Liverpool Beat Chelsea On Penalties To Lift FA Cup

Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy as Liverpool players celebrate after winning the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool, at Wembley stadium, in London, on May 14, 2022.
Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy as Liverpool players celebrate after winning the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool, at Wembley stadium, in London, on May 14, 2022.

 

Liverpool held their nerve to win the FA Cup for the first time since 2006 after a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Chelsea as the quadruple chasers kept their history bid alive on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side won 6-5 on penalties at Wembley as Greek defender Kostas Tsimikas was the unlikely hero with the decisive kick after Alisson Becker kept out Mason Mount’s effort.

A hard-fought final had finished a 0-0 draw after extra-time, setting the stage for a nerve-jangling shoot-out that featured misses by Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Sadio Mane, whose shot was saved by Edouard Mendy when he had a chance to clinch the trophy.

For the second time this season, Liverpool emerged victorious against Chelsea on penalties, having already beaten them 11-10 following another 0-0 draw in the League Cup final in February.

READ ALSO: Bayern Munich Confirm Lewandowski Wants To Leave

Liverpool’s triumph keeps them in the hunt to become the first English team to win all four major trophies in a single season.

With two prizes already secured, the Reds will hope for a slip from Premier League leaders Manchester City, who are three points clear of them in the title race with two games left for both teams.

Even if Liverpool are unable to win a second English title in three seasons, they could still cap an astonishing campaign by winning the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris on May 28.

With that ambition in mind, Klopp’s only concern as he danced jubilantly in front of the Liverpool supporters amid a swirling mist of red flare smoke was whether his team will be at full strength against Real.

Liverpool lost Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk to injuries that could rule them out of their last two Premier League games next week and will spark fears about their ability to recover in time for the Champions League final.

Liverpool have won both domestic cups in the same season for the first time since 2000-01, with Klopp getting his hands on the famous old trophy for the first time.

For Chelsea, it was a painful third successive FA Cup final defeat after previous losses to Leicester and Arsenal.

Mentality monsters

Liverpool made a blistering start as they swarmed forward in a blur of swift passes and relentless pressing.

Diaz should have put Liverpool ahead after accelerating onto a sublime pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who caressed the ball through Chelsea’s defence with the outside of his boot.

Diaz’s tame shot was saved by Mendy, but the ball was still rolling towards goal until Trevoh Chalobah scrambled back to hack clear at the last moment.

With Tuchel gesticulating furiously on the touchline, Chelsea dug in and finally turned back the red tide.

Mount led their first serious raid, crossing for Christian Pulisic to clip his shot just wide.

Pulisic carried the fight to Liverpool again moments later, slipping his pass to Alonso, who should have scored but took a poor first touch and scuffed his shot straight at Alisson Becker.

Diogo Jota wasted a golden chance to give Liverpool the lead soon after his introduction as Salah’s replacement, the Portugal forward volleying over from Andrew Robertson’s cross.

Chelsea were on the offensive after the interval and Pulisic’s strike was well saved by Alisson before Alonso’s free-kick cannoned off the bar.

But Klopp’s self-proclaimed “mentality monsters” haven’t come this close to a quadruple without remarkable fortitude.

They wrestled back the momentum and Diaz clipped the outside of the post before Robertson volleyed against the woodwork.

In the spring heat, and with both teams having played at least 60 games in a marathon season, it was no surprise fatigue became a factor in a tame extra period that never looked like producing a winner.

Tuchel had sent on his penalty-saving specialist keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga ahead of the League Cup final shoot-out in a move that backfired.

Tuchel stuck with Mendy this time, but the result was still the same.

Klopp admitted Liverpool’s remarkable season would be a disappointment if they only finished with the League Cup, but he no longer has to worry about that.

 

AFP

Liverpool Still Chasing Man City Like ‘Mad’ In Title Race – Klopp

In this file photo, Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) crosses the ball during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool are still “chasing like mad” after Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, said Jurgen Klopp after coming from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday.

The top two are now level on points, but City stay top on goal difference and have a game in hand away to Wolves on Wednesday.

