Liverpool’s hopes of winning a second cup this season and salvaging a poor campaign were shattered by a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Ramires broke the deadlock for the Blues in the opening stages and Didier Drogba added a second shortly after the break, before substitute Andy Carroll claimed what proved to be a consolation and was later centimetres from making it 2-2.
Kenny Dalglish’s side were aiming to add the FA Cup to the League Cup they won on penalties against Cardiff City back in February, with a potential trophy double compensating for the team’s poor showing in the Premier League this season.
But a performance lacking creativity and spirit for large periods added to the misery for Liverpool supporters, who had made the journey to Wembley for the third time in as many months.
After a quiet beginning to the game, the Reds fell behind after just ten minutes with a goal from Ramires which both Jose Enrique and goalkeeper Pepe Reina will be disappointed to have conceded.
The Brazilian midfielder was played through down Chelsea’s right wing and showed too much pace and strength for Enrique before firing a shot past Reina at his near post that the Spaniard should have saved.
Liverpool responded well, though, and could have levelled the scores within three minutes. A burst and cross from former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson ended with a clear chance for Craig Bellamy, whose half-volley was blocked.
With Luis Suarez isolated as a lone striker, Chelsea dominated possession and territory during the opening half-hour, leaving those who made the trip from Merseyside to London with little to shout about.
Suarez did have a half-chance shortly before half-time but the Uruguayan’s header, which was set up by Jordan Henderson, went wide of the Chelsea post in the last significant action of a stale first half.
Perhaps Liverpool’s struggles during the opening period should not have been a surprise, given that they had only scored two first-half goals in their 13 previous FA Cup final appearances.
But the situation took a further turn for the worse within seven minutes of the second half as Drogba doubled Chelsea’s advantage, becoming the first player ever to score in four FA Cup finals in the process.
Frank Lampard was the architect with a slide-rule pass to Drogba, who took a touch before finishing left-footed into the far corner through Martin Skrtel’s legs.
Once again the Reds produced a response in the aftermath of conceding and it was substitute Carroll, whose semi-final winner sent Liverpool through to the final, who began a comeback.
A fortunate deflection presented the club’s record signing with a fantastic opportunity to reduce their deficit and he did just that, smashing home after finally creating space for a shot.
Liverpool took control of the game as Chelsea tired, with Carroll at last showing the power and aerial ability which persuaded Dalglish and Co to pay £35million for his services.
The striker came closest to equalising in the 82nd minute but his header was denied by an astounding Petr Cech save, with the Chelsea goalkeeper pushing the effort onto the bar and away as Liverpool argued – wrongly, judging by television replays – it had crossed the line.