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Liverpool win FA Cup final after beating Chelsea in grueling penalty shootout

For all their qualities – intense pressing, defensive solidity, lightning strikes – perhaps their best is a sense of drama on occasions like these.

Much like in the League Cup final earlier this year at Wembley, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed penalties to see Chelsea and lift silverware at the same stadium.

As unlikely as it is for the Reds to become the first English side to win all three domestic competitions and the European Cup, the quadruple is still possible thanks to this FA Cup victory.

Two trophies in the cabinet this season, the place being reserved for two others. This is why Liverpool fans still dream. History could still be written.

Just like in the Coupe de la Ligue final, 120 minutes without a goal belied the quality of the match. Chances were created, goal posts rattled, but perhaps it was fitting that on the 150th anniversary of football’s oldest cup competition, the final was decided in the most theatrical as Liverpool edged Chelsea on penalties.

Opportunity galore

Even an occasion as traditional as this – a marching band before kick-off, royalty presenting the trophy – acknowledges world events.

Like many great sporting occasions, political statements have been made. First, Liverpool fans booed the English national anthem, then captains and officials stood with the Ukrainian flag which had the words ‘PEACE’ written in black capitals and, just before the start of this oldest of the competitions, the players got down on their knees.

The match was only minutes old when Liverpool got their first chance. In truth, the men in red should have scored at least once, such was their dominance of the opening 15 minutes, but Thiago, Luis Diaz, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane floundered in front of goal.

Although Chelsea played second fiddle for most of the first half, the Londoners had arguably their best chances this period with a world-class save from Liverpool’s Alisson – a dive at the feet of Marcos Alonso – preventing them from moving forward.

The early exit of Liverpool’s top scorer Salah through injury heightened Liverpool’s sense of anxiety as the half progressed but, even without the Egyptian, the Reds were able to reassert their dominance before the break.

Indeed, Salah’s replacement Diogo Jota should have put Jurgen Klopp’s men in front just before the break.

Liverpool win FA Cup final after beating Chelsea in grueling penalty shootout

Just as Liverpool did in the first half, Chelsea got off to a good start in the second. Again, Alonso was denied entry on the scoresheet, this time by the crossbar as his threatening free-kick hit the woodwork.

Two of the best teams in English football were facing each other and the chances were many: Jota, Diaz and Andy Robertson for Liverpool; Christian Pulisic (twice) for Chelsea.

It was breathless. It was fun. It created a brilliant atmosphere as the two groups of fans raised the decibels on a beautiful summer evening in London.

Only one goal was missing. Minutes pass, substitutes arrive, fouls creep into the tired footwork, but no one finds the net.

Diaz looked skyward as the impressive Edouard Mendy stopped another one of his chances, this one in the 82nd minute, and his gesture reflected the sentiments of all the fans watching: either goalkeepers will he ever be beaten?

Andy Robertson hit the post seven minutes from time. Diaz took aim again. But at the full-time whistle, the game, for all odds, for all entertainment, was left scoreless.

Inevitably, the energy dropped in added time, few chances were created, while penalties were looming on the horizon.

unlikely hero

Liverpool win FA Cup final after beating Chelsea in grueling penalty shootout

Chelsea missed their second penalty (Cesar Azipliueta), Liverpool their fifth (Sadio Mane). There was a sense of deja vu as the first 10 penalties couldn’t decide the outcome – the League Cup final ended 11-10 on penalties with goalkeepers having to step up – but Alisson Becker saved the kick from Mason Mount, which gave Kostas Tsimikas the chance to become the unlikely hero.

The Greece international isn’t a regular starter for Liverpool, but he’s freshly returned home to spark happy celebrations from those in red.

Liverpool players engulfed Tsimikas, manager Jurgen Klopp sprinted from the dugout towards his men and fans set off flares to fill the air with a hue of red.

The club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” echoed around the stadium as Liverpool fans serenaded a side that handed them their first FA Cup victory at Wembley in 30 years.

Such is the caliber of this Liverpool side, however, the celebrations will have to be cut short as more challenges loom on the horizon – a Champions League final at the end of the month and two Premier League fixtures to try to review Manchester City’s three-point advantage at the top of the league.

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