It was 12.43am local time when the teams were finally prised apart. The players in red had set off on their victory run, all heading to the newest member of their group. Jürgen Klopp was trying to keep up and Liverpool’s only problem now is where to accommodate the Super Cup in their already congested trophy room. This was the fourth time they have won this competition, putting them level with Real Madrid and one behind Barcelona and Milan. ‘European football royalty’ to use the words of the public announcer.
True, the six-time European Cup winners might not value their latest trophy with the affection they reserve for the one Jordan Henderson lifted in Madrid 74 days earlier. All the same Klopp and his players can still relish their latest trip to Istanbul, the scene of their 2005 Champions League win, and the high drama of the penalty shoot-out.
Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Divock Origi, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah all scored from 12 yards for Liverpool. Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount and Emerson did the same for Chelsea but Tammy Abraham’s effort came back off Adrián’s outstretched boot and the goalkeeper, signed last Monday and deputising for the injured Alisson, suddenly had his new teammates – and, typically, Klopp – sprinting in his direction. Everyone but Fabinho, who had gone down with cramp and could barely walk, let alone run, at the end of an exhausting night.
In the circumstances it was extraordinary that Fabinho felt capable of taking one of Liverpool’s penalties. He placed it to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s left whereas Liverpool’s other four penalty-takers all went the other way and, agonisingly for Chelsea, their goalkeeper got his hand to the ones from Origi and Alexander-Arnold without stopping the ball from going inside the post. Arrizabalaga had produced a spectacular double save, at 1-1, to deny Salah and turn away Virgil van Dijk’s follow-up effort, via bar and post, but the Spaniard will not enjoy watching the penalty shootout again.
For Chelsea it was a cruel way to end the night and, having suffered the ordeal of a 4-0 drubbing against Manchester United on Sunday, their new manager, Frank Lampard, must be getting heartily sick of congratulating his team for playing so well when they have ended up with nothing. Olivier Giroud had given them a first-half lead and, when Sadio Mané’s two goals turned the game upside down, the second coming in the 96th minute, Chelsea’s players refused to be cowed. Jorginho’s equaliser came from the penalty spot and, ultimately, it was just a pity for Abraham that he could not emulate the Brazilian’s technique.
Chelsea had also hit the woodwork from a Pedro shot and, twice, an offside flag deprived them other goals. Giroud was a difficult opponent for Joël Matip and Van Dijk but it was N’Golo Kanté’s return to the starting line-up that really improved Chelsea’s team. Pedro was heavily involved and Mount, one of their substitutes, was another key performer once he had taken over from Christian Pulisic, who was full of elegant touches on his first start for the club.
Liverpool, in response, will feel they had enough chances to have won the game in normal time. But then again, so could Chelsea. It was one of those nights, full of attacking football, and, by the end, it was difficult to keep count of the number of scoring opportunities for both sides. Abraham, for one, will not just remember Adrian’s penalty save but also the moment when Chelsea’s substitute striker angled a shot wide, inside the six-yard area, in the second period of extra time.
Chelsea’s confidence certainly did not seem to have been knocked by what happened at Old Trafford at the weekend. The truth is they had played stylishly for long spells of that match and, again, they seemed intent on showing they were an accomplished side. Even in defeat they managed it.
Ultimately, though, they might have been fortunate the game even reached penalties. Liverpool’s players could feel aggrieved that the referee, Stéphanie Frappart, gave Chelsea a penalty for Adrián’s alleged foul on Abraham. The officials in charge of the VAR monitors decided against over-ruling her and it was the same earlier in the match when a handball from Andreas Christensen went unpunished inside the penalty area. Christensen had his arms raised when he blocked Mané’s overhead kick and under the new rules – a point Uefa emphasised in a media briefing on the eve of this match – it should have resulted in a penalty.
Klopp had begun the night with Mané in a central role and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making his first competitive start since rupturing his knee ligaments in a Champions League tie against AS Roma two seasons ago. It had been 477 days and it was unfortunate for him, perhaps, that he was asked to fill a left-sided role to which he was unaccustomed. Nobody should have been too surprised, with Liverpool losing 1-0, when Firmino replaced him at half-time and Mané switched to the left.
Chelsea had taken the lead in the 36th minute when Pulisic and the ubiquitous Kanté combined to leave Giroud with the chance to aim his shot beyond Adrián.
Liverpool had to improve in the second half and, within three minutes, they had found an equaliser. Salah’s cross from the right struck Mateo Kovacic on the back and that left Firmino in a chase with Arrizabalaga, rushing from his goalline, to reach the bouncing ball first. Firmino got there a split-second earlier than the goalkeeper, touching the ball to his right. Kepa was now stranded and Mané, following up, scored into an exposed net.
Mané’s second goal came from a rising first-time shot, after a slick exchange of passes with Firmino, a few seconds from the game reaching midnight. Mané was on a hat-trick and clearly upset to be substituted. For Liverpool, however, it ended in jubilation.