CHELSEA 0-0 LIVERPOOL (5-6 ON PENALTIES): MATCH REVIEW
Liverpool clinched their eighth FA Cup triumph by overcoming Chelsea on penalties last night. A hugely entertaining game somehow ended goalless after two hours of play, and once again the Reds came out on top in a shootout against the Blues. Here’s a review of the game.
You can find player ratings from the match here:
° Lineup. There were five changes to the side that came from behind to beat Villa on Tuesday night. Konaté was preferred to Matip at centre back, whilst Robertson returned in place of Tsimikas. Henderson started in the holding role in Fabinho’s absence, with Thiago returning alongside him.
There was also a return to the side for Salah as he came in for Jota. Thankfully, there was no pre-match warmup injury this time round, with Thiago starting against Chelsea for the first time this season.
° Fast Liverpool start. The Reds flew out of the traps, with Diaz especially troubling the Chelsea backline. He was sent away on three different occasions in the opening ten minutes. He had the beating of Chalobah and went close to opening the scoring.
He twice cut the ball back but Thiago, and then Keita just couldn’t get on the end of it for a tap in. When Trent played the Colombian through with an outrageous outside of the boot pass, Diaz went for goal but couldn’t beat Mendy at his near post.
° Chelsea grow into it. After somehow surviving that early onslaught, Tuchel’s men grew into the match. They went close to scoring when Mount picked out Pulisic but the American’s first time shot trickled just past the far post. They came close again when Alonso’s heavy first touch allowed Alisson to make the block with the Spaniard through on goal.
° Mo goes off injured. It was sad to see Salah go off injured in another final, but the manager didn’t want to take any chances with the Champions League final to come. It looked like a groin injury for Mo, and the hope is he’ll be back in action soon. Jota came on for him, a vast improvement on a half fit Lallana in Kiev.
° Chelsea come out flying second half. It was the Blues’ turn to start fast as Pulisic saw a powerful effort turned away by Alisson. Alonso then struck the woodwork with rasping free kick as Chelsea sought to open the scoring after the break.
° The Reds respond. Just like their counterparts did in the first half, Liverpool rode the early storm and struck back with a few chances of their own. Diaz cut in from the left and sent a shot whistling past the far post. Jota followed suit as he also sent his angled drive past the post.
° It just won’t go in. Luis Diaz received Mané’s pass into the box and went for power at the near post, the ball crashed off the outside of the post and went behind. Diaz looked to the sky in disbelief. He had done everything in the game but score. He was desperately unlucky.
° Dazzling Diaz named MOTM. Diaz would go close again when he cut in from the left, but his curled effort flew past the top corner. It was an excellent performance, similar to his display in the League Cup final. It had everything bar the goal. He was taken off for Bobby in extra time and was rightly named Man of the Match.
° Van Dijk goes off injured. It was a worrying sight seeing the Dutchman go off injured ahead of extra time, with Matip coming on. With the Champions League final just two weeks away, the hope is that Salah and Van Dijk only suffered minor knocks.
° Another even game between these two. There was nothing to separate the two sides after two hours of football. They were well matched as they have been all season. Both sides defended well in the end and were unlucky not to score. It’s been four stalemates between these two this season.
° Trent was immense. Alonso snuck in behind him a couple of times early on but Trent switched on after that and completely shut down attacks down his flank. He was alert to clear crosses to the back post in an assured display at right back. He still went forward and created the most chances on the night.
Alexander-Arnold vs Chelsea (LFC rank):
• 117 touches (1st)
• 100% dribble success rate
• 76% pass accuracy
• 52 passes completed
• 16 long balls attempted (1st)
• 10 long balls completed (1st)
• 10 ball recoveries (=2nd)
• 6 accurate crosses (1st)
• 5 duels won (=2nd)
• 4 clearances (1st)
• 4 chances created (1st)
• 2 blocks (1st)
• 2 shots (=2nd)
• 2 tackles won (=2nd)
• 1 successful dribble (=2nd)
• 1 big chance created (=1st)
° Special mention for Ibou. It was a big call opting for the 22 year old over the more experienced Matip. Especially after Joel made a goalscoring return to the side at Villa and was impressive on the night. Ibou justified Klopp’s decision however, putting in an accomplished performance to extend his unbeaten start at the club to 26 games.
° Penalty shootout. Chelsea won the coin toss and had the advantage of the spot kicks being taken at the end with their fans. Azpilicueta crashed his against the post whilst Milner, Thiago, Firmino and Trent all tucked theirs away to set Mané up for what could have been the winning kick.
Sadio has already scored the winning pen in the AFCON final and again in the World Cup qualification playoff this season. It almost seemed written in the stars that he’d score the winning pen here. His international teammate Mendy read his intentions well however to make the save.
Cue wild celebrations from the Chelsea bench. Ziyech slotted the next pen in sudden death and all the pressure was cranked up on Liverpool. Jota didn’t show any signs of cracking however as he placed his pen in the top right corner.
Alisson then saved Mount’s kick to set the stage for Tsimikas to write his name into folklore. The Reds had done it. The second piece of silverware of the season was clinched. The Hendo shuffle was soon lighting up Wembley amid a sea of red.
° What next? The champagne has to be kept on ice. Liverpool are away to Southampton on Tuesday night in the Premier League. With Manchester City dropping points earlier today against West Ham, the Reds know a win will take them within a point of the Citizens heading into the final matchday.
There were lots of tired limbs in extra time yesterday but the manager has to pick a team that can get the job done at the St. Mary’s but at the same time not risk injury to key players ahead of the Champions League final. Defeat on Tuesday will see City crowned champions. A delicate balancing act awaits.