Liverpool could ill-afford another slip up after being held 1-1 at home by Tottenham at the weekend and got off to the worst possible start when Douglas Luiz fired Villa in front after three minutes.

But Joel Matip quickly levelled and Sadio Mane’s fine header 25 minutes from time kept the Reds in contention for a historic quadruple of trophies.

“We are still chasing like mad,” said Klopp. “We just know we have to win, that didn’t change and now we have to recover to play the FA Cup final. There is no mercy.”

READ ALSOGuardiola Hints Man City Closing In On Haaland Deal

However, victory came at a cost as Fabinho limped off with a muscle injury that makes him a major doubt for both Saturday’s FA Cup final and the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

“He felt a muscle, not too much,” added Klopp. “He is quite positive but I’m not sure what I can make of that to be honest.”

With one eye on Wembley, Klopp rolled the dice with his team selection as Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara were left on the bench, while there was no place in the squad for Andy Robertson.

The visitors looked like a much-changed side as Villa sprang out of the traps and caught them cold.

Alisson Becker had already denied Ollie Watkins by the time Steven Gerrard’s men took the lead on three minutes.

Luiz’s header was parried by Alisson, but only back into the path of his Brazilian international teammate to hammer the rebound high into the net.

Villa won this fixture 7-2 last season, but Liverpool this time bounced straight back from the early blow of conceding.

The hosts did not deal with a free-kick into the box and the ball eventually broke for Virgil van Dijk to square for his centre-back partner Matip to apply the finishing touch.

Chances continued to come at both ends in a frantic first half.

Mane headed inches wide and Naby Keita missed his kick with the goal gaping for Liverpool, while, at the other end, Danny Ings just failed to keep his header down from Lucas Digne’s inviting cross.

Mane Header

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team's second goal with Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool's Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team’s second goal with Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool’s heavy schedule began to show physically when Fabinho limped off with a hamstring injury midway through the first half.

However, Liverpool went through the gears in the second period to show the gulf in class between the sides.

“We’ve got to take the big moments we created in the game,” said Gerrard. “I’m frustrated we didn’t score more than once.

“We were ambitious, brave, and courageous against one of the best teams in the world.”

Luis Diaz’s arrival in January has played a huge part in keeping Klopp’s men in contention for four trophies.

The Colombian created the winner as he teased Tyrone Mings before delivering a pinpoint cross for Mane to head in his 22nd goal of the season.

There were still nervy moments for Liverpool to see out in the final quarter as Villa sought to expose their high line.

Twice Ings failed to capitalise when played through on goal before being flagged offside when he did finally put the ball in the net.

But Liverpool held on and will hope Gerrard can finally come to their rescue in a title race.

Gerrard famously never won a league title during his decorated playing career at Anfield but will take Villa to face City at the Etihad on the final day of the season.

AFP

Liverpool Face Fixture Crunch In Premier League Title Bid

In this file photo, Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane celebrates with teammates after scoring his team third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 19, 2022.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Title-chasing Liverpool will play two Premier League games in the final week of the campaign after their match against Southampton was rescheduled due to their participation in the FA Cup final.

Jurgen Klopp’s men will travel to the south coast for their penultimate fixture of the league season on Tuesday, May 17, three days after their date at Wembley with Chelsea.

READ ALSO: Mourinho Rebuilding Reputation As Revitalised Roma Eye European Glory

Quadruple-chasing Liverpool, who already have the League Cup in their trophy cabinet, are going head to head with reigning champions Manchester City for the title.

They are one point behind Pep Guardiola’s City with five games remaining for both teams.

City’s trip to Wolves, which was postponed due to their FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, has been scheduled for May 11.

Guardiola’s men face a tough trip to West Ham on May 15 and conclude their season a week later at home to Aston Villa, while Liverpool host Wolves on the final day.

Liverpool and City could also meet in the final of the Champions League if both win their semi-final ties.

AFP

Man Utd Target Erik ten Hag Suffers Dutch Cup Final Defeat With Ajax

File photo of Erik ten Hag /AFP

 

Erik ten Hag, the man widely tipped to become the next Manchester United manager, suffered defeat on Sunday when his Ajax team lost 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Cup final.

