The last of the spring sunshine was bathing Wembley’s top tier in light when Kostas Tsimikas stepped up to take the 14th penalty of the shoot-out at the end of the FA Cup Final. Tsimikas stepped up and sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way and wheeled away in delight. Liverpool’s impossible dream, the dream of the unprecedented Quadruple, had survived.
They have won two trophies this season now, the Carabao Cup Final and the FA Cup Final, both against Chelsea, both on penalties. They were clinging on to the dream for dear life by the end, battered and bruised, depleted and exhausted, rocked by losing both Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk to injuries during a sapping, relentless contest. But they hung on.
And so a Double is theirs already after this game that had ended 0-0 after 120 minutes, but the two most important trophies remain. Liverpool have only an outside chance of overhauling Manchester City at the top of the Premier League and quite what sort of team they will be able to field against Southampton on Tuesday night remains to be seen.
Liverpool’s quadruple hopes are still alive after victory over Chelsea on penalties in a dramatic FA Cup final at Wembley
Substitute Kostas Tsimikas scored the winning penalty for Liverpool after Mason Mount’s spot-kicked was saved by Alisson
It was the first FA Cup final between two German managers and Jurgen Klopp became the first German boss to lift the trophy
And then there is the small matter of a Champions League Final against Real Madrid in Paris a fortnight from now. Madrid will have been encouraged to see Liverpool’s players suffering in the heat here but these are Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ and so far, they have point-blank refused to be vanquished. Who knows what they may yet conjure.
This was not a classic final even if the occasion, 150 years after Wanderers played Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval, craved it. It did not lend itself to a nickname although Alisson was as close as it gave us to a hero, producing several crucial saves during the game and saving the critical penalty from Mason Mount to allow Tsimikas to step up to seal the win.
It will not be remembered like the White Horse Final or even the White Suit Final. If anything, it was the Anti-Establishment Final. Before the start, the Liverpool fans had booed Abide With Me, then they had booed Prince William and then they had booed the National Anthem. ‘What are you rebelling against, Johnny?’ they ask Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One. ‘Whaddaya got?’ he replies.
At the end, of course, rebellion gave way to celebration. As the Liverpool players ran to the end where their supporters were massed, they peered at their fans through plumes of red smoke from the flares that had been thrown on to the pitch. When the smoke cleared, they could see the summit of the Premier League, still just in view, and the Stade de France waiting for them on May 28.
What a result this was for Klopp, too. He is already established in the pantheon of great Liverpool managers but this win brought him a landmark no one else has achieved with the club. Neither Bill Shankly, nor Bob Paisley, nor Kenny Dalglish, nor Rafa Benitez won all four major trophies but this victory in his first appearance in English football’s showpiece occasion achieved that for Klopp. One Quadruple, at least, has been conquered.
Luis Diaz was the brightest spark for Liverpool in the opening exchanges and had several chances to open the scoring
For Chelsea, who became the first English team to play a Cup final under government sanction and the first to lose in the FA Cup Final three years in succession, this was a miserable end to a difficult season, which saw the fall of their owner Roman Abramovich and an absence of silverware. Todd Boehly, their incoming new owner, was at Wembley to see this clash and he will know there is work to be done to breathe new life into the club.
Liverpool had nearly opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Luis Diaz ran at Reece James on the right edge of the Chelsea box, stole a yard of freedom and whipped the ball across the face of goal. Thiago Alcantara threw himself at it as if he were attempting a flying karate kick but he could not quite reach it. A minute later, another Diaz cross eluded both Sadio Mane and Mo Salah as they tried to apply a finishing touch.
Liverpool were rampant. Chelsea were being overrun. Trent Alexander-Arnold played a magnificent defence-splitting pass through to Diaz, who advanced on goal and tried to slide the ball under Mendy. Mendy slowed the pace of the shot with his legs and as the ball dawdled towards the goal, Trevoh Chalobah sprinted back and hacked it away before Salah could tap it home.
Chelsea searched for respite. They tried to stop the bleeding. They tried to stop Chalobah being so mercilessly exposed on the right flank. They tried to stop Diaz being given the freedom of Wembley. And gradually they began to find a foothold. They even created a chance midway through the half when Mason Mount turned a cross into the box and Christian Pulisic clipped it just wide.
