Match stats: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool (5-6 pen.)
Sometimes lightning really strikes twice.
We’ve seen it end before, Wembley, Liverpool and Chelsea, a penalty shootout with raw nerves and racing hearts.
And then, at the end of it all, red: red flares, red smoke, red flags, and red scarves.
Red smiles Thousands of them, and each one as wide as the Thames.
The FA Cup belongs to Liverpool. For the first time since 2006, they have secured the oldest and most historic trophy in football, and Jurgen Klopp becomes just the second manager in English football history, after Sir Alex Ferguson, to win the ” grand slam” – league championship, European Cup, League Cup and FA Cup – with the same club.
There could be more to come too, in this most remarkable season. Another final awaits, in Paris on May 28. Real Madrid stand in the way of Klopp’s side and their place in Anfield folklore.
As Liverpool celebrated here – and boy did they celebrate, and rightly so – it’s fair to wonder if there were a few smirks gracing the faces of the Madridistas as they settled in for their Saturday night meals.
After all, the victory came at a cost for the Reds.
They lost Mohamed Salah to injury in the first half and also saw Virgil van Dijk slip away after 90 minutes without a goal. following this latest war of attrition with the men of Stamford Bridge.
Salah’s face said it all as he left the pitch at just 32 minutes. Four years after the heartache in kyiv, the pain has manifested itself in north London. A groin problem, we were told. It remains to be seen how serious he is.
Van Dijk, too, pulled a face as he took a seat on the bench for a tense but ultimately fruitless 30 more minutes. The big Dutchman has been a rock since returning from a serious knee injury last summer, and although Substitute Joel Matip and partner Ibrahima Konate performed superbly, Klopp can’t afford to be without his star centre-back for the season finale.
“Strained muscle,” Klopp said hopefully. He certainly hopes that will be the case.
Adrenaline may see them through their last two Premier League games, at Southampton in midweek and at home to Wolves next Sunday, but with Manchester City looking elusive at the top of the table, it’s fair to suggest that all eyes are now on the Stade de France. It would be foolish of Klopp not to shoot much before.
They deserve their chance in history, they have been magnificent this season, and they were still there at times.
In the end, it was substitute Kostas Tsimikas who took on the hero role, sending in his penalty after Alisson Becker pulled off a powerful save to prevent Mason Mount from suddenly dying.
The Greece international is one of the most popular members of Klopp’s squad and enjoyed his moment accordingly He was chased and eventually mobbed by his team-mates, most of whom had to draw energy from reserves unknown.
Just like in the Carabao Cup final, they had to dig deep. Just like in the Carabao Cup final, it was a mystery that there was no winner in 90 minutes, or in 120.
But just like in the Carabao Cup final, it was Liverpool who withstood the pressure Cesar Azpilicueta hit the post in the shootout but Edouard Mendy brilliantly denied Sadio Mane when it looked like the Senegal star was about to grab another big winning penalty. .
Then came Mount, then came Alisson, then came Tsimikas. Then came the songs and the shuffle of Jordan Henderson. Then came the smiles.
Then came the color, Wembley painted red, once again, Liverpool victorious, once again.
Pieces fall and smoke billows, but the red machine keeps rolling.
In Paris it’s fine.