substitute himself. Barkley didn’t touch the ball before the final whistle, meaning the only touch from him was when he stepped forward in the fourth round. He sped past Alisson.

Mendy would stick his fingertips into penalties from Milner and Roberto Firmino, albeit to no avail, and the Chelsea players collapsed on the pitch when it was all over. It was their third successive FA Cup final and their third loss, a new unwelcome record. Revenge for the Carabao Cup was on their minds. They didn’t get it.

Liverpool had set the early markers, with Diaz worrying Trevoh Chalobah with his pace. He nearly selected Thiago with a cross and then missed a heads-up after a wonderful pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Credit Mendy with a great block.

Chelsea fought back after a difficult first 20 minutes. Pulisic ran wide and then played on Alonso, whose first touch disappointed him. Romelu Lukaku also shot high. Tuchel’s side had a flurry of chances early in the second half, with Alonso shooting past the far post before his free kick and Pulisic extending Alisson.

Diogo Jota, who came on for Salah, wasted two good chances while the ball didn’t go in for Díaz. But Liverpool found a way.

sniloans