Liverpool lifted the UEFA Super Cup on Thursday morning, defeating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 deadlock at the end of extra time at Vodafone Park in Istanbul.
The Turkish capital would prove European gold for the Reds again – despite Chelsea controlling the first half and leading going into the interval – eventually prevailing in a tense penalty shootout.
Pedro had struck the crossbar earlier in the half as the Blues had to wait until the 36th minute to celebrate a deserved opener. Olivier Giroud supplied it, finishing coolly past Adrian after Christian Pulisic’s lovely through ball.
Pulisic thought he had doubled the lead himself just minutes later, but any premature celebrations were halted by the whistle of Stephanie Frappart – the first female to officiate a major men’s European game – for offside.
Roberto Firmino entered the fray for Liverpool at half time and set up Sadio Mane to bundle the ball in just minutes after the restart.
Kepa Arrizabalaga spectacularly diverted a Virgil van Dijk effort onto the crossbar and Mason Mount was denied again by the offside flag as the teams headed to extra time.
In the opening moments of extra time, it was the same combination that beared fruit for Liverpool. Firmino got the ball down the left-hand side and picked out Mane who smashed the Brazilian’s cutback into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
That lead lasted mere minutes, however, as Adrian was adjudged to have brought down Tammy Abraham in the box allowing Jorginho to convert from the spot to force the game to a deciding penalty shootout.
Liverpool took first and were successful with all five attempts, while Chelsea netted four in a row until Abraham stepped up to take the fifth. The Englishman went down the middle and saw his effort saved by the trailing leg of Adrian, sparking delirium in the Liverpool camp.
Rollercoaster ride for Adrian
Just two weeks ago, Adrian was without a club and training with a semi-professional outfit in Seville after being released by West Ham at the end of last season.
Klopp handed the Spaniard a lifeline when Simon Mignolet left for Club Brugge with less than a week to go in the British transfer window, and the former Real Betis man has repaid the German’s faith.
He was quick and alert off his line to smother Mateo Kovacic with the score locked at 0-0 before conceding the penalty and later denying Mount a certain winner in a busy 120 minutes of football.
It was in the script for him to be the hero in his full debut, and the save from Abraham’s penalty will do the Spaniard a great deal of good, winning the affection of his teammates who rushed to celebrate with their shot stopper at the end of the match.
Positive start for Lampard
Pundits, journalists and armchair experts alike believed that Frank Lampard was not ready for the transition to Chelsea, but in his opening two games he has given the footballing world a hint of what he is about. The Blues were arguably the better team across the entirety of play and were unfortunate not to have lifted the trophy.
N’golo Kante was phenomenal in midfield as he, Jorginho and Kovacic controlled the middle of the pitch. The Frenchman has transitioned back into a deeper role after playing more advanced under Maurizio Sarri and looks in the mood to reassert himself as a premier central-midfielder in world football.
Pedro and Pulisic were devastating in wide areas and youngsters Mount and Abraham continued to impress in their cameos off the bench as Lampard begins to implement his philosophy into the club.
This season was always going to have its challenges, but Lampard has already showcased his potential as a manager and the potential of his young and vibrant team heading into the future.
Breeding a winning culture
The celebrations that ensued Adrian’s save from both Klopp and his players showed that Liverpool were there to win the game as they look to start a run of consistently claiming silverware.
After a seven-year trophy drought, the club cannot rest on its laurels after one Champions League win, and these one-off finals are the perfect opportunity to pick up trophies and spur the team on to greater success later in the season.
When you become a winning team, it is important to remain a winning team and for the group of players and the coaching staff to constantly push the boundaries to win as much as they can.
The Reds are sewing the seeds of this culture at the club after such a barren run and are continually learning how to win games and win titles without playing at their best.
They were largely underwhelming across the 120 minutes of football, but through sheer will and an unwillingness to be defeated, the Reds got their hands on another European trophy.
For youngsters like Rhian Brewster, Ki Jana Hoever and Harvey Elliott, developing in this sort of environment can only act as motivation as they aim to cultivate a career at the top level, seeing themselves one day playing in big finals with the club.
Winning football games and winning titles always helps a groups confidence and energy levels, and with a host of competitions to play for, Liverpool could be adding to their trophy cabinet come season’s end.