Ajax opened the scoring through Ryan Gravenberch in the 23rd minute before Dusan Tadic saw a goal ruled out just before half-time.

PSV then hit back with two goals in quick succession through Erick Gutierrez in the 48th minute and Cody Gakpo two minutes later.

Ajax had another effort scrubbed off by VAR just before the hour, this time Davy Klaassen was the unlucky player.

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For PSV, it was a first Cup triumph since 2012 and their 10th overall.

Defending champions Ajax, the 20-time cup winners, are still on course to the Dutch league. They hold a four-point lead over PSV.

Ten Hag is reportedly the overwhelming favourite to take over at Manchester United next season.

The 52-year-old Ajax manager is seen as fitting the profile the United board desire to restore the glory days the club enjoyed under Alex Ferguson.

AFP

Chelsea’s Loftus-Cheek Eyes Revenge Against Liverpool In FA Cup Final

In this file photo, Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) congratulates Chelsea’s English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (L) at the end of the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium in northwest London on April 17, 2022. Ben Stansall / AFP

 

Ruben Loftus-Cheek said Chelsea have their sights set on revenge over Liverpool in the FA Cup final after the midfielder’s goal inspired a 2-0 win against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Chelsea will face Liverpool on May 14 in a repeat of this year’s League Cup final, which Jurgen Klopp’s side won on penalties after a goalless draw.

The Blues are desperate to avenge that Wembley shoot-out loss, in which Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga blazed over to hand the trophy to Liverpool.

It will be the first time since 1992-93 season that the same two teams have competed in the League Cup final and the FA Cup final.

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On that occasion, Arsenal twice beat Sheffield Wednesday and Loftus-Cheek is determined to avoid history repeating itself with a second Liverpool triumph.

“We want to get them back, simple as that. It was a fantastic game in the League Cup final and could have gone either way,” Loftus-Cheek said.

Loftus-Cheek’s role in Chelsea’s semi-final win against Palace at Wembley was a cathartic moment for the midfielder.

The 26-year-old spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Palace and has struggled to hold down a regular place at Chelsea.

Even this season he has been in and out of Thomas Tuchel’s side, but the England international is finally showing signs of fulfilling his potential.

“It has been a tough road with injuries and going on loan to find my form again,” Loftus-Cheek said.

“I always wanted to play for Chelsea. I have played quite a lot this season.

“The reason I am still here is my mentality through all the injuries. I still believed in myself and I said for many years my time will come.”

AFP

Liverpool, Man City Face Defining Moment In FA Cup Clash

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) crosses the ball during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool will put their unprecedented quadruple bid on the line against treble-chasing Manchester City on Saturday in an FA Cup semi-final that will make or break one club’s dream of football immortality.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are in contention to become the first English team to win all four major trophies in one season.

They lifted the League Cup in February and advanced to the last four of the Champions League after surviving a late scare in their quarter-final second leg against Benfica on Wednesday.

With Liverpool expected to see off Spanish side Villarreal in the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition, it is Premier League leaders City who will provide the major obstacle to their ambitions.

READ ALSO: Benzema To The Rescue As Real Madrid Beat Chelsea On Aggregate To Reach Semi-Finals

City are just one point ahead of their title rivals in the Premier League with seven games left after last weekend’s 2-2 draw.

Pep Guardiola’s team are also in the hunt for the Champions League crown and could face Liverpool in the final if they beat Real Madrid in the semis.

City have a rare feat of their own to aim for as they seek to become only the second English side to win the prized treble of the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup.

The grand goals of both City and Liverpool mean the stakes could not be higher when they clash for the second time within a week, this time at Wembley for a place in the FA Cup final.

One team will leave the national stadium on a high, the other having to quickly refocus.

Having closed the gap to City from a 14-point margin in January, Liverpool are living up to Klopp’s desire to be as “annoying as possible” to the Premier League champions.

Their two league meetings this season both ended in 2-2 draws and it could take extra time and penalties to separate them this weekend.

“City were really strong last week, we were not at our best,” said Klopp. “I would like to see a game where we are at our best as well.”

He added: “The boys did a lot of good stuff in the game, but I really think in a couple of positions we are really able to perform on a completely different level.”

