Liverpool 5-3 Chelsea: Reds mark coronation with taxing triumph in eight-goal thriller
(Photo by Phil Noble/Pool via Getty Images)

Jordan Henderson became the first Liverpool captain to lift English top-flight silverware since Alan Hansen in 1990 after watching his team prevail by five goals to three in an exhilarating clash with Chelsea.

Sensational efforts from Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold and a Georginio Wijnaldum strike put the Premier League champions 3-0 up, but Olivier Giroud was able to reduce the arrears seconds before half-time.

Roberto Firmino's first home league goal of the season, at the last opportunity, looked to have settled the contest, but the phenomenal Christian Pulisic inspired a Chelsea fight-back off the bench.

He scored one and made another as the deficit was reduced to one, but Liverpool substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dealt the killer blow with five minutes remaining.

Story of the match

Chelsea created the game's first opportunity after eight minutes, and perhaps should have grabbed the lead. Reece James, the Blues' best player in the first half, swung in a cross to an unmarked Mason Mount, but he could only flick over from six yards out.

Liverpool were denied a penalty following a clumsy collision between Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rudiger but went on to spectacularly open the scoring in the last action before the drinks break.

Keita stole possession from Willian in Chelsea territory and drove forward with conviction before hammering a shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga via the underside of the crossbar.

There were openings at both ends before the Reds netted their second. Wijnaldum directed a free header straight at Arrizabalaga, while Mount saw a goal ruled out after darting in-behind the home side's backline fractionally too early.

Frank Lampard was furious with the decision that led to the goal, Andre Marriner hesitantly awarding a free-kick after Mateo Kovacic had appeared to expertly halt Sadio Mane's charge with a sliding challenge.

But there was absolutely nothing he or his players could do about what came next. Alexander-Arnold, who also scored an excellent goal at Stamford Bridge in September, stepped-up from 25 yards and whipped a sumptuous free-kick beyond a rooted Arrizabalaga in trademark fashion.

Just six minutes later, it was three-nil to the champions. After Chelsea allowed a Liverpool corner to reach the front post with little resistance, Salah was able to direct the ball back to Wijnaldum, who cleanly thumped home for his fourth league goal of the campaign.

As half-time beckoned, Chelsea ensured that there remained life in the contest. Marcos Alonso's flick-on found Willian, and though Alisson brilliantly stretched to deny his compatriot's close-range effort, Giroud was in position to bundle home the rebound.

Liverpool looked to put pay to the visitors' ambitions by storming out of the blocks for the second half. Salah was at the centre of the early action, squandering two fantastic chances to hit the fourth.

First, he played a delightful round-the-corner one-two with Firmino that tore the Chelsea defence open, but he skewed his shot wide off the outside of his left foot after bearing down on Arrizabalaga's goal.

Moments later, he strode onto Andrew Robertson's clever corner but again couldn't make clean contact, and the Chelsea 'keeper was able to gather.

The next chance fell to Firmino, and this time, he truly could not miss. Alexander-Arnold's whipped, pinpoint delivery from the midpoint of the half left him with a simple headed finish at the back post.

On the hour mark, Lampard took action, replacing his entire frontline. And thus the game changed.

Within two minutes of his introduction, Pulisic had majestically carved a path through four Liverpool challenges and squared for fellow sub Tammy Abraham to tap-in.

The American international was proving remarkably elusive. After ghosting in-behind the Liverpool backline, he had time to bring down a cross and turn, but he dragged wide on the spin.

There was no such profligacy the next time a cross came his way. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez crossed paths and took another out of the game, and it was two-against-two. Callum Hudson-Odoi, the third attacking change, lifted the ball in, and Pulisic steadied himself and fired high past Alisson, with Alexander-Arnold only able to watch on.

Liverpool's lead remained intact, but Chelsea were pouring forth with such danger and such intent that any outcome looked possible.

It was not until the 84th minute that Jurgen Klopp's men settled it via a devastating counterattack. Mane knocked the ball to a rampaging Robertson, who reached the final third and swept it across the area. Curtis Jones, brought on for his medal-clinching fifth appearance, came up with an intelligent dummy and Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived to sidefoot in. 

Van Dijk could have restored the earlier three-goal cushion when he escaped the attention of Chelsea's timid defence following a free-kick, but was unable to get over a bouncing ball.

That proved to be the final chance of a breathless, but richly memorable contest.

Takeaways

Liverpool's players know how to put on a show

There were no signs here of a continuation of Liverpool's post-title malaise. Determined to prevent Chelsea tainting this glorious occasion, they were fiercely fired-up, visibly elevating their intensity.

Yes, there were defensive lapses which cast the victory into doubt, but the ultimate reality was that Chelsea were overwhelmed by their tireless attacking crusades. It was telling that, prior to the Van Dijk chance in the dying stages, the Blues' back-line watched the ball pass them by. They had been cowed into submission. 

And yet, the greater spectacle arrived when the lights went out. The trophy presentation, accompanied by a joyous soundtrack and dazzling pyrotechnics, was a credit to the players and to club officials who had meticulously planned it. It simply could not have been executed any better in these extraordinary circumstances.

The standard-bearers red and blue

Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to inspire widespread awe. From the moment his first-half free-kick left his gilded right boot, its destination was clear. And his assist for Firmino, a record-breaking 13th of the season, was executed with scarcely believable precision.

Fellow 21-year-old Christian Pulisic looks poised to spearhead his side's bid to break the Liverpool stranglehold. He only played a third of the game, but he was still the best player on the pitch, frankly making a mockery of the Premier League's strongest defence. Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech are London-bound, and defensive reinforcements will necessarily follow, but this team's resurgence must be built around the American.

What's next?

Liverpool are a victory away from bettering last season's monumental tally of 97 points, and they travel to mid-table Newcastle in one of the few dead-rubbers on the final day.

Chelsea, on the other hand, must beat Wolves to guarantee the Champions League spot they have held for virtually the entire season after slipping to fourth place. 

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