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Quadruple still on as Liverpool edge Chelsea in FA Cup...

Sport

FOOTBALL

Quadruple still on as Liverpool edge Chelsea in FA Cup final and Man City slip up at West Ham

Liverpool players celebrate after winning the English FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 14 May 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Tolga Akmen)

Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Liverpool beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties in a fluctuating English FA Cup final on Saturday to stay on course for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

An absorbing Wembley FA Cup Final showpiece had somehow ended 0-0 after extra time despite a raft of chances and near misses for both sides with fine performances from the two goalkeepers. 

Substitute Kostas Tsimikas slotted the winning penalty after Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta hit the post and Alisson had saved Mason Mount’s effort. 

Liverpool’s slim chances of winning the Premier League were boosted on Sunday when log leaders Manchester City were held 2-2 at West Ham. They dropped two crucial points. 

Riyad Mahrez failed to convert a late penalty that would have won the game for Pep Guardiola’s side, who were 2-0 down at halftime at the London Stadium. 

fa cup liverpool chelsea
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (centre) lifts the trophy as Liverpool players celebrate after winning the English FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, 14 May 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

The result left City on 90 points with one game to play and second-placed Liverpool, four points behind, but with two matches left.

Liverpool travel to Southampton on Tuesday and victory in that game would leave them one point behind heading into Sunday’s final round of games. A defeat would hand the title to City.

Both sides are at home for their last games — City face Aston Villa, managed by former Liverpool favourite Steven Gerrard, while Klopp’s team host Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Jarrod Bowen struck twice for West Ham in the first half to stun City, but Guardiola’s men fought back strongly. 

Jack Grealish fired City back into contention four minutes after the break and the Hammers’ Czech defender Vladimír Coufal headed a Mahrez free kick into his own goal. 

City had a great chance to take all three points when a VAR review led referee Anthony Taylor to award a penalty for Craig Dawson’s challenge on Gabriel Jesus. 

Mahrez struck the spot-kick firmly, but at a good height for Lukasz Fabianski who produced an excellent save to deny the Algerian, frustrate City and keep Liverpool’s hopes alive.

City manager Pep Guardiola was happy that the leaders’ fate in the Premier League title race remains in their own hands. 

Victory on the final day at home to Aston Villa would guarantee City the title, regardless of Liverpool’s results against Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers. They could win the title on Tuesday if Liverpool lose at Southampton. 

“It’s in our hands, that’s good,” Guardiola said. “It would have been perfect to win today, but West Ham is fighting for Europa League and have had an incredible season. It’s so complicated to attack them and play against them, so difficult.”

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FA Cup joy for Reds 

Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy had kept his side alive when he saved Senegal teammate Sadio Mane’s penalty in the shootout, but it proved to no avail as Liverpool lifted the trophy for the first time since 2006. 

It was a carbon copy of the League Cup final in February, which Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties after that game also finished goalless. 

“I’m really proud of my boys,” Klopp said. “We are mentality monsters but there were mentality monsters in Chelsea colours as well — it was one penalty. 

“Chelsea played outstanding but in the end there must be one winner and that was us today.” 

Saturday’s win means Liverpool have won 50% of their target for the season. 

“This is something that will give us even more confidence to keep on going in the Premier League and also for the Champions League final,” Alisson, who made a crucial save from Marcos Alonso in the first half, said. 

For Chelsea, it meant an unwelcome record of becoming the first side to lose three FA Cup finals in a row, after losing to Arsenal in 2020 and Leicester City last year. 

Liverpool had the best of a pulsating first half with Luis Diaz close several times, before Chelsea came back in the second, with Alonso rattling the crossbar. 

Klopp’s Liverpool enjoyed greater possession and finished the 90 minutes on top, Diaz and Andrew Robertson both hitting the post in the final 10 minutes and the indefatigable Diaz whistling a shot just wide in the 90th.

Tired legs on a warm day contributed to a rather anticlimactic extra time with both sides appearing to have decided to take their chances in a shootout. 

Sadly, for Chelsea, as in February, it was a case of so near yet so far although manager Thomas Tuchel had no regrets. 

“Like in the last final, the League Cup, no regrets. I told the team I was proud,” he told reporters. “We played 240 minutes in two finals against maybe the most dangerous attacking team in the world and it’s 0-0.” 

“I was sure during the match the momentum was on our side, but unfortunately I was not right.” 

The only blot on another memorable day for Liverpool was striker Mohamed Salah being withdrawn in the first half with an injury.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was handed the Cup by Prince William to roars from the Liverpool fans while the Chelsea end had largely emptied. 

“It’s a big moment for us, we haven’t been in this final for some time so to win it was special,” Henderson said.

The win was Liverpool’s eighth in the 150-year history of the FA Cup, drawing them level with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal have won the most, with 14. Reuters/DM

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