LONDON, May 15 — Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties in a final for the second time this season on Saturday, staying on track for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.
A match with few clear-cut chances finished 0-0 after extra-time, meaning the two sides faced a repeat of the League Cup final shootout in February, which Liverpool also won.
The two teams swapped penalty misses but Alisson Becker saved Mason Mount’s effort and substitute Kostas Tsimikas made no mistake, giving Liverpool a 6-5 win.
AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the match at Wembley.
The massed ranks of Liverpool fans fell silent when Alisson called for treatment just before the half-hour but minutes later it became apparent that Mohamed Salah was in greater trouble.
The Egypt forward sat on the grass surrounded by teammates and was unable to continue, with Diogo Jota coming on to replace him.
Up until that point most of Liverpool’s early threat had come down the left through Luis Diaz but the loss of their top-scorer was a huge blow.
It will also be a grave concern for Liverpool ahead of the final two games of the Premier League season and the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
Salah, who is rarely injured, has had a punishing schedule as Liverpool have battled on all fronts and he also went all the way to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.
He remains on course to win a third Premier League Golden Boot, though Tottenham’s Son Heung-min is just one goal behind him now.
More importantly, will he back to face Real Madrid? He will be desperate to play, with a score to settle after defeat in the 2018 final to the Spanish team.
Luis Diaz arrived from Porto in January to bolster an already fearsome Liverpool attack. Four months later he looked at home in the starting eleven at Wembley.
The Colombian livewire looks as though he has been part of the forward line for years and was in devastating form from the first whistle, lining up alongside Sadio Mane and Salah.
Diaz gave Chelsea defender Trevoh Chalobah a torrid opening few minutes, firing in two dangerous early crosses that just evaded his teammates.
Moments later he was released down the left and was in on goal, only for Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to get his legs to the ball before it was scrambled clear.
He faded after that initial burst but was a threat again after the break, flashing wide and then curling a right-footed shot just over with a quarter of the match to go.
He had a chance to win the game with eight minutes to go but hit the post, raising his hands into the air in frustration.
Diaz again went agonisingly close on the stroke of 90 minutes but it was not to be his day and he was substituted to a standing ovation from the Liverpool fans in extra time and was named man of the match.
Lukaku fluffs chance?
Romelu Lukaku hit the ground running when he arrived at Stamford Bridge last August for nearly £100 million (RM540 million) as the club’s record signing but it has been a bumpy ride since.
Chelsea won the Champions League without the Belgium forward last season, but his signing was made with the intention of challenging for the Premier League title.
The 29-year-old is the club’s topscorer with 15 goals so far in all competitions in his second spell at Stamford Bridge but he has not totally convinced.
The FA Cup final was a chance for Lukaku to convince his manager Thomas Tuchel and the incoming regime at Chelsea that he fits into the club’s long-term plans.
The powerful forward was a handful for Virgil van Dijk but the Liverpool defender marshalled him well.
Lukaku had a half chance at the end of the first half but fired over in a match in which clear-cut openings for him were at a premium.
He was replaced by Hakim Ziyech in the dying minutes of normal time. — AFP