‘Many Difficult Games’ 

As Klopp concedes, Liverpool were slightly fortunate to escape the Etihad Stadium unscathed last Sunday but they could have a significant advantage for the rematch.

Klopp was able to start with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk on the bench for Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against Benfica, keeping his three key players fresh for the latest City showdown.

In contrast, City were left battered and bruised after an ill-tempered 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final second leg.

Although City progressed to the last four, Guardiola said they are in “big trouble” after Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker limped off injured and Phil Foden finished the game with a bandaged head.

City were planning to travel straight to London from Madrid to prepare for the Liverpool match but their Spanish midfielder Rodri admitted the hectic schedule was taking its toll.

“The calendar is crazy. We’ve had these two games against Atletico, the other day against Liverpool. You have to work 100 percent and now we have Liverpool again, too many difficult games at the same time but it is what it is,” he said.

“We have to refresh our minds, recover and give the best shape in the next game.”

In Sunday’s semi-final, Chelsea face Crystal Palace looking to show they have recovered from their painful Champions League exit against Real Madrid.

Chelsea overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit to lead 4-3 on aggregate in the Bernabeu on Tuesday, only for Real to grab a late equaliser and dump the holders out with an extra-time winner.

AFP

Liverpool’s FA Cup Semi-Final Has No Bearing On Benfica Line-Up – Klopp

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp looks on during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Watford at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 2, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp looks on during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Watford at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 2, 2022.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted a looming FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City will have no impact on his team selection for Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Benfica.

Last weekend the Reds, still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies in the one season, drew 2-2 with City to remain just a point behind the Premier League leaders.

They will face City again in the last four of the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday but before then the six-time kings of Europe play Benfica in the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final at Anfield.

Liverpool, who beat Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out to win the English League Cup final in February, have a healthy 3-1 lead following the first leg in Portugal, which has led to speculation Klopp could rest key players with an eye to the FA Cup tie.

But the German boss, speaking at a pre-match press conference on Tuesday, insisted: “The next game has no influence on the line-up for tomorrow but the last game has.

READ ALSO: Manchester City Captain Fernandinho Surprises Guardiola By Announcing Exit

“So we have to see. It is a super intense schedule.”

Klopp added: “There is nobody injured, as far as I know, but we have to be careful with who is fresh enough for this game and stuff like this.”

As for Liverpool’s ongoing bid for the quadruple, Klopp said: “We are part of four competitions, and thankfully we are good enough this year not to go out early.

“We just try to squeeze everything out of every competition. Some are possible, we will see.”

– Anfield factor

Liverpool raced into an early 2-0 lead in Lisbon last week before Darwin Nunez pulled a goal back for Benfica.

And it was only when Luis Diaz scored three minutes from time that Liverpool restored their two-goal lead.

“Knowing more about the way they played, they try to isolate Darwin and Ibou (Konate) one-on-one a little bit,” said Klopp.

“But they play football, and if you don’t defend (Julian) Weigl then you have a problem as well because he connects the people. They have speed with Rafa (Silva), things like this.”

He added: “I don’t know (how they will play) but I know what I would do. I would go for it, full throttle. I would try to put us under pressure, score early, and if not try to score a bit later. That’s what we expect.

“But now, bad news for Benfica, it’s Anfield: they don’t only play against us, they play against the whole crowd.”

Klopp also suggested television broadcasters were almost as much a threat to Liverpool as their opponents in a renewed attack on the scheduling of the Merseysiders’ matches.

If Liverpool defeat Benfica, they will face either Bayern Munich or Villarreal in the last four, with Klopp angry that after that potential midweek semi-final Liverpool would have to travel to Newcastle for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off.

“The schedule, and how people use the fame in the moment — Liverpool is hot and everyone wants to see them — they couldn’t care less,” said Klopp.

“It’s just not OK. If we play a Champions League semi-final, find me another league in the world and another broadcaster in the world who would put that team in a 12.30 pm (1130 GMT)?”

Benfica winger Everton said on Tuesday he has been analysing the weaknesses of Liverpool’s defence in the hope of gaining an advantage in the return leg.

