Jürgen Klopp said it was “pure joy” to be part of Liverpool’s pursuit of the quadruple and insisted there is more to come from his double-winning team after they claimed a first FA Cup for 16 years.
Liverpool secured their second trophy of the season courtesy of another penalty shootout victory over Chelsea at Wembley. As in the Carabao Cup final, the sides played out a goalless 120 minutes before Alisson’s save from Mason Mount enabled Liverpool’s second-choice left-back, Kostas Tsimikas, to make himself a hero with the winning spot-kick. Liverpool can still clinch the Premier League title and Champions League this season and Klopp claimed his players’ character was entirely responsible for the remarkable chase.
“It is pure joy to be part of this club at the moment,” the Liverpool manager said. “There is a lot to come and a lot to play for. Tonight I decided to just enjoy this moment and not think about the next challenge. It is really special. We don’t stop here, we just take the time to enjoy this for a few minutes. We came from a season last year where nobody, apart from me, thought we could go again like we did this year.
“That is all because of the character of these players. It’s the only reason. I can say as much as I want, I can motivate as much as I want, but if these boys got soft or weak then you would have no chance to compete with City in a league like this.
“We saw before the game what it meant to people because our hotel is pretty central and they were partying from this morning. To make it is out of this world. It’s massive. It’s game No 60 in a very intense season and to put in a performance like that is incredible.
“Penalty shootouts are a lottery but we did it again. We work with a company called neuro11 – one of them is a neuroscientist who said they can train penalty shooting – and this trophy is for them like the Carabao Cup was. Sadio’s [Mané’s] penalty was 50% my responsibility. I said to him that the goalie [Édouard Mendy] knows you, so go the other way. Not for the first time in my life I realised I should have shut up. But this means the world.”
Two key players for Liverpool, Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, were substituted with groin and knee problems respectively, although Klopp confirmed both were withdrawn as a precaution and he expects them to feature again this season.
He explained: “We had to change Mo early and that was my decision. He felt something, he said he could carry on, but they rarely get better in a game. Virg felt something, too. It was clear he had to go off after 90 minutes but being able to bring on Diogo Jota and Joël Matip is the best situation I have ever been in as a coach. I have spoken to both [Salah and Van Dijk] and both are OK. Not a big thing. Both will be fine but we have to see.”
Chelsea, by contrast, set a new and unwanted record of three FA Cup final defeats in a row. Thomas Tuchel insisted he had no regrets about his side’s performance at Wembley, where Timo Werner suffered a hamstring problem in the warm-up and Kai Havertz was unavailable due to a similar injury.
The Chelsea manager said: “Like in the Carabao Cup we have no regrets. I told the team I am proud. We were competitive and made life difficult for Liverpool. We struggled for the first 15 minutes but then we were excellent throughout the whole match against the most dangerous attacking team in the whole world. We lost on penalties. We are sad but at the same time proud. I was sure before and during the match that we would win. Unfortunately I was not right.”
Tuchel introduced Ruben Loftus-Cheek in extra time as a makeshift forward only to substitute the midfielder 14 minutes later. “It was purely for penalties,” the manager confirmed. “Ruben doesn’t have a good history with penalties and Ross [Barkley] has.”