Liverpool go all the way to ensure – practically – that they can still do the most.
Edouard Mendy could save Sadio Mane but could not prevent Chelsea from becoming the first club to lose three consecutive FA Cup finals and the second to lose both national finals in a single season. Both, of course, were on penalties for Liverpool. History repeats itself and can reach new heights. Liverpool win their eighth FA Cup, and Jurgen Klopp’s first, to become the third most successful in the competition’s history, as well as only the third team to win both domestic cups in a single season.
Most important of all, the quad still has legs, even if that’s not quite the case for many Klopp players.
Concerns over the departure of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, as well as the exhausted state of the team, can wait as there is nothing quite like the motivational effect of victory. Liverpool will feel they have fresh momentum after a 6-5 penalty shootout win in a 0-0 absorber. They also showed the excellent quality of this campaign – which is pure perseverance.
Chelsea have shown some of that, but should only look to what’s next with a new owner. Poor Mason Mount, who saw the decisive penalty saved by Alisson, will wonder what it could have been.
It’s hard and wrong to reduce such an all-important effort to this kick, however. There was a lot put in, a lot of other moments, a very long season.
History will not see this final, the 150th anniversary of the competition, as losing Mount. These two teams, after all, have played four hours of football at this stadium this season and have not produced a single open-ended goal. That’s why, for all this century and a half of history hovering over the occasion – with so many echoes of so many finals that had gone before – it was really the February Carabao Cup final that influenced it the most.
It almost had a direct effect. This time, Thomas Tuchel did not bring Kepa Arrizabalaga to Mendy and instead introduced Ross Barkley to take a penalty.
The cruelty for the German was that both decisions were justified. Barkley scored. Mendy saved one of the most important penalties, stopping his countryman Mané when the Senegalese forward could have won.
Chelsea have yet to win, however. Alisson went up on the way down. Liverpool move on.
They persevered a lot, mainly because of the effect this game had on their team.
While Salah’s injury was obviously more important in the context of Paris, within two weeks it was part of a more unfortunate historical lineage. You could call it the most recent example of the “Wembley Hoodoo,” a final feature that admittedly had far greater significance when you couldn’t bring in replacements.
Previous sufferers such as Bert Trautmann, Elton John’s uncle Roy Dwight or – most notoriously – Dave Whelan had to persevere or leave, Liverpool could bring in Diogo Jota.
Inevitably, it adjusted the very form of their game, as one of their forwards was now the best player in the area, rather than having all three of them so enthusiastic about getting into it.
Luis Diaz could no longer get the same space behind, as was a hallmark of the opening minutes. Chelsea was able to cross and cover with a little more certainty.
They initially looked confused, with Trevoh Chalobah taking the ball off the line for one of two opening opportunities Diaz missed. The question remained whether this would be his day, or one of those days.
Chelsea survived this, only to squander an even bigger string of chances. Marcos Alonso missed in a number of ways, hitting Alisson and then widening the corner, before later hitting the crossbar with a speculative free kick.
Romelu Lukaku, the most notable selection decision early on, strained Liverpool with his run, but the attack was still not fully connected. The best exchanges actually came with Christian Pulisic involved, although he narrowly put in a pass from Mount.
Mateo Kovacic had been the Chelsea player most responsible for turning the game around, both for the way he won the ball in front of the defense and then set it in motion, only to eventually run out of energy. The Croatian was a physical doubt before the game, so it was no surprise when he had to leave for N’Golo Kante. On the other hand, at the other end, Joel Matip was hired to replace Van Dijk, a player you rarely see replaced.
It was just another way this finale referenced the past. It was becoming a test of endurance, even if it was circumstances that dragged players back here, rather than that “energy-consuming Wembley field” of folklore. At least it remained an absorbing game for a while, and certainly as long as Diaz was able to run at the pace.
The Colombian hit both posts before delivering a divine shot to the side.
This had Arsenal overtones in 2001, a match that, of course, resulted in a famous late win for Liverpool.
This accessory was to follow a different path, if with the same end.
Instead, it became the first final since 2007, the first of the new Wembley, to go goalless in the 90th minute. And after that, it quickly became clear that he would be the first in this stadium – but the third of all – to go to penalties.
They were just another part of the day that also went away as both sides pushed towards sudden death.
Kostas Tsimikas scored, however, to ensure the quadruple stays alive.