Everton is likely to be up against the right side of Liverpool’s back-line, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate.

“I’ve been trying to study the opponent after the first game, looking to better analyse the individual qualities of Alexander-Arnold and Konate,” Everton told a press conference.

“I have tried to see where they have difficulties, the weak points, so that I can exploit and have a happy night, to give joy to the fans.”

AFP

Middlesbrough Vow To Resist ‘Bizarre’ Chelsea FA Cup Request

File Photo: Middlesbrough’s English striker Josh Coburn (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the English FA cup fifth round football match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough, northeast England on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Middlesbrough described a request on Tuesday by sanctions-hit Chelsea to have this weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final tie played behind closed doors as “bizarre and without any merit”.

The Premier League club want Saturday’s game at the Riverside played in an empty stadium after the British government blocked them from making new ticket sales, with only existing ticket holders allowed to attend matches.

The Blues have pushed ministers for relaxations to the strict operating licence put in place after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned last week as part of a set of punitive measures following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The licence is designed to prevent Chelsea and by extension their billionaire owner — described by the government as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle — from generating new revenue.

The club issued a statement on Tuesday calling for the FA Cup sixth-round tie to be played behind closed doors in the interests of fairness.

“It is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA (Football Association) board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity,” Chelsea said.

“Chelsea FC recognises that such an outcome would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as our own fans who have already bought the limited number of tickets that were sold before the licence was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.”

But the Championship club hit back with a strong statement of their own, making a pointed reference to the reasons Chelsea were in their current situation and saying they would resist the club’s actions “in the strongest terms”.

“We are aware of Chelsea’s request to have Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup sixth-round tie played behind closed doors and find their suggestion both bizarre and without any merit whatsoever,” Middlesbrough said in a statement.

“All concerned are well aware of the reasons Chelsea have been sanctioned and that this has nothing to do with Middlesbrough Football Club.

“To suggest as result that MFC and our fans should be penalised is not only grossly unfair but without any foundation.

“Given the reasons for these sanctions, for Chelsea to seek to invoke sporting “integrity” as reason for the game being played behind closed doors is ironic in the extreme.”

The FA said the matter would be discussed on Wednesday.

“We are aware of Chelsea FC’s request to play their Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie against Middlesbrough FC behind closed doors,” said an FA spokesman. “The matter will be discussed at the Professional Game Board meeting tomorrow.”

AFP

Klopp Plays Down ‘Crazy’ Liverpool Quadruple Talk

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp takes a training session at the Axa training centre in Kirkby, north of Liverpool in north-west England on November 23, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League, Group B football match against Porto. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is “crazy” to even think about an unprecedented quadruple of trophies as he prepares his League Cup winners for Wednesday’s FA Cup tie against Norwich.

The Reds beat Chelsea 11-10 in a dramatic penalty shootout at Wembley on Sunday to win the first piece of domestic silverware on offer in the English season and are still chasing glory on three other fronts.

Victory against Premer League strugglers Norwich would take Liverpool through to the FA Cup quarter-finals, while they are 2-0 up after the first leg of their elite European Champions League last-16 game against Inter Milan.

Klopp’s men are six points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, with a match in hand, after a run of six consecutive league wins.

But the German is not entertaining the thought of winning all four trophies, with months of the season still to come.

“No team in the history of English football has won the quadruple, right? That is because it is incredibly difficult,” Klopp said on Tuesday.

“We are still behind Manchester City (in the Premier League). We are not close to thinking about any crazy stuff like that.

“The only team who could get it is us because we won the first final but even City, with all the quality they have in the last years, couldn’t win the quadruple.”

Klopp said it was important to keep the focus on the “next step” and not become distracted.

There are likely to be plenty of changes for the visit of Norwich after a number of Liverpool players featured for 120 minutes at Wembley.

The celebrations were relatively short-lived and Klopp does not think there will be a problem refocusing for the FA Cup tie against the Canaries.

He said: “The party was in the dressing room and then we were all in the bus…. Then we had loud music in the bus, no music in the plane, maybe some in the cars and then home at 12:30 pm (0030 GMT).

