Jürgen Klopp said it was a ‘pure joy’ to be part of Liverpool’s pursuit of the treble and insisted there was more to come from his two-time winning side after lifting a first FA Cup since 16 years old.
Liverpool claimed their second trophy of the season with another penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea at Wembley. As in the Carabao Cup final, the teams went 120 minutes without a goal before Alisson’s save from Mason Mount allowed Liverpool’s second-choice left-back Kostas Tsimikas to become a hero with the winning kick. Liverpool can still clinch the Premier League title and the Champions League this season and Klopp claimed the character of his players was entirely responsible for the remarkable pursuit.
“It’s pure joy to be part of this club at this time,” the Liverpool manager said. “There is a lot to come and a lot to play for. Tonight I decided to enjoy this moment and not think about the next challenge. It’s really special. We don’t stop there, we just take the time to enjoy it for a few minutes. We came out of a season last year where nobody but me thought we could come back the way we did this year.
“It’s all down to the character of these players. That’s the only reason. I can say all I want, I can motivate all I want, but if these boys got soft or weak you wouldn’t have a chance to compete with City in a league like this.
“We saw before the game what it meant to people because our hotel is quite central and they’ve been partying since this morning. Doing it is out of this world. It’s massive. It’s Game No. 60 of a very intense season and to achieve a performance like that is incredible.
“Penalty shootouts are a lottery but we’ve done it again. We’re working with a company called neuro11 – one of them is a neuroscientist who said he can practice penalty shootout – and this trophy is for them as the Carabao Cup was. [Mané’s] the penalty was 50% my responsibility. I told him that the guardian [Édouard Mendy] knows you, so go the other way. It’s not the first time in my life that I realized I should have shut up. But it means the world.
Two key Liverpool players, Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, have been substituted with groin and knee problems respectively, although Klopp has confirmed both have been taken off as a precaution and he expects them to appear again this season.
He explained: “We had to change Mo early and it was my decision. He felt something, he said he could go on, but they rarely improve in a game. Virg felt something too. It was clear he had to go out after 90 minutes, but being able to bring in Diogo Jota and Joel Matip is the best situation I’ve ever been in as a coach I’ve spoken to both [Salah and Van Dijk] and both are OK. Not much. Both will be fine, but we have to see.
Chelsea, on the other hand, set an unwanted new record of three straight FA Cup final defeats. Thomas Tuchel insisted he had no regrets over his side’s performance at Wembley, where Timo Werner suffered a hamstring problem during the warm-up and Kai Havertz was unavailable due to a similar injury.
The Chelsea manager said: “As in the Carabao Cup, we have no regrets. I told the team I was proud. We were competitive and made life difficult for Liverpool. We had struggled for the first 15 minutes, but then we were excellent throughout the game against the most dangerous attacking team in the world. We lost on penalties. We are sad but at the same time proud. I was sure before and during the game that we were going to win. Unfortunately, I was not right.
Tuchel introduced Ruben Loftus-Cheek in extra time as a makeshift striker to replace the midfielder 14 minutes later. “It was only for penalties,” confirmed the manager. “Ruben doesn’t have a good history with penalties and Ross [Barkley] possesses.”