Winning never gets old and it is a feeling Jürgen Klopp and his Liverpool players want to experience as much as possible following yet another European triumph.
Another trophy was brought back to Anfield this week in the European Super Cup, following a penalty shootout victory against English rivals and Europa League winners Chelsea. With another five trophies still on offer this season, Liverpool’s quest for silverware looks unlikely to slow down anytime soon.
Liverpool win second European trophy in two months
Istanbul suits Liverpool well for penalty shootouts.
Following the incredible Champions League triumph in 2005, Istanbul has become a second home for Liverpool fans and they dominated the attendance in the stadium for the Super Cup final – a tournament UEFA wants everyone to take seriously. Consequently, extra-time remained the route for Liverpool and Chelsea when the score was tied after ninety minutes.
Neither Klopp nor Chelsea manager Frank Lampard wanted extra time, despite their desire to win the trophy, as the Premier League resumes again this weekend for its second round of fixtures. Chelsea are at least playing on Sunday and at Stamford Bridge, albeit against Leicester City having played on the previous Sunday against Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have a 3pm Saturday kick-off away to Southampton, a schedule far from ideal for Klopp, but the Reds will just have to cope, as perfection is required to keep pace with Manchester City and nothing less than three points will do.
The result at St Mary’s was not decided until late in last season’s fixture, as Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson struck in the final stages to keep Liverpool’s title challenge on track, though ultimately in vain.
On Saturday, the win may need to be a scrappy one again, given the challenge Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side presents and the lack of recovery time for Liverpool after Wednesday’s success.
Chelsea strong but Liverpool stronger in the shootout
The match against Chelsea was entertaining but fluctuated wildly in all areas, such as performance levels of players, momentum for either side and the intensity and fluidity of the football, on a pitch which was surprisingly in poor condition for a European final in August.
Liverpool struggled badly in the first half, just as they did against Manchester City in the Community Shield. By contrast, Chelsea were bright, inventive and full of freedom going forward, not affected by their 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Roberto Firmino’s introduction in the second half changed the game immediately in Liverpool’s favour through Sadio Mané’s equaliser but Chelsea recovered well and the remainder of normal time saw both sides exchange the initiative and create chances to win, particularly Kepa Arrizabalaga’s stunning double save to deny Salah and Virgil van Dijk.
Mané struck a superb finish to complete the turnaround for Liverpool at the start of extra-time, but Chelsea refused to be buckled, levelling up the match through a debatable penalty decision which was converted by Jorginho.
Yet Tammy Abraham, the young Chelsea striker who won the penalty in extra time following a challenge with Liverpool’s reserve goalkeeper Adrián, was the only player to miss in the resulting penalty shootout.
Adrián, making his full debut for Liverpool and now the club’s first-choice following Alisson’s injury, denied Abraham with his legs to win the Super Cup for Liverpool and create a great goalkeeping story for the Spaniard. Without a club just two weeks ago, now Adrián is in goal for the European Champions and hopefully Wednesday night will give him the confidence and the platform he needs to thrive in Alisson’s absence.
Success breeds success for the Reds, despite injury worries
Liverpool as a whole can perform far better than what they produced on Wednesday night, but they held off a young, emerging Chelsea team with the winning mentality that they now possess following the club’s sixth Champions League triumph last season in Madrid.
The importance of success cannot be overstated, and this Liverpool team now has the potent combination of consistency and the feeling that they can win anything, now they have won the biggest prize in club football.
Their experience carried them across the line on Wednesday, and they will need it again on Saturday, particularly if the niggling injuries start to pile up.
Naby Keïta missed the final on Wednesday after suffering another muscle problem, meaning Jordan Henderson had to play the entire match when he was supposed to be rested, while James Milner looked to have an ice pack on his knee when he was substituted.
Playing in those conditions in Istanbul is not easy, so the race is on to be ready for Southampton on Saturday. However, Liverpool should not worry – they know now they can deal with anything football throws at them, a powerful strength to take into the season ahead.