Alisson Becker was the spot-kick hero as Liverpool secured another penalty shoot-out triumph against Chelsea to win the FA Cup and keep their quest for an unprecedented quadruple alive.
Alisson Becker was the spot-kick hero as Liverpool secured another penalty shoot-out triumph against Chelsea to win the FA Cup and keep their quest for an unprecedent quadruple alive.
Just 76 days after the Reds edged past Thomas Tuchel’s men on penalties following a scoreless Carabao Cup final, Wembley witnessed another gripping clash between these sides that went down to the wire.
Nothing could split them after 90 minutes and extra time again, with Alisson coming up trumps in the shoot-out as Liverpool won their first FA Cup since 2006.
Edouard Mendy prevented Sadio Mane striking the winner after Cesar Azpilicueta had hit the post, only for the Brazil goalkeeper to deny Mason Mount before Kostas Tsimikas struck to seal a 6-5 win.
While the quadruple may eventually prove out of reach given Manchester City’s Premier League advantage, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds still have a shot at Champions League glory to come as a superb season heads towards a memorable conclusion.
Wembley was rocking to Liverpool’s beat at full-time, just as it was in the opening minutes as they flew out the blocks.
But Chelsea saw out the early storm and began to ask questions at the other end in a first half that saw Reds star Mohamed Salah limp off injured.
Marcos Alonso’s audacious free-kick hit the bar during a rampant Chelsea start to a topsy-turvy second period, which ended with Luis Diaz and Andrew Robertson striking the post for Liverpool.
That pulsating half made way for a tepid period of extra time between exhausted sides that raised themselves for penalties, which ended with red smoke and Liverpool cheers filling the air.
It was a third FA Cup final defeat in as many years for Chelsea, who were denied a 22nd and final trophy of the Roman Abramovich era in gutting fashion.
The west London side were fortunate not to fall behind in the early stages, when Diaz was acting as chief tormentor.
Having sent over some threatening crosses, he was put through by an outrageous Trent Alexander-Arnold pass only for a mixture of Mendy and Trevoh Chalobah to deny him.
Thiago Silva was hurt as Chalobah cleared and the break in play helped take the sting out of Liverpool’s start, allowing Chelsea to grow into the final and begin posing problems at the other end.
Christian Pulisic steered a Mount cross narrowly wide and played through Alonso when Chelsea returned to the attack, only for a poor touch to allow Alisson to smother.
The Liverpool goalkeeper needed attention after colliding with the Spaniard but was able to continue after treatment unlike Salah, who had to be replaced by Diogo Jota in the 33rd minute.
The Egypt international’s replacement wasted a good opportunity to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, meeting Robertson’s cross with a nonchalant touch over.
Chelsea flew out of the blocks in the second half, with Alonso going close within 40 seconds of the restart before Pulisic tested Alisson.
The Blues went close again in the 48th minute as Alonso sent a free-kick from a wildly acute angle onto the woodwork.
Momentum swung Liverpool’s way for a period as Diaz turned and drove narrowly wide, with Jota going near with a fizzing attempt of his own.
Mendy denied Naby Keita and Pulisic directed wide, before Diaz swung a curling effort just over as the sides traded blows without landing a telling hit.
Liverpool went closest to finding a knockout blow in normal time.
Diaz clipped the outside of the right-hand post from a difficult angle in the 83rd minute and just a minute later Robertson clattered the other post when meeting James Milner’s cross on the volley from close range.
Wembley held its collective breath when Diaz cut back as the amount of stoppage time was announced, only to bend his strike just beyond the far post as the match went to extra time.
The first period was far edgier than the 90 minutes that preceded it, with Mount flashing over from distance as players grew tired and chances dried up.
Hakim Ziyech saw penalty appeals waved away and Alexander-Arnold cleared a threatening clipped cross as the match went to penalties.
Alonso and Milner scored their attempts, before Azpilicueta hit the right-hand post.
Every other player had found the net and Mane knew victory was Liverpool’s if he beat Mendy, only for the Blues goalkeeper to save his Senegal team-mate’s effort low to his left.
Chelsea’s hope prove shortlived however. After Ziyech and Jota scored, Alisson denied Mount before Tsimikas slotted home the winning spot-kick.