Monumental Liverpool breaks their 16 year drought to win the FA Cup!

Ah! The ever-lasting magic of the Wembley Stadium. One of England’s finest arenas where you can witness the magic of pure football. But this Saturday evening didn’t prove to be one of those fine days. A match marred by constant fouls and loads of injuries was blatantly overshadowed when the Red won over the Blue. You read that right. Liverpool has beaten Chelsea in consecutive domestic cup finals, both on penalties. This FA Cup is Liverpool’s second trophy this season after the Carabao Cup.

Pre-match:

Kai Havertz, who scored the winning goal in Chelsea’s UCL triumph last season, wasn’t available due to a hamstring injury. Thiago Silva returned to the side as Andreas Christensen sat out. Liverpool missed the reliable presence of Fabinho in the midfield due to an injury. Captain Jordan Henderson compensated for the Brazilian midfielder. 

Image Credits: thisisanfield.co.uk

First Half:

The whistle was blown, and both the sides configured themselves to their respective tactical set-ups. Liverpool kept up their intimidating offense, as Thiago and Jordan Henderson kept dishing out passes to the forwards. The forward line looked less enthusiastic than the last week, and that largely owes to the fact that Chelsea’s defense is a nightmarish experience for any attacker on the planet. Playing a low block, Chelsea lures in the opponent in the middle and suffocates their passing routes, eventually leading the player to commit a mistake and snatch the ball away. Then they send out the long passes to their pacy forwards, who try to take advantage of the counter-attack. Knowing how damaging Chelsea can be, Liverpool’s forwards played more cautiously, leading to a stand-still.

Chelsea, on the other hand, barely tried any attacks. Thomas Tuchel clearly knows the ferocity of Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool. Liverpool waits for you to have the ball. Once you feel you are in control, Liverpool starts out as an all-out counter-press, not giving the player time to think. This leads to the ball being passed back, and Liverpool intensifies its press further. Once the vicious Reds win back the ball, they send it to their star wingers, who send it at the back of the net. With this in mind, both sides started off very cautiously. It wasn’t until the 33rd minute, when Salah was taken off, that Liverpool looked dangerous. After Salah walked out, Luis Diaz looked like a possessed being. His game just improved drastically over the next few minutes, giving Chelsea’s defenders a scary evening. Unfortunately, his shots were either saved, blocked or off the target. 

Image Credits: skysports.com

Second Half:

Luis Diaz picked up where he left off but couldn’t find able support in either of his attacking mates. Sadio Mane, in particular, endured a horrendous game where the Senegalese forward couldn’t manage a single shot. Thiago started to chip in a bit, but his attempts weren’t of much use. Chelsea began to panic near the end of the second half and attacked more openly but was left dazzled by Andrew Robertson and Ibrahima Konate’s tight defence. The match entered extra time as per the FA Cup guidelines.

Extra Time:

In the first 15 minutes of extra time, Chelsea took its chances but was majorly off target. Liverpool sat back and took more interest in defending their way out. After the half time of the Extra Time, the objective looked clear for both the teams. Neither of them wanted to risk themselves and played around, waiting for the clock to run out. The fans in the Wembley sensed it. Klopp and Tuchel wanted to settle things on the penalty shootout. 

Penalties:

The most dreaded and unpredictable part of football. Even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi faltered here. Liverpool had history on their side. Just weeks ago, did they defeat their London rivals in a memorable Carabao Cup final on the penalties. Jurgen Klopp made merry with his players, giving out his signature hugs, while Tuchel kept preaching his precious notes to the Chelsea players. There was a difference in the atmosphere. The Reds were jovial and excited, whereas the Blues looked grim and tense. The dreaded time has fallen now.

Chelsea took the first penalty. The referee blew his whistle. Marcos Alonso took the first penalty for Chelsea. He rammed in a thunderous strike on the left side, sending the keeper the other way. Chelsea was up by 1-0. James Milner came in to take the first penalty. Liverpool’s vice-captain showed his experience as he banged in a screamer on the right side. Such was his shot that Eduoard Mendy couldn’t stop it, even when he knew what was coming. The scoreboard read 1-1.

Chelsea’s captain Cesar Azpilicueta took the second penalty. The Spaniard tried to ram in a shot on the far-right side but instead hit the crossbar! The scoreboard remained the same. Thiago took the following penalty for Liverpool. Thiago successfully fooled Mendy and hit a simple shot to the bottom-left corner. Liverpool held the advantage by 1-2.

Reece James was selected to be Chelsea’s third kicker. James paid Liverpool back by managing to fool Alisson and went for a shot down the middle. Chelsea caught up with 2-2. Roberto Firmino came up for the Red’s third penalty. Bobby took his time and aimed for the top-left corner. Mendy read the shot but couldn’t predict the course and managed to just brush the ball. Liverpool took the lead once again with 2-3. 

Ross Barkley banged in a lightning strike as Chelsea converted their fourth penalty! The scoreline now read 3-3. Liverpool sent in their big gun Trent Alexander-Arnold to take the fourth penalty. TAA slotted a superb hit to the bottom right corner. Liverpool took charge once again with a 3-4. 

Image Credits: premierleague.com

The next penalty was crucial for Chelsea, a miss and they lose. Jorginho stepped forward to take the strike for his team. The Blue’s deputy skipper showed how reliable he was, as he easily beat Alisson on the one-on-one encounter. Chelsea was revived with a 4-4. 

Liverpool sent out Sadio Mane to take the final penalty. Mane breathed slowly and aimed his target. He took off slowly and tried to bang the ball into the unsuspected bottom corner and take home the FA Cup. Or so he thought. His thoughts were read by Eduoard Mendy, who waited for his Senegalese teammate to do what he exactly wanted him to. 

Chelsea was overjoyed. They were alive. Liverpool missed out on the final and most important penalty. But Klopp wasn’t upset. He would have been upset on any other day, but not today. He smiled warmly, and this relieved Mane and the whole team. That didn’t change the fact that Chelsea had the momentum now. They were into the sudden death zone, and one with momentum usually comes out here.

Chelsea sent Hakim Ziyech out for the sixth penalty, and the Turkish proved the trust of his manager by coming out on top. Chelsea led by a 5-4. Diogo Jota now had to send the ball in at all costs. The Portuguese lad was under immense pressure now. He had to keep his team alive and pull out a Jorginho. Guess what? He did precisely the same way the Italian did. Liverpool was alive. The scoreline screaming 5-5. 

In came Mason Mount, Chelsea’s best player this season. This put a lot of pressure on Alisson. The Brazilian wasn’t enjoying his best in the shootout. He couldn’t even touch the ball yet, let alone save it. But they say, under immense pressure, you either become a hero or a zero, and Alisson decided to become the former. Mason Mount tried to hit the ball on the right side of the net, but Alisson countered it outright. The Brazilian’s reflexes reignited Liverpool’s hopes of winning it all.

Konstantinos Tsimikas took the next penalty for Liverpool. The Greek youngster managed to live a dream of many as he banged in the winning strike. Mendy misread the shot and was way off the mark. Tsimikas ran into his teammates right after the penalty.

Aftermath:

Jurgen Klopp proved his credentials as one of the best managers by completing the complete set with Liverpool. This was only done by his rivals Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick and United’s legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. This also proved the fact that German has successfully marked an era on the Merseyside and would continue to do so unless he surpasses the transcendence of his fabled Ferguson. Stay tuned with The Sportsway for more such updates.

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