Liverpool clinched the European Super Cup after a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in Istanbul.
A brace from Sadio Mane off the substitute’s bench, as well as goals from Olivier Giroud and a Jorginho penalty, saw a pulsating game finish 1-1 after normal time and 2-2 after extra time.
Goalkeeper Adrian, who only recently joined the Reds after his release from West Ham, was the hero as he saved the only penalty of the shootout as he repelled Tammy Abraham’s weak effort with his feet.
After their 4-0 shellacking at Old Trafford on Sunday, there was a snap and aggressiveness to Chelsea — personified by the industrious Ngolo Kante — and they heaped the pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s European Champions from the offset.
The Blue’s early pressure was rewarded on the 36th minute as Olivier Giroud calmly slid home a finish after the impressive Christian Pulisic found the Frenchman with a through ball.
Liverpool, in a fashion similar to their Community Shield clash with Manchester City and their Premier League victory over Norwich on Friday night, employed a particularly high defensive line and it contributed to some nervy moments throughout the game.
Pulisic thought he had doubled Frank Lampard’s men’s lead with an accurate low finish, but the American was rightly flagged offside with the Anfield side’s defensive four content to step up and play high.
The flow of the game was with the London side and Liverpool would have been happy to hear Stephanie Frappart’s half time whistle.
Playing his first game in over 400 days after his recovery from a knee ligament injury, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain — playing in the unfamiliar left-wing berth — was a relative spectator in the first half. The former Arsenal man was replaced at half time by Firmino and this proved to be a catalyst for the 2019 Champions League winners to improve.
Prior to the former Hoffenheim forward’s introduction to the game, the Reds midfield was overrun and out-thought by their counterparts clad in blue. From his deep-lying forward role, however, Firmino helped to wrestle back some control in the engine room.
Only three minutes after his introduction, the Brazilian made an impact; assisting Mane for the Reds’ opening goal. Firmino’s audacious flick across the face of goal was palmed into Mane’s path by Chelsea keeper Kepa, with the former Southampton winger rebounding home from close range.
The Spanish goalkeeper, who took the accolade of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper from Alisson Becker, had a busier second half than first and he kept Chelsea in the game with a string of strong saves.
His compatriot, Adrian, was similarly taxed in Liverpool’s goal and produced an excellent save from Chelsea substitute Mason Mount in a game that had descended into a melee of attacking football.
Despite the attacking endeavour of both teams and several chances from either side to win the game in normal time, extra time beckoned with the game finishing 1-1.
Mane, again combining effectively with Firmino, thought he had won the game in the 95th minute as he beautifully picked out the left top corner with a finish of confident aplomb.
The Blues, reflecting their overall performance, weren’t going to die easily and they levelled the game in the 102nd minute through a Jorginho penalty after Adrian was adjudged to have fouled substitute Abraham in the box.
The former West Ham and Betis net minder used his penalty experience to good effect in the shootout, as he saved Abraham’s meek effort and Liverpool triumphed thanks to five successful penalties — from Firmino, Fabinho, Origi, Alexander Arnold and Salah.
Liverpool team; Adrian, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Mane, Oxlade Chamberlain.
Subs used: Firmino for Oxlade Chamberlain, Origi for Mane, Wijnaldun for Milner, Alexander Arnold for Robertson.