Jurgen Klopp’s side won their second trophy of the season by beating Chelsea on penalties, but suffered two potentially major injury blows
Sometimes, lightning really does strike twice.
We have seen this ending before. Wembley. Liverpool and Chelsea. A penalty shootout with the nerves jangling and the heart racing.
And then, at the end of it all, red. Red flares, red smoke, red flags and red scarves.
Red smiles. Thousands of them, and each of them as wide as the River Thames.
The FA Cup is Liverpool’s. For the first time since 2006, they have their hands on football’s oldest and most historic trophy, and Jurgen Klopp becomes just the second manager in English football history, after Sir Alex Ferguson, to win the ‘grand slam’ – league championship, European Cup, League Cup and FA Cup – with the same club.
There could be more to come too, in this most remarkable of seasons. Another final awaits, in Paris on May 28. Real Madrid stand in the way of Klopp’s side and their place in Anfield folklore.
As Liverpool celebrated here – and boy did they celebrate, and rightly so – it is fair to wonder whether there were a few satisfied grins adorning the faces of Madridistas as they settled in for their Saturday night meals.
After all, victory came at a cost for the Reds.
Salah’s face said it all as he left the field just 32 minutes. Four years after heartache in Kyiv came pain in north London. A groin issue, we were told. How severe it is, remains to be seen.
Van Dijk, too, wore a grimace as he took his place on the bench for a tense, but ultimately sterile extra 30 minutes. The big Dutchman has been a rock since his return from a serious knee injury last summer, and though Joel Matip, his replacement, and Ibrahima Konate, his partner, performed superbly, Klopp can ill-afford to be without his star centre-back for the season finale.
“Tight muscle,” a hopeful Klopp said. He will certainly hope that is the case.
Adrenaline may get them through their final two Premier League games, away to Southampton in midweek and at home to Wolves next Sunday, but with Manchester City looking uncatchable at the top of the table, it is fair to suggest that all eyes now turn to the Stade de France. It would be foolish of Klopp not to rotate heavily before then.
They deserve their shot at history. They have been magnificent this season, and they were again here at times.
In the end, it was substitute Kostas Tsimikas who assumed the role of hero, dispatching his penalty after Alisson Becker had pulled off a mighty save to deny Mason Mount in sudden death.
Just as in the Carabao Cup final, they had to dig deep. Just as in the Carabao Cup final, it was a mystery that there was not a winner in 90 minutes, or in 120.
But just as in the Carabao Cup final, it was Liverpool who held up under the pressure. Cesar Azpilicueta hit the post in the shootout, but Edouard Mendy brilliantly denied Sadio Mane when it looked like the Senegal star was about to grab another big winning penalty.
Then came Mount, then came Alisson, then came Tsimikas. Then came the the songs and the Jordan Henderson shuffle. Then came the smiles.