Liverpool’s love affair with Istanbul was furthered as they enjoyed another victorious European night at the venue on Wednesday despite Chelsea’s best efforts.
An enthralling Super Cup was decided 5-4 on penalties in favour of the Champions League winners after the tie was level at 2-2 with extra-time concluded.
Tammy Abraham was the only player to miss from the spot with Adrian saving the 10th penalty of the shootout.
Earlier, Olivier Giroud had opened the scoring via an excellent pass from Christian Pulisic in the first half but Sadio Mane drew Liverpool level early in the second.
The Senagalese then gave his side the lead in extra time but his effort was cancelled by a Jorginho penalty after Abraham was brought down, taking the tie to a shootout where the Europa League winners were second best.
Frank Lampard’s tactics at Old Trafford were very much gung-ho but that led to a 4-0 humiliation even if it wasn’t entirely deserved. With silverware on the line and the European champions to battle for it though, the former midfield star was quick to adopt a more pragmatic approach.
N’Golo Kante – who was a doubt through injury – replaced Mason Mount in midfield while Tammy Abraham was benched for the far more experienced Olivier Giroud. A midfield double pivot was replaced by a trio of Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. The Frenchman provided drive and tenacity while the other two prioritised control – or at least as much as there was on offer.
Overall, the Blues were far more compact and paid Liverpool plenty of respect. Emerson Palmieri largely left the attacking down the left flank to Pulisic, choosing instead to pay close attention to Salah. But Chelsea were far from toothless in attack. In Pedro, Pulisic and Kante, they always threatened in the transition.
Ultimately, the Londoners have the right to feel aggrieved. They matched Liverpool and the result could easily have gone in their favour.
FIRMINO TRANSFORMS LIVERPOOL
If there was any doubt over Firmino’s value to Liverpool, the opening minutes of the second half should’ve dispelled it. Barring one effort from Salah, the Reds struggled to create chances from open play in the first half. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked bright early on but drifted out of the game as Chelsea grew into proceedings.
The Englishman was replaced by Firmino at the break and suddenly Liverpool’s forward line had all-important focal point they craved. The transformation was instant as the Merseyside outfit began the second period on the front foot and the reward soon followed.
Firmino latched onto a clever dink over the top from Fabinho and had the awareness to square the ball away from the onrushing Kepa and into Mane’s path to sweep home on the second attempt. The Brazilian was then heavily involved in another couple of good chances soon after. He was a force in extra time as well and again played provider when he beat the offside trap and cut the ball back for Mane to score his second.
ALL ABOUT ADRIAN
It’s been some week for Adrian. The Spaniard was signed in the summer as mere back up for undisputed No1 Alisson Becker with Simon Mignolet returning to Belgium.
Alisson’s injury on the opening day of the Premier League season though handed Adrian a premature appearance for his new club and a few days later, he finds himself at the centre of a thrilling Super Cup victory, lifting his first piece of silverware.
The 32-year-old impressed during the encounter, denying Mateo Kovacic in the first half before saving well from Abraham. However, he also conceded a penalty in extra-time when he brought down the young forward, allowing Jorginho to level the tie.
That led to his crowning moment though. With nine penalties scored out of nine in the shootout, Adrian denied Abraham from the spot to secure the win for Liverpool.
The rest of his Liverpool career has a lot to live up to.
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