Cobham Commutes #12: Blues suffer penalty heartache against Liverpool in Carabao Cup Final

In this series, I review my in-ground experience throughout the campaign, this time for Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. It’s split into two columns, one for home games and the other for away days. I run through various topics from atmosphere to a game review and give some unique observations directly from stadiums up and down the country.

Journey to the Game: Liverpool at Wembley Stadium

It had been a busy week in the build-up to this one, with the Blues in action twice in the previous seven days. Last weekend saw a last-minute winner at Selhurst Park in the Premier League, before Lille were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League on Tuesday night in a first leg clash.

This one, however, in a third different competition, was different. It was a cup final – which always has a huge sense of occasion with it – and on top of that, it was against Liverpool. Of course, it was at Wembley Stadium, the venue for so many national showpieces and I’m lucky enough to have been on multiple occasions in the past.

It’s in London, of course, so isn’t too difficult to get to, but the length of the tube journey from the centre of the city is notoriously painful. Plus, as anyone who has been to Wembley Park station before knows, the queues both before and after the game are some of the worst you can get stuck in. Nevertheless, with around 45 minutes to go before kick-off, I made it inside for the game.

Stadium Summary

It goes without saying that Wembley Stadium is gloriously impressive, particularly as you view it coming down Olympic Way, the arch towering above it. There’s been plenty of special sporting (and musical) events that have taken place there, and no matter how many times you’ve visited there’s still something special about it.

Wembley Stadium ahead of Chelsea vs Liverpool
Wembley Stadium ahead of Chelsea vs Liverpool

Perhaps, coming from a relatively small top flight stadium in Stamford Bridge makes it all the more impressive too. In fact, astonishingly enough, Wembley has over double the capacity of our home ground, which does in part say something about our own lack of stadium expansion plans too.

As for my seat itself, before arriving at the stadium I was a little disappointed with where I had been allocated with my tickets. For context, I’d purchased category 3 tickets, which for the most part appeared to be in the lower tier, but after they were posted out (for a £7 delivery fee), I discovered I was in the upper tier.

Of course, simply being in the stadium for a cup final is a brilliant experience in and of itself, but a little part of me wished I was down below. That said, when I saw the view from my seat (after making my way to the upper tier), I was much less frustrated with where I was sitting.

I was in Row 14, and the perspective of the entire pitch was almost perfect, given the fact I was also on the side of the pitch, rather than behind the goal. In the end, it might have been nice to be a few rows further down but as mentioned, it was far from as bad a position as I had been expecting.

The view from my seat for Chelsea vs Liverpool
The view from my seat for Chelsea vs Liverpool

Chelsea (10) 0-0 (11) Liverpool: Game Review

For the first 10 minutes or so, it felt very similar to the start Chelsea had made against Lille on Tuesday night earlier in the week. The defence was strong, the midfield was fluid and the attack was fast – all seemingly a combination that would lead to an early goal.

Unfortunately, that pressure subsided and it was then Liverpool’s turn to put it on the opposition, with them coming close through various different players. Halfway through the first half, Edouard Mendy produced an incredible save to keep the scores level, which led to huge applause from Blues’ fans.

Moments before the half time whistle was blown, Chelsea raced forwards on an electric counter attack, leading Mason Mount having a shot from just yards out. It looked for all the world as if he was going to score, but his effort went agonisingly wide and it was 0-0 at the break.

Chelsea and Liverpool players mid-game
Chelsea and Liverpool players mid-game

The second half had plenty of action too, with multiple chances for the Blues from Mount, Werner and Lukaku going begging. There was an almost gut-wrenching moment midway through the second 45 minutes when Liverpool had a goal ruled out too, much to our relief.

In truth, most of the remainder of the second half was something of a Liverpool onslaught, with wave after wave of red coming forward in a nail-biting fashion. Still, the Blues held firm and, despite not knowing if my nerves could take it, we entered extra time.

Those 30 minutes then came and went, with no real chances of note for either side in that time. And so, it went to penalties and, well, it barely even feels worth going over them. It went on and on, and somebody had to miss, and that somebody was Kepa. Liverpool win the Carabao Cup.

Things you don’t see and hear on TV

As was to be expected, this game was definitely not short of any atmosphere, with both the fact it was a cup final, added onto the opposition being a fierce rival, stirring up a cauldron of noise in the stadium. Even before kick off there was an incredible volume, with both sets of fans evidently extremely up for the game.

That said, the constant frustration over whether or not to stand when at Wembley makes for some awkward, well, stand-offs, among fans. Some prefer to sit, some to stand it’s hard to say who’s in the right – a rethink over ticket allocation with a preference for one or the other would surely be more sensible.

One interesting feature of my seat which I didn’t point out in the earlier section was that of how near I was to the commentary gantry. It’s in the upper tier of Wembley, and seeing faces such as Martin Tyler was an interesting experience, especially at the more exciting moments of the game.

There was a ridiculous moment after Liverpool scored their disallowed goal in the second half, when a red flare was let off in the Chelsea end. How a Liverpool fan had been let in our seats is anybody’s guess, but the handling of the situation by the stewards was extremely poor.

The atmosphere during the spot kicks was tense beyond belief, and I think it’s fair to say it got exponentially worse with each new taker. There was jumping around, fingernail biting and other nerve-settling methods on show, but eventually, as we all know by now, they were all for nothing.

There’s not many things worse in football than losing a game on penalties. Except, perhaps losing against fierce rivals on penalties. Or even, losing a cup final against fierce rivals at Wembley after an unbelievably frustrating period of normal time and extra time preceding it.

When you add onto that the fact it took a total of 22 different penalty takers to finally reach a result…it’s almost immeasurably disappointing. And yet, that’s exactly what happened tonight at Wembley. The worst combination of events all came together, and sometimes there’s only one thing to say.

That’s football.

Written and Edited by Noah Robson (@noahrobson_)

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