WITHsometimes miss is really good as a mile. Wembley was a hot spot at the end of this exhausting, seemingly endless FA Cup final. As Liverpool players stumbled at the east end of the course, lost in a mist of red smoke, they fell and rolled across the grass in front of a grandstand that looked like a single mess of limbs, light and noise, the contrast on the other half of the court was inevitably sharp.
The Chelsea players sat impoverished on the lawn as the end behind them emptied. And at that moment, the two entities seemed to go in completely opposite directions. For Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp is now the final season marking the era, the two home cups in the sack and the next finale to come, a half-impossible dream of an ATV that still exists.
For 120 minutes, Wembley provided an intersection for the two clubs, which were reunited on this stage and chased by the late afternoon sun. But like trains hitting points and bouncing off their own arc, the feeling of separation was deep at the end.
It was always an opportunity for Chelsea to say goodbye to something. Abramovich’s age was anchored around these summer beans, a metropolitan line in the north crowded with blue shirts and a pink body, a feeling of walking, rampage, flag day. There will be more of these days, different glories, different eras, more billionaires. But nothing like endlessly shaking hands. And there will be no Viking funeral.
While in Liverpool, Klopp’s domination is constantly rolling. This turned out to be the sweet spot. How far can he run from here? He felt that the thing Klopp had built needed a little sawing at the edges. Until the spring of this season, a total of two trophies were a bit easy in six years of furious progress, due to the memories, style and imprint of English football.
Winning the FA Cup at Wembley acts as another shade in the palette, rounding. It also pushes the current season into a truly exciting resolution. What’s the matter now? How high can it go? Browse the rosters of all time and Liverpool’s best season is probably 1983-84, when he won the league, the League Cup and the European Cup. Three years earlier, they had won the League Cup and the European Double Cup. In 2001, there was another triple, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup.
Triumphing in the current title race looks very far from here. But if Liverpool beats Real Madrid in two weeks, Klopp’s team is waiting for a home cup double plus European champions plus 90 odd league points. It would be one of the best seasons in Liverpool; one of the best English seasons.
This latest European move looks depressing after the loss of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk due to injuries. But two weeks is a decent pillow. And the victory here also speaks to Paris, and that shot to the sun. Liverpool will drive easily. There is simply something about this team and the final.
The margins are of course fine: penalties at the end of 120 minutes, post width, one-handed intervention. But somehow it always seemed to me that the day was moving in that direction.
Wembley was a delicious, sun-drenched spectacle before the excavation, the course was crowded with so many pre-match side appearances – a band, a flag, some soldiers, Pete Tong and his turntable. Last year was a modest, plague football affair. On the other hand, it was all the toys in the bag, full of smoke, noise, tongues of fire. But yeah, you already knew a little bit about how it would turn out.
Chelsea was poor at first, a team that didn’t seem to know how to move forward, how to take the ball to the field where it would stick. For Liverpool, Luis Diaz was electric, skating inside in that easy gliding style, a fearless footballer who will take you to those awful spaces and stretch you.
From then on, the afternoon began to unfold. At the end, in two hours, the sun had faded into the watery glaze. The players huddled at the side line and wrapped themselves in towels. Physiotherapist Chelsea pounded Trevoh Chalobah in the thighs like a man kneading a batch of prized leavened dough. And at this stage, the total total was 420 minutes between the two teams, which lasted until August last year, no difference between them, outside of the extended penalty shootout in the spring.
Liverpool seemed to lack some freshness, even as he continued to run, even as the game began to focus around them. Mason Mount missed a decisive penalty, hit it well enough, but saw Alisson hit well with one hand. Kostas Tsimikas rolls the ball into the corner and at that moment the day finally split into two parts.
For Liverpool there is a delicious symmetry of the home cup double, feeling some clue left in the record book. Klopp has finally stepped on the home cups: it was his third in 10 years, his second in three months. Thoughts will now focus on the chance to fan at the end of the season and on some kind of ultimatum that is now within the reach of this team.