Liverpool held its nerve to win the European Super Cup after defeating Chelsea on penalties in Istanbul on Wednesday. After an enthralling contest that finished at 2-2 after extra time, it was Liverpool that prevailed 5-4 on spot kicks, with goalkeeper Adrián stopping a shot from Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham to spark celebrations from those in red.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper, who was released by West Ham at the end of last season, arrived at Anfield only last week after signing on to replace the departing Simon Mignolet.Few thought he would be called into action during his time at the club, until No. 1 Alisson Becker was injured in the opening day win over Norwich on Friday.
It meant Adrián, who had not played a single minute of first-team football since appearing in an FA Cup tie against third-tier Wimbledon in January, was thrust into action in Istanbul.”What a story — Adrian! Like Rocky after he lost to Apollo Creed,” Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said to BT Sport after the game. “He kept his nerves together. He’s loud in the dressing room already.”I don’t think he’s won a lot in his life, so it’s good for him to win it. He made some unbelievable saves, both keepers did, so I’m really happy for him.”
This particular European Super Cup final, the annual contest between the winner of the European Champions League and the Europa League victor, made history before a ball had even been kicked.The first final involving two English clubs, it also provided the platform for Stephanie Frappart to become the first female referee to take charge of a major men’s European contest.Frappart, who also led last month’s Women’s World Cup final, was joined by assistant referees Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neill in officiating an entertaining contest in which both teams could conceivably have won before it moved to penalties.
Liverpool, last year’s Champions League winners, trailed at halftime as Chelsea deservedly took the lead through Olivier Giroud.But Klopp’s side improved after the interval, with Sadio Mane leveling from close range.And an extraordinary piece of goalkeeping prevented Liverpool from taking the lead with 14 minutes remaining as Kepa Arrizabalaga produced an astonishing double save to deny Mohamed Salah and then Virgil van Dijk.
With neither team able to find a winner inside 90 minutes, the contest moved into extra time, where Liverpool struck first.Once again, it was Mane who made the breakthrough, this time firing home a spectacular effort with his right foot after neat play by Roberto Firmino.
But Chelsea, winners of the last season’s Europa League, refused to buckle and drew level when Jorginho fired home from the penalty spot after Adrián was judged to have fouled Abraham inside the area.The game went to penalties, and with Liverpool having scored all five, Abraham stepped up needing to score — only for his kick to strike Adrián’s legs and ensure heartbreak for Chelsea.
“I’ve got nothing but pride in the team and the performance and confidence in what that means,” Chelsea coach Frank Lampard told BT Sport. “It was a tough game against a good Liverpool team that had extra time to recover after the weekend. But sometimes football comes down to little moments of luck.”Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham added an extra dimension when they came on and were unlucky not to score. Tammy needs to keep his head up, because that’s part and parcel of being a top player.”