For all his qualities – the intense pressing, the defensive solidity, the whirling attacks – his best is perhaps the sense of drama on occasions like these.
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 win.
Two trophies in the cabinet this season, the place being reserved for two others. This is what Liverpool fans dream about. History could still be written.
Just like in the Coupe de la Ligue final, 120 minutes without a goal belied the quality of the game. Chances were created, goalposts rattled, but it was perhaps fitting that on the 150th anniversary of football’s oldest cup competition the final was decided in the most theatrical way that is.
Chelsea missed their second penalty (Cesar Azplicueta), Liverpool their fifth (Sadio Mane). There was a feeling of deja vu as the first 10 penalties couldn’t decide the outcome and so the match ended in sudden death – the League Cup final ended 11-10 on penalties on goal, with goalkeepers to step up.
However, fewer penalties were needed this time around as Alisson Becker saved Mason Mount’s kick 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 joyous celebrations from those in red.
Liverpool players engulfed Tsimikas, manager Jurgen Klopp sprinted 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.
Even an occasion as traditional as this – a fanfare 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 first 15 minutes, but Thiago, the remarkable Luis Diaz, Mo Salah and Mane floundered in front of goal.
Although Chelsea played second fiddle for most of the first half, the Londoners had arguably the best chances this period with only a world-class save from Liverpool’s Alisson – a dive at the feet of Marcos Alonso – preventing them from moving forward. .
The premature exit of Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer this season, through injury added to Liverpool’s heightened anxiety as half-time progressed but, even without the Egyptian, the Reds were able to reaffirm their dominance before the break.
Indeed, Salah’s replacement Diogo Jota should have put Klopp’s men in front just before the break.
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?
Robertson hit the post with seven minutes left before Diaz aimed again. But at the full-time whistle, the match – for all odds, for all entertainment – was left scoreless.
Inevitably, the energy plummeted in extra time and few chances were created as penalties loomed on the horizon.
“We are sad, but at the same time proud because we left everything on the pitch,” coach Thomas Tuchel said after the game.