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UEFA Super Cup: From history-maker Stéphanie Frappart to Liverpool’s Rocky moment

Jordan Henderson lifted Liverpool’s fourth ever UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday. (Source: Twitter)

After a more than two-hour humid affair at the BJK Vodafone Park in Istanbul, Liverpool came out on top of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, when goalkeeper Adrián managed to keep out the last spot-kick to win the penalty shootout 5-4, following the 2-2 stalemate at the end of extra-time.

Istanbul saw goalkeeping highs and positional lows from both the outfits, as it served up a match brimmed with action. But, there’s no doubt that even though the match was thronged with bold penalty calls, a midfield muddle of the reigning Champions League winners, Chelsea’s buoyant performance, and Liverpool’s Rocky moment, what Stéphanie Frappart, Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neill managed to did on Wednesday night is incomparable. 


Assistant referee Manuela Nicolosi of France, fourth official Cuneyt Cakir of Turkey, main referee Stephanie Frappart of France and assistant referee Michelle O’Neill of Ireland with their medals in the UEFA Super Cup ceremony. (Source: Twitter/PropagandaPhoto)

Ending the wait for a female referee in the highest-profile men’s game, Stéphanie Frappart handled everything from the nuisances of Liverpool and Chelsea players to the physical test of extra time. With Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neill, she led the first all-female in-field officiating team in a major UEFA men’s match, where both their poise and knowledge of the game was lauded by all.

Frappart had the match in her control from the very first minute, as she made the crucial call to not give Liverpool a penalty in the sixth minute, when Sadio Mané’s scissor-kick had hit Andreas Christensen’s arm, quite calmly. The 35-year-old French official, effortlessly, took the pace of the Super Cup in her stride and along with it the modifications of Video Assistant Referee (VAR), which disallowed two Chelsea goals for being offsides.

Even before officiating the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands in June, Frappart became the first woman to referee a French top-flight men’s game when she oversaw the proceedings between Amiens and Strasbourg in April.

After the game, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was in awe of the all-female team, as he said to ESPN, “I said to the refereeing team that if we played like they whistled, we would have won 6-0. They were really good. There was pressure on them like hell – a historic moment.  I couldn’t have more respect.”


Adrián is congratulated by his Liverpool teammates after saving the decisive Tammy Abraham penalty. (Source: Twitter)

Unemployed two weeks ago, Adrián had joined Liverpool on a free transfer on August 5 to play second-fiddle to the Brazilian Alisson Becker. Ten days after his arrival from training with a semi-pro Andalusian side, UD Pilas, he made his first start with the club and managed to win his first-ever professional trophy at the age of 32, owing to his outstretched right leg that kept Tammy Abraham’s penalty at bay.

Getting his first start for the club quite circumstantially, Adrián deputised for the injured Alisson who is still weeks away from fitness due to his calf-injury sustained against Norwich City on the opening gameweek of Premier League. After conceding a harsh penalty in extra time, tripping Chelsea’s 21-year-old English forward, his redemption through a decisive penalty shootout save even made Klopp mimic Sylvester Stallone from his 1976 film, Rocky‘s iconic ending scene.

From getting released by West Ham United without playing a single Premier League match last season, to training with Spanish sixth-division’s UD Pilas, Adrián’s whirlwind of a journey was even acknowledged by himself. “Welcome to Liverpool!” he told BT Sport. “It was a crazy week but with (my teammates) it’s so easy playing at the back. I’m really happy for the team to get the trophy. I’m really happy to play for Liverpool and really happy for the fans.”


N’Golo Kanté had more take-ons (8) than any other player on Wednesday. (Source: Twitter)

Starting the game with a rarely tried 4-4-2 with James Milner and the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the wings, and the African forwards in front of them, Klopp had introduced some anarchy into the team. Complemented with the fact that the Liverpool back four were playing a high line, Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 exploited their positional faults through their imposing midfield of Jorginho, Mateo Kovačić and most of all, N’Golo Kanté.

The Frenchman led the charge for Frank Lampard, and combining with the 20-year-old American down the left wing, Christian Pulisic, Kanté wreaked havoc on the confused midfield of Liverpool for the entirety of first half. It was with Roberto Firmino’s inclusion, that Liverpool regained much control of the game, returning to Klopp’s reputed 4-3-3 formation. The Brazilian channelised the German’s tactics, and assisted Sadio Mané’s equaliser just three minutes after coming on from the bench, before also providing the crucial left-footed pass to the Senegalese for the second goal in extra-time.

Both Klopp and Lampard had enough lessons from the game apart from the silverware and heartbreak. While Liverpool’s eccentric German would have a note or two about his team’s positional awareness in midfield, Chelsea’s club legend would look to take the positives from the game, and stay focused on the hunt for his first competitive win as the London-side’s manager.