“Then you cannot sleep, or at least I can’t, and we gave the boys the day off yesterday.”

Klopp has also played down the seriousness of 18-year-old Harvey Elliott’s celebrations after the Football Association asked him for an explanation as to why he celebrated on the pitch holding a flare.

“He made a mistake but only because of the role model we have as people working in public. I will tell him, I can promise he will not do it again,” said the manager.

“Do I think it is the worst thing that happened in the world of football? No.

“But in the moment I got carried away, and I am nearly four times as old as him, so it can happen.”

AFP

Tuchel Fights To Rekindle Chelsea Fire

File photo: Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel looks on during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on November 28, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea are fighting to “survive” as the spluttering Champions League holders prepare to face Lille in the last 16 first leg on Tuesday.

Tuchel’s side have won their last five games in all competitions, but there was little joy on the German’s face when he reflected on Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.

The honeymoon is definitely over for Tuchel as he approaches the business end of his first full season as Chelsea boss.

In just five months in charge last term, Tuchel led Chelsea to the Champions League crown and the FA Cup final, as well as a top four finish in the Premier League.

When Romelu Lukaku was signed from Inter Milan for a club record £97 million ($131 million), it was expected the Belgium striker would help Chelsea enjoy a period of sustained dominance.

READ ALSOMaguire Scores As Man United Continue Push For Champions League Spot

Chelsea were tipped to emerge as serious challengers for the Premier League title and in the early weeks of this season it seemed they might live up to the hype.

But in the grip of a windswept winter in Britain, Tuchel has found it increasingly tricky to keep Chelsea from being blown off course.

The first signs of discontent behind the scenes emerged when Lukaku went public with complaints about the way he was being deployed by Tuchel.

Forced to apologise, Lukaku has cut a disconsolate figure ever since and remains without a league goal since December.

Lukaku was completely anonymous against Palace and had only seven touches — the lowest by a player over 90 minutes since Opta started recording the statistic in 2003-04.

That victory at Palace was only Chelsea’s third in their last nine league games, a dismal run that effectively shattered their title hopes.

Chelsea are 13 points behind leaders Manchester City, making retaining the Champions League their main goal for the rest of the season.

Chelsea Catch a Cold 

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (3L) celebrates with his teammates and supporters after scoring the second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on January 23, 2022. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Somehow, it was fitting that Tuchel revealed after the Palace game that six of his players were suffering with colds caught on the flight back from Abu Dhabi, where Chelsea recently lifted the Club World Cup.

Even winning that competition for the first time in Chelsea’s history felt like something of a pyrrhic victory for Tuchel.

The Blues laboured to their wins against Al-Hilal and Palmeiras in Abu Dhabi and it was more of the same when they returned to domestic action at Selhurst Park.

With Chelsea unable to establish any rhythm, it needed a last-minute goal from Hakim Ziyech to consolidate third place.

Amid talk that a section of the squad are unhappy that senior stars like Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger have yet to be given new contracts, Tuchel is searching for a winning formula.

He ditched his favoured 3-4-3 wing-back formation to go with a flat back four at Palace, but although the result was positive, he conceded there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“We are trying to survive at the moment and you can see. There is a lot of pressure going on if you go to a Club World Cup and want to win it for Chelsea,” he said.

“The players put a lot of pressure on themselves and then we haven’t played Premier League for four weeks.

“It is a huge and strange mix of a lot of reasons why I personally did not over-expect today performance-wise. I know we can play better, I want to play better.”

Two crucial fixtures this week will serve as a barometer of Chelsea’s morale.

If they win their European assignment against Lille at Stamford Bridge, then beat Liverpool in Sunday’s League Cup final at Wembley, the mood music around Chelsea will be more uplifting.

But a pair of negative results would only cement the impression that all is not well.

“Of course it is hard but that is why you play football, to win trophies,” Ziyech said.

“That is what we are trying to do. We have won two already this season and still have more to go.”

AFP

Elliott Makes Goalscoring Return As Liverpool See Off Cardiff

Liverpool’s English striker Harvey Elliott (L) celebrates with Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (R) after scoring their third goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Liverpool and Cardiff City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 6, 2022.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Jurgen Klopp labelled Harvey Elliott’s goalscoring return in Liverpool’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round win over Cardiff as a “fairytale” after five months out with a serious ankle injury. 

