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While I never doubt this team, I feared this was day when they might just run out of answers

Jurgen Klopp’s magnificent teams of champions found a way to win the FA Cup on a day when they were not at their best and so many things went against them.
Kostas Tsimikas of Liverpool celebrates with the FA Cup after his side's victory. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Kostas Tsimikas of Liverpool celebrates with the FA Cup after his side's victory. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

John Aldridge

SOMEHOW, Liverpool did it again

Jurgen Klopp’s magnificent teams of champions found a way to win the FA Cup on a day when they were not at their best and so many things went against them.

Mo Salah’s injury, Virgil van Dijk’s injury, a succession of missed chances and even last gasp drama in the penalty shoot out.

When Sadio Mane missed his spot kick to win it, I feared Liverpool’s moment had gone.

Then there was a final twist and now the name of Kostas Tsimikas will be etched into Liverpool folklore as the man who score the winning penalty for Liverpool.

What a moment it was for Kostas and from my seat at Wembley, I have to admit there was a tear in the eye as I saw my old team get their hands back on the FA Cup.

While I never doubt this team, I’ll be honest here and admit this felt like a day when they might just run out of answers.

I could smell trouble was ahead of Liverpool when they didn’t capitalise on their sparkling start to this game.

From my seat high in the stands at Wembley, it was hard to fathom how Liverpool were not at least two goals ahead in tiger opening 15 minutes, when chances were being created at will.

Luis Diaz has the best of them and should have scored when he was one-on-one with Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy, but he gave him a chance to make the save and the chance was gone.

Liverpool started at a pace that was too much for Chelsea to handle and they were fizzing the ball around with an energy that was always going to be hard to sustain.

Cup finals are all about momentum and when you have it on your side, making it count is all important because it is hard to sustain it against top class opposition.

So after that initial burst faded, Chelsea started to come into the game and Alisson Becker was needed to make a couple of big saves and the half balanced out.

The injury to Mohamed Salah was another sideshow from the first half and while he would not have wanted to go off in the FA Cup final after half an hour, I got the impression he was being cautious by deciding to leave the field.

The Champions League final against Real Madrid in a couple of weeks’ time is a massive moment for Salah after he was man-handled out of the final against the same opposition four years ago.

Ask Salah whether he would rather try and get through the FA Cup final with a groin problem and miss the Champions League final in Paris or come off in the FA Cup final and give himself a chance for the ‘big’ one and it’s clear what option he took.

Hopefully, I’m right and his injury is not too serious, with two weeks a decent amount of time to get ready for the push to win the club’s seventh European title.

Chelsea replicated Liverpool’s fast start as the second half got underway and they hit the bar in that period, but again, the breakthrough didn’t come.

This game reminded me of the League Cup final between these two sides a few months back when they created chances aplenty and couldn’t find the decisive breakthrough and the pattern continued in the second half.

Liverpool looked the more threatening after an early burst from Chelsea after the break and Diaz so nearly won it with the last act before extra-time.

Diaz has proved to be another magnificent signing for Liverpool after his arrival in the January transfer window and Chelsea’s defenders looked terrified every time he got on the ball.

I thought he’d won it when his shot flew past Mendy in the final stages, but it thudded off the post.

Then he so nearly scored a classic FA Cup final winner with his curling effort that beat Mendy and flew inches wide at the last.

As van Dijk came off with an injury at the start of extra-time, Chelsea knew their chance to strike had come.

They were playing against a Liverpool team lacking Salah, Fabinho and Van Dijk, with those three so important to Klopp’s game plan.

With that in mind, it was a blow when we saw Diaz going off, but Klopp had no choice.

The lad had given so much to the Liverpool cause at Wembley and he was out on his feet at the start of extra-time, so Klopp made the right call, even if Chelsea’s defenders would have been delighted to see the back of a player they failed to dilute all afternoon.

As this game edged towards a conclusion, I was really struggling to see where a goal was coming from for Liverpool as they looked jaded.

Chelsea were also lacking a threat as their players also looked out of gas and the inevitability of a penalty shoot-out loomed large.

It is hard to fathom how these two high quality teams created so many chances in the League Cup final in February and this latest game without scoring.

Anyone who doesn’t understand football would think a 0-0 draw has to be dull, but these two Cup finals were anything but.

All that was lacking was a finish touch and so it came down to the penalty shoot-out, with my only concern that I might not get to see the winning spot kick as my head was close to exploding at Wembley.

Penalty shoot-outs are a mix of the cruel and joyous. There is no prizes for second best and Chelsea felt that emotion once again.

Yet Liverpool could care less about the emotion of the opposition as they extended their lead over Manchester United in list of all-time trophy wins in English football on a day that will live long in the memory.

Klopp has now added the trophy he was lacking from his collection and his status as a Liverpool legend continues to grow.

Now for the Champions League final in Paris.


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