Mohamed Salah’s cup final was over with little over half an hour played, as he limped off the pitch after suffering an injury
A few minutes later, Chelsea should have been ahead. Pulisic was the creator this time, advancing in space towards the edge of the Liverpool box and slipping a neat through ball into the path of Marcos Alonso. Alonso’s first touch was poor and it allowed Alisson time to come out to narrow the angle and block Alonso’s shot. The Brazil goalkeeper needed treatment after colliding with Alonso as he made the save.
Worse was to come for Liverpool. A couple of minutes later, Salah went down in the centre circle to receive treatment for what looked like a groin injury. It soon became apparent he would not be able to carry on and he walked disconsolately to the sideline to be replaced by Diogo Jota. His demeanour was not that of a man who feared his season was over but with so much left to play for in the next two weeks, his injury was a huge concern.
Liverpool were deflated by his withdrawal and Chelsea started to look like the superior team but on the stroke of half time, Liverpool wasted another chance. Andrew Robertson was the provider this time, chipping a ball to the near post to Jota, who had escaped his marker. Jota only had Mendy to beat but he volleyed his shot high over the bar.
Lukaku fired over in first half stoppage time but it felt as if he was not asking nearly enough questions of Van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence. And when Chelsea started the second half strongly, the danger to Klopp’s side came from elsewhere.
First Alonso dragged a shot just wide after a cross eluded Alexander-Arnold at the back post, then Alisson saved well from Pulisic before a vicious, swerving, dipping free kick from wide by Alonso beat Alisson but cannoned away to safety off the face of the crossbar.
Thomas Tuchel was left frustrated after seeing his Chelsea side lose a cup final to Liverpool for the second time this season
The game swung one way then the other. Both teams had periods when they were on top without creating clear-cut chances. As Chelsea pressed for the opener, so Liverpool seemed to enjoy hitting them on the counter-attack. Mount fired wide for Chelsea, Alexander-Arnold made a crucial last-ditch interception when Pulisic seemed to be through, Diaz pulled a shot wide of Mendy’s right hand post and James was shown the first yellow card of the game for a late tackle on Thiago.
Extra time began to beckon but eight minutes from the end, Liverpool hit the post twice in quick succession. First, Diaz blasted a shot off the outside of the upright and then second-half substitute James Milner curled a cross to the back post where it was met on the volley by Robertson but his effort cannoned off the other post at point-blank range.
As the fourth official walked to the touchline to hold up the board showing the number of minutes added on, Diaz broke free one more time down the Liverpool left and tested the pace of Thiago Silva to its limit. Then Diaz checked and turned inside his man. He measured his shot and curled it towards the far corner. The stadium held its breath, waiting for the net to ripple. It sailed agonisingly wide.
Both sides began to feel the pace and the heat in extra time. Van Dijk was substituted before it began. He was said to be not moving freely, another concern for Liverpool. Their defence stood firm, though, A teasing cross from Hakim Ziyech was a test for Alexander-Arnold but he hooked it clear at the back post as a Chelsea forward waited to pounce.
Tsimikas sends Edouard Mendy the wrong way with his penalty to earn Liverpool the FA Cup for the eighth time in their history
Robertson, who had run himself into the ground as usual, began to limp in the second half of extra time and was substituted. The attrition rate went up. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had only been brought on as a substitute at half time of extra time was substituted in the last minute so Ross Barkley, a penalty-taker, could replace him.
The penalties were taken in front of the Chelsea fans and Marcos Alonso was the first to step up and the first to score, sending Alisson the wrong way. But after Milner had scored for Liverpool, Cesar Azpilicueta hit the post with Chelsea’s second kick. Thiago, Roberto Firmino and Alexander-Arnold scored the rest of Liverpool’s penalties and it was left to Mane to administer the coup de grace.
It didn’t happen. Mendy dived low to his left and pushed the shot away. At the other end, Liverpool fans had thrown a red smoke bomb on to the pitch in premature celebration. Now it was sudden death. Ziyech scored, then Jota scored before Alisson saved from Mount to give Tsimikas the chance to be the hero. He took it.
Recap our live coverage of the final, brought to you throughout the afternoon and evening by Sportsmail‘s OLLY ALLEN…