Once the sting of a Wembley defeat against Manchester City wears off, Liverpool will have to get down to business again quickly, with a league fixture against - er - Manchester City at Anfield just around the corner followed by crucial Europa League ties against that other Manchester club. For now, however, the manager and the players will be allowed a few moments to reflect on what could have been, and hopefully learn important lessons for the next time.
It is almost obligatory for a club to say "we will learn and we will get better" after a big loss, but just five months removed from his mid-season appointment and with more squad retooling over the summer looking likely, Jurgen Klopp can actually say it with a straight face and mean it. Speaking after the match, Klopp was upbeat about his players' performance despite the loss.
"I could be proud about a lot of things the players did today, but I expected we could do things like this so it’s not too easy to be proud of things you think are normal. But they did well in a lot of moments.
We opened too early, to be honest, and we didn’t protect our own offensive actions too well. That’s why we changed. With these changes, we changed something in the game – we were really in the game, controlled the game, had good direction and stayed patient.
You could see it was really more than possible that we could score the goal. We scored the goal and we could have scored the second one."
Captain Jordan Henderson was likewise proud of his teammates' efforts. This was a match in which Liverpool, while discernibly second best for long spells, showed just enough grit in defence and just enough incisiveness in attack to keep the final result in doubt even after City had pulled ahead and were threatening to overrun Simon Mignolet's goal. After Liverpool equalized, many were wondering instead if a dramatic comeback and first trophy under Klopp were on the cards. It was ultimately not to be, but Henderson believes lack of effort or desire was not a problem.
"To lose on penalties is bitterly disappointing but someone has got to win. But we can take a lot of positives and hopefully the next time we are here we can lift the trophy.
You look at the players they were all drained physically, mentally – everything was left out there and I think that’s all you can ask of the players. With a little bit of luck we win the game and lift the trophy, but it just wasn’t our day."
Klopp is no stranger to painful losses. Despite reminding the press after the match that he won his first final, Klopp has also noted in other occasions that he had to learn how to pick himself up after coming oh-so-close to leading Mainz 05 to promotion before succeeding on the third attempt. For some players in the squad, however, this will have been their first final, their first Wembley appearance, their first legitimate shot at a trophy, and perhaps their first brush with almost-glory. For those players, Klopp's post-match words, familiar and rote though they may appear, will bear repeating, especially with a string of equally high-profile and high-stakes encounters looming.
"It’s really not the best moment, but that is all. Tomorrow morning we can change everything, but now we can change nothing. That’s the big difference," said Klopp. In the days leading to this match, many observers had noted that a League Cup win might be (yet another) opportunity for Liverpool to kickstart things in the final stages of the season. Now that Liverpool have come away from Wembley with a loss instead of a trophy, Klopp will truly be a magician if he can conjure up some momentum from otherwise painful circumstances.