Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel left with little consolation as Liverpool win second cup final battle of the season

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In their 60th game and fourth final of the season, Chelsea suffered FA Cup heartbreak for the third consecutive year.

It took 14 penalties to separate them from Liverpool, whose quadruple chase remains relevant.

It will be a particularly bitter pill for Thomas Tuchel to swallow as, once again, Jurgen Klopp couldn’t find a way past him on 90 minutes or in extra time – but still walks away victorious.

This game was a near carbon copy of February’s Carabao Cup final. Another goalless draw that should have brought plenty of goals. Another extended shootout.

Since Tuchel took charge at Stamford Bridge, he has faced his fellow German on five occasions – winning one and drawing the others.

It’s proof of how close these teams are in head-to-head battles – even if the league table tells a different story.

And if Liverpool go on to win an unprecedented sweep, they will know how nearly derailed they were by Chelsea.

But it will be a very meager consolation for Tuchel, who followed a season which promised to be so spoiled by the capricious fate of the shots on goal.

It was Kepa Arrizabalaga who missed the target to settle the Carabao Cup after 22 shots on goal.

On this occasion, it was Mason Mount, whose shot was saved by Alisson, before Kostas Tsimikas scored the decisive goal.

An Englishman stranded on the spot, yet again – and at the same end of the pitch that saw the Three Lions lose a shootout to Italy in last year’s Euro final.

Edouard Mendy had already established himself as the hero by stopping Sadio Mane’s effort after Cesar Azpilicueta hit the post with his own.

But when Alisson held out a palm to stop Mount in sudden death, it put Liverpool’s fate in his hands – and they weren’t wasted a second chance.

Tuchel will know his side had their own chances to ensure the game didn’t have to go to penalties. Liverpool had their own in normal times too, in a match that oddly echoed the Carabao Cup.

Whichever team ended up on the losing side, there would be times to lament.

Such was Liverpool’s dominance in an early blitz that it was remarkable they didn’t put the game to bed straight away, with Mendy and Trevoh Chalobah combining to knock out a Luis Diaz effort.

But Chelsea were keen not only to keep them at bay, but also to see a host of glorious chances go begging.

Christian Pulisic failed to hit the target from 12 yards out in the first half – then Marcos Alonso fired straight at Alisson from close range in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Alonso would continue to hit the bar in the second half as Chelsea flew out of the traps after the restart. Pulisic directed another close-range effort directly at Alisson.

On the touchline, Tuchel looked like a man who feared his best chances had passed – and it did.

But as long as Liverpool continued to leave their own opportunities begging, this game had the potential to go both ways.

They hit the post twice in the space of a minute late thanks to the exceptional Diaz and Andy Robertson.

Other opportunities would narrowly miss the mark.

In extra time, Wembley felt resigned to another shootout – with both teams appearing to share that belief.

The adventure waned, while Tuchel’s decision to bring in Ruben Loftus-Cheek as a centre-forward and then snag him 14 minutes later has to be one of the most bizarre cameos of the Cup final.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was brought in for a rather odd 14-minute cameo

/ The FA via Getty Images

Timo Werner, meanwhile, was unused throughout.

There will be regrets for the Chelsea manager, who claimed beforehand that victory at Wembley would go a long way to making up for their failed title challenge.

He can look back on a season in which he won the European Cup and the Club World Cup, while reaching both domestic finals.

But his side fell in the title race at the turn of the year – and were edged twice by Liverpool no matter how thin the margins were in those one-off encounters.

How different their campaign would have been with at least one of those trophies.

How different Liverpool would have been too.

Instead, it’s Klopp who goes in search of history in the final two weeks of the campaign, while Tuchel must ponder ‘what if’.


standard Sport

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