Liverpool win again, but so do Real Madrid: Salah and Van Dijk injuries sour Reds' FA Cup glory

Liverpool FA Cup celebrate 2022Getty Images

Match statistics: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool (5-6 pens.)

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.

They lost Mohamed Salah to injury in the first half, and saw Virgil van Dijk taken off at the end of a goalless 90 minutes too. Klopp says Fabinho will “definitely” be available for the Champions League final, but he has plenty of other concerns following this latest war of attrition with the men from Stamford Bridge.

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.

The Greece international is one of the most popular members of Klopp’s squad, and enjoyed his moment accordingly. He was chased and eventually mobbed by his team-mates, most of whom were having to draw energy from unknown reserves.

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.

Then came the colour. Wembley painted red, once again. Liverpool victorious, once again.

Bits falling off and smoke billowing, but the Red machine still rolling.

On to Paris it goes.