Elliott was introduced off the bench alongside new signing Luis Diaz after Diogo Jota’s header had opened the scoring early in the second half.

Diaz made an instant impact by teeing up Takumi Minamino to double Liverpool’s lead.

But the biggest cheer was reserved for Elliott when he fired home on the volley 14 minutes from time.

There were fears Elliott could be out for at least the rest of the season when he suffered a dislocated ankle against Leeds.

“Coming on was a great step back but scoring this goal was a proper fairytale,” said Klopp.

“Harvey was unlucky with the injury but lucky with the whole process afterwards.

“Everything went really well. He did an incredible job, the medical department did an incredible job. He is a fearless boy and a great footballer.”

Rubin Colwill pulled a goal back for the Bluebirds, but it is Liverpool who will meet Norwich at Anfield in the last 16.

For the final time, Klopp was without Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah due to their participation at the Africa Cup of Nations with the club teammates set to face off in Sunday’s final as Senegal take on Egypt.

After two weeks without a game, Klopp took the opportunity to name a strong side.

But the home side were frustrated for the first 45 minutes as Dillon Phillips produced a brilliant save to deny Jota and Minamino had a goal ruled out.

Jota finally made the breakthrough with a fine header from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick.

Both Diaz and Elliott were then given a huge ovation as they made their entrance.

Liverpool beat Tottenham to the signing of the Colombian for an initial £37.5 million ($50 million) and Diaz showed his quick feet to pounce on a Cardiff defensive error and pull the ball back for Minamino to finish.

Diaz also survived an injury scare when took a blow to the knee late on.

“We said ‘Welcome to England!'” Klopp added. “The goal he set up for Taki was absolutely incredible high press – I love it.”

Elliott is one of the brightest young talents in English football as he demonstrated with a sublime touch and finish to smash home from Andy Robertson’s cross.

A much-changed Cardiff at least got a consolation to remember from their trip to Anfield 10 minutes from time when teenager Colwill rounded off an incisive counter-attack.

AFP

Chelsea Complete Treble After Beating Arsenal To Lift Women’s FA Cup

Chelsea’s players celebrate with the trophy on the pitch after the English Women’s 2021 FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London on December 5, 2021. Chelsea FC Women won the game 3-0. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Chelsea’s women completed a treble of domestic trophies from the 2020/21 season as Sam Kerr scored twice to beat Arsenal 3-0 in front of more than 40,000 fans at Wembley.

Fran Kirby gave the Blues a third-minute lead and Chelsea dominated throughout, squandering a number of chances before Kerr struck twice in the second half.

The victory completes the treble for Emma Hayes’ side, having won last season’s Women’s Super League (WSL) title and the League Cup, as well as reaching the Champions League final for the first time.

“To think we are treble winners, it is an amazing achievement,” said Hayes. “You can’t ask any more from the players and I am extremely proud of them, the staff, and the club.

“We have built this team over a long period of time and I think today we showed why we are champions.”

READ ALSO: Rangnick Starts Man Utd Reign With Win As Spurs Hammer Norwich

(L-R) Chelsea’s German midfielder Melanie Leupolz, Chelsea’s Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming, Chelsea’s Danish striker Pernille Harder and Chelsea’s English defender Niamh Charles pose with the trophy on the pitch after the English Women’s 2021 FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London on December 5, 2021. Chelsea FC Women won the game 3-0. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Arsenal lead Chelsea by a point at the top of the WSL this season after beating them at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the season.

But the Gunners were always chasing the game from the moment Kerr played in Kirby to fire low past Manuela Zinsberger from the edge of the penalty area.

Kerr doubled Chelsea’s advantage with a ruthless finish just before the hour mark and rounded off the scoring in style with a dinked finish over the advancing Zinsberger.

“We kind of went in as underdogs so we had a point to prove and we are buzzing,” said Australian international Kerr.

“I’m paid to score goals but our defence was amazing and it was a team effort – I can’t wait to party!”

AFP