It’s now bordering on the ridiculous, Chelsea’s recent record in Wembley finals, once considered our second home. Then again, given our recent poor form at Stamford Bridge, it’s perhaps on brand on that we’ve now lost our last five (5!) domestic cup finals at Wembley, including the last three FA Cup finals and two of the last four League Cup finals.
Of course, no one’s laughing about losing yet another penalty shootout to Liverpool. It’s always a cruel way to lose, a gutpunch regardless of how or why it happens. We expected the game to be decided on small margins, and that’s precisely how it played out — essentially a carbon copy of the Carabao Cup final, with just as many chances at either end and none taken, just with not so many rounds in the eventual shootout.
And just as in that final, there’s plenty to be proud of. That’s scant consolation, but a perhaps a necessary one in this moment and in the days ahead. That’s not say that Tuchel doesn’t genuinely have reason to be proud of his charges, who went toe-to-toe with one of the very best teams in the world yet again.
“Like in the last final, the Carabao Cup, no regrets. I told the team I am proud. I was super proud before and happy before the match to arrive with this group. We were sure we were competitive and we could make life very difficult for Liverpool. We did it again.
“We struggled in the first 15 minutes but then we were excellent through the match. [We] created a lot of chances and we deserved them, as they deserved theirs as well. Then again we lose on penalties. We are disappointed, of course, and we are sad. But at the same time proud because we left anything that we need [on the pitch].
“I was sure we would win today. I was sure before and during the match that momentum is today on our side. I was sure until the very last minute. Unfortunately, I was not right. We had to digest it and keep going. It’s life in sports.”
Unlike that final however, we don’t have much else left to play for this season, and it can only get worse in the last two games if we somehow [FUN] up a top-four finish as well. Hopefully that won’t happen, though you get the sense that this defeat stings more than just about any other close call this season — and there’s been a few!
“The season is not finished and we have goals to reach in the Premier League and this is sometimes hard. It is what it is. Life goes on and it will go on on Thursday at Stamford Bridge. We still have things to play for and it will be a bit harder without a trophy and the confidence of a big win.”
Suddenly everything will be a bit more painful, including for Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, who were effectively ruled out (even if Werner at least made the bench), or for Thiago Silva, who soldiered on after an early knee knock, or for Mateo Kovačić, who played on one ankle, and so on and so forth.
We tried everything, including yet another shootout-specific substitution with the long-forgotten Ross Barkley emerging and hammering home his kick (“Ruben does not have a good history statistically and Ross has”, explained Tuchel afterwards).
The media have already talked this up as part of Liverpool’s destiny this season, but really, it’s just cold hard luck.
“Kai did not train yesterday because of hamstring problems. [We] did the last test today in the morning and he was not better, it was not possible. Timo felt uncomfortable in the warm-up and said he can’t play. That was hamstring as well. [...] Everybody is in pain, there is no way we escape this game without pain. [We] had four players out, N’Golo Kanté had one training session at 50% intensity, Mateo Kovačić plays with an ankle that I didn’t know could fit into a shoe.
“[We] have the sanctions, players are leaving, and so to arrive in a final like this, to play in a final like this, and of course, I am wearing a Chelsea shirt, but to produce a performance like this — and I’m not saying [Liverpool] did not — I thought we deserved it a bit more maybe given how we arrived. Unfortunately, I have nothing to prove it in my hands.”
“[We] did everything to win...”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London