Christian Pulisic was in Chelsea’s starting lineup in one of their most important games of the season, but a scoreless 120 minutes in Saturday’s FA Cup final ended with a Liverpool victory in penalties.
Chelsea 0 – 0 Liverpool (pen. 5-6)
Having been in and more frequently out of the starting XI for Thomas Tuchel lately, the American was selected to begin the game on the left wing in Saturday’s final, with Mason Mount taking up the opposite flank and Romelu Lukaku as the tip of the spear.
The game ended up being a marathon for all involved. For his part, Pulisic played 105 minutes before being subbed out in favor of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in overtime, thus missing the ill-fated penalty shootout that decided the trophy’s destination.
During his time, Pulisic was active on the attack, making 48 total touches, taking three shots to force one save, setting up a pair of close calls for Marco Alonso, and completing 80% of his 30 passing attempts.
The USMNT star was tantalizingly close midway through the first half, sweeping a low cross from Mason Mount on a counter just wide of the lower right corner, although Liverpool keeper Alisson likely would have gotten a hand on it had the shot been inside of the upright.
Five minutes later, the Pennsylvania native sent Marco Alonso through to the left of the area on a fast-break, however Alisson once again came up big to block the Spaniard’s attempt just as it left his foot.
Just after the half, Pulisic was again in the thick of the action on a pair of close calls, coming amidst a Chelsea push that Liverpool were lucky to withstand.
Seconds after the restart, he launched a cross from the right flank to the far side of the area, which Alonso fired back across of goal, just wide of the far post.
Then moments later, Lukaku laid the ball off to Pulisic just to the left of the spot, with his shot forcing Alisson back into action to preserve the 0-0 scoreline. Then barely one minute later, Alonso bounced a free kick from the right side off of the crossbar.
Liverpool were not without bite in regulation, with Luis Diaz hitting the right post in the 83rd minute, and then Andrew Robertson clanking a volley off of the left upright just moments later.
In the end, the game moved into 30 minutes of overtime, where both teams – on tired legs – were unable to break through. Chelsea had the better of the play in the first 15 minutes of overtime. Mason Mount managed a pair of attempts, and Thiago Silva got his head on a corner just before the midway point of the 30 extra minutes.
Pulisic was finally pulled before the final 15 minutes in favor of Loftus-Cheek, and both teams ended up effectively going through the motions to set up a dreaded penalty shootout, leaving all in the hands of their keepers.
In the end, each team missed one of their first five, Sadio Mané and Cesar Azpilicueta being the culprits for Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively. This sent the shoot-out into sudden-death, which lasted exactly one round.
Mason Mount fulfilled his English heritage perfectly, hitting a disastrously weak attempt just right of center, which Alisson easily saved. Kostas Tsimikas took Liverpool’s sixth, sending Édouard Mendy the wrong way, with his low shot to the right side sealing Liverpool’s second domestic trophy for the season.
This result is now the second time this season that Chelsea has lost a trophy to Liverpool on penalties this season, after February’s loss in the Carabao Cup final.
While Chelsea are still aiming for an unprecedented quadruple, the Blues will end the season trophyless, and have little left to play for, effectively needing at most one point from their final two games against Leicester and Watford to ensure Champions League play next season.