If a week is a long time in politics, I dread to imagine how the last fortnight must have lingered for Adrian, the former-West Ham and Real Betis shot-stopper. Released by Manuel Pellegrini in the summer, Adrian spent July training with Union Deportiva Pilas, semi-professionals hovering in the sixth tier of Spanish football, only to be granted a late reprieve by Jurgen Klopp. Fifteen days later, he wakes up a penalty hero on Merseyside.
In a match that ebbed and flowed throughout, Frank Lampard was denied his first title in management, as he watched his inexperienced Chelsea side fall to a narrow defeat in the European Super Cup against Liverpool in Istanbul. With the game poised at 2-2 after 120 minutes, Adrian provided the knockout punch for Liverpool, saving Tammy Abraham’s spot-kick to secure a 5-4 penalty shootout victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Pulisic, on his first competitive start for the West London club, provided much of the creative spark that Chelsea lacked
Chelsea, recipients of a 4-0 drubbing from Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, started the match in Istanbul on the front foot, as the indomitable N’Golo Kante dominated the midfield in the early exchanges. Christian Pulisic, on his first competitive start for the West London club, provided much of the creative spark that Chelsea lacked at Old Trafford and linked-up well with Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea, the better side in the first half, benefited from Kante’s tenacious work-rate in the midfield as they took the lead on 36 minutes through Olivier Giroud. After driving past Fabinho and holding off Sadio Mane, Kante found Pulisic in his stride. The American debutant, poised and composed in possession, lifted his head, scanned the Liverpool defence, and threaded the perfect through ball to Giroud. Through on goal with only Adrian to beat, Giroud was never going to miss.
Liverpool were unable to make their dominance pay off in the second half
The Blues’ lead, however, lasted just twelve minutes. Whatever Jurgen Klopp said to his players at half-time worked to perfection. Liverpool started the second half looking like an entirely different team, scoring just three minutes into the second half. Despite the best-efforts of Mohamed Salah, one of few players seemingly unfazed by the humidity in Istanbul, Liverpool were unable to make their dominance pay off in the second half. A spectacular double save from Kepa Arrizablaga first prevented Salah, and then Virgil van Dijk, from winning the tie for Liverpool in the second half, and so the match crawled into extra time.
Again, Mane was fasted to react after the restart, sending a rising shot past Arrizabalaga just five minutes into extra time to hand Liverpool a deserved lead. Had they gone onto lose the shootout, Liverpool’s players might be ruing Stéphanie Frappart’s decision to award Chelsea a penalty for Adrian’s alleged foul on Abraham.
Tammy Abraham’s decisive penalty was meek
Making his full debut for Liverpool, Adrian was adjudged to have caused Abraham’s tumble in 101st minute. Was there contact? Maybe. Perhaps controversially, VAR was not consulted but Jorginho didn’t care. The Italian playmaker slotted his spot-kick home confidently, sending the Super Cup to penalties for the first time since 2013.
It was only at 12:43am in Istanbul that the pressure was finally relieved. With jubilation etched across his face, Klopp sprinted across the pitch at Vodaphone Park aiming for Liverpool’s unlikeliest of heroes. Tammy Abraham’s decisive penalty was meek but Adrian still had work to send the Super Cup to Anfield for the fourth time in Liverpool’s history.
For so long, Jurgen Klopp has been the nearly-man of elite football management
Such is Liverpool’s global appeal that the stadium erupted as the ball bounced away from Adrian’s outstretched boot. Vodaphone Park, decked nine-tenths in red, will go down as the site of another famous night in Istanbul for Liverpool, now a club with a habit for lifting European silverware.
For so long, Jurgen Klopp has been the nearly-man of elite football management. A dismal track-record in cup finals before he broke his voodoo in Madrid against Spurs, Klopp will be delighted by his side’s response after half time. Liverpool, 4-1 victors over Norwich on the opening night of the Premier League season, look to be on course for a second title chase in as many years, but what to make of Chelsea?
Battered by Manchester United at the weekend, Chelsea’s confidence did not seem to have been dented. In fact, Frank Lampard’s team played stylish, slick, impressive football for long spells of the match, especially in the first half. For the second game in succession, Lampard’s men proved that there is potential among their ranks. Don’t write Chelsea off, not yet. Tied with Real Madrid on four Super Cup wins, Liverpool are back among the titans of European football.