My 3 Thoughts on the Men's FA Cup Final
Liverpool does the FA Cup/League Cup double with another win on penalties over Chelsea
Liverpool beat Chelsea in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie to win the men’s FA Cup and bag LFC’s second trophy of the year after beating Chelsea on penalties in the League Cup final. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• Liverpool’s heroes this time were Kostas Tsimikas and Alisson. It was an undeniably dramatic penalty shootout: Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy saved Senegal teammate Sadio Mané’s spot kick in the fifth round to keep the Blues alive, and you thought that might give Chelsea momentum. But Alisson made the save on Mason Mount, and Tsimikas became an unlikely hero when he sent his penalty past Mendy for the win. I’m always fascinated by the strategy deployed for shootouts. Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel opted to keep Mendy in for penalties this time after subbing Kepa Arrizabalaga in for him in the League Cup final—Kepa ended up sending the decisive penalty over the bar in that one—and Tuchel also brought on Ross Barkley (!) at the end of extra-time for almost his first action of the calendar year. (Barkley’s missile of a successful pen proved that strategy right.) But Liverpool’s penalty-takers have been marvelous, going 11 for 11 in the League Cup final and 5 for 6 on Saturday (with the only failure coming from their best spot-kick guy, Mané). For years, Jürgen Klopp has been seen as a guy who doesn’t value domestic cups as much as other coaches, and now he has won two in England just this season.
• Christian Pulisic was Chelsea’s most dangerous attacking threat. The USMNT star got the start, a pleasant surprise considering I was expecting him to come off the bench after starting Chelsea’s last two games. Pulisic put himself in dangerous positions, hitting a shot just wide in the first half and providing what should have been an assist to Marcos Alonso, who had a bad first touch and misfired. And yet you came away thinking Pulisic perhaps could have done better on his best scoring chance and frustrated that he was taken off in the 106th minute and didn’t have an opportunity to take a penalty. The last three FA Cup finals, from which Chelsea has come away trophy-less, have been a roller-coaster for Pulisic: He scored against Arsenal in 2020 but came off with an injury; he came on as a sub in the 2021 final defeat to Leicester City; and now he has some good moments for Chelsea in 2022 but sees his team lose on penalties.
• Liverpool has some injury concerns now. There’s obviously still a lot to play for, including the Premier League and Champions League titles, so it was worrying to see Mohamed Salah go off in the 33rd minute with an apparent groin injury, and then Virgil van Dijk (when does he ever get subbed) in the 91st with an injury concern, and then Andrew Robertson with what looked like cramping in the 111th minute. It’s incredible but true: Liverpool will end up playing the maximum number of games it could have played this season, having reached the final of the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League. That heavy number of games takes it toll. You never want to see teams not be at full strength in the most important games of the year, and now that’s a real concern for Liverpool.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
Great observations. Will Liverpool and its supporters consider the season a success if they do not win the Premier League and Champions League?
Prior to the game, my thoughts were that Chelsea had no chance to beat Liverpool. But when clock was moving, and specially in the second part, Chelsea had good chances. Indeed, Pulisic was the biggest threat for Liverpool defense. Thank you for your columns, I read them very often.