Even the staunchest Everton fans would have to admit, Liverpool are one of the most successful football clubs on the planet. Their trophy cabinet has bulged over the years and they have won an astounding 19 English league titles (second only to Manchester United), nine League Cups, six European Cups/Champions Leagues and, the focus of this article, eight FA Cups. Indeed, there are only two sides in the land that have held the FA Cup aloft on more occasions: Arsenal, with an astounding total of 14 victories, and that ever-pesky thorn in Liverpool’s side, Man United, who’ve bagged the Cup on 12 occasions.
Although that gives the headlines of Liverpool’s tremendous success, let’s delve deeper into when and how they triumphed in the FA Cup and also when they came close but had to settle for the runners-up medals. And for those who are not Liverpool fans, some of their biggest upsets too!
When Did Liverpool Last Win the FA Cup?
Liverpool last won the FA Cup very recently (at the time of writing at least) as they lifted the famous old trophy at Wembley in May 2022. They faced Chelsea in the final and after a rather disappointing game that ended 0-0 after extra time, Liverpool eventually won the day 6-5 on penalties.
This was a particularly bitter pill for Chelsea to take given that they had also lost on penalties to Liverpool (that time 11-10) in the League Cup final just a couple of months earlier. But whether it takes penalties or a 5-0 drubbing, they all count, and the 2021/22 FA Cup went to Liverpool making it the eighth time they won the world’s most famous club cup competition.
FA Cup Finals
As well as their eight victories in the FA Cup final, Liverpool have ended up as runners-up on seven occasions. This gives them a win percentage in finals of 53.3%, which is slightly better than that of Chelsea (who’ve also won eight times but also lost eight finals), and falls significantly below the likes of Man United (60%), Arsenal (66.7%) and especially Tottenham (88.9%) who have won eight of the nine finals they’ve played in. Here’s a summary of all the FA Cup finals Liverpool have played through the ages (or more accurately since their first in 1914).
|2022||Chelsea||Won||0-0 (AET and 6-5 on penalties)|
|2006||West Ham||Won||3-3 (AET and 3-1 on penalties)|
|1965||Leeds United||Won||2-1 (AET)|
Stage of Elimination
For all Liverpool’s great success in the FA Cup (and in other competitions), it is notable that they have been knocked out in the fourth round or before around 58% of the time. This might seem relatively high but it is pretty good compared to almost all other teams who’ve competed in the FA Cup over the decades. Making the fifth round or better 42% of the time is no mean feat, after all. Here’s a full breakdown of how many times Liverpool have made it to each round of the FA Cup.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Qualifying Round 3||1||1%|
Note that the information given above is correct as of the end of the 2022 final (which Liverpool won!). The percentages are rounded up or down to the nearest whole number. Some of the earlier rounds were only played before teams from the top two tiers were granted automatic entry at the third-round stage.
Times Liverpool Won the FA Cup
Many football fans would automatically suggest Liverpool’s heyday was back in the 1970s and 80s when they landed 11 league titles between the 1972/72 and 1989/90 seasons. So it might come as something of a surprise that the Merseysiders only won the FA Cup three times during that purple patch, and only once in the same season as winning the league (1985/86). We’ll look at the distribution of their FA Cup wins in relation to time later. But first, let’s run through the times they went all the way and lifted that iconic trophy.
Resurgent Reds? – 2000s
After either winning the title or finishing as the runners-up in all but one of the seasons between 1972/73 and 1990/91, things didn’t go quite so well for Liverpool in the 1990s. This was partly because of Manchester United’s rise, but even so they were rarely in the race for the title in most seasons. Things started to pick up at the turn of the millennium, however, with the Reds performing well under the late Gerard Houllier, finishing third in the league and winning both the FA Cup and the League Cup in the 2000/01 campaign.
Their fans would have to wait five years for another FA Cup triumph, but the 2006 final was certainly one that was worth waiting for. The wildly entertaining game against West Ham ended 3-3 after normal time thanks to a late, late equaliser from captain marvel Steven Gerrard. Neither side would score again in extra time and Liverpool won 3-1 on penalties.
Despite threatening to challenge regularly for the title in early 2000s, the best they managed between the 2001 FA Cup winning season and the 2018/19 season was three second place finishes. They finally won the league again in the (rather disrupted) 2019/20 season, and then did the domestic cup double again in 2021/22, winning both finals against Chelsea.
Poor Pickings – 1990s
As suggested above, the 1990s was not the greatest decade in the history of Liverpool FC, at least if you ignore the title they won in the 1989/90 season. They also only won the FA Cup just the once in the 90s, when they beat Sunderland 2-0 in a fairly one-sided encounter with goals from Michael Thomas and Reds legend Ian Rush. Aside from a League Cup triumph in 1994/95, it was a rather dispiriting decade all in all, especially with rivals Man United scooping up so much silverware.
The Glory Years – 1970s & 80s
Despite what fans of the modern-day Liverpool side might think, Liverpool’s best days are behind them when it comes to winning stuff. Although it’s fair to suggest their domestic dominance during these decades wasn’t as evident in the FA Cup as it was in the league (or indeed the League Cup, which the Reds won four times in a row from 1981 to 1984), they still did well enough.
Certainly, winning the FA Cup three times within around 15 years is better than most teams managed. Their first FA Cup triumph in the 1970s came when they hammered Newcastle 3-0 in 1974 thanks to a goal from Stephen Highway and a brace from Kevin Keegan.
There was a brace scored in their next FA Cup win at Wembley when Ian Rush netted twice against Merseyside rivals Everton in the 1986 final. The Toffees actually took the lead in the game when a certain Gary Lineker scored just before the half-hour mark. But Rush equalised soon after half time, before Craig Johnston put the Reds into the lead. Rush put the cherry on the cake and enabled Liverpool to win the league and cup double for the first (and so far only) time, denying Everton who were runners-up in both the league and the cup. All in all, not a bad first season in charge for new player manager Kenny Dalglish.
Liverpool faced their local rivals once again in the 1989 FA Cup final and it proved to be an absolute classic. John Aldridge got the opening goal early in the game, stroking the ball past a helpless Neville Southall. It remained 1-0 to the Reds, with Aldridge and others squandering plenty of opportunities to put the game to bed, until the 89th minute when Everton’s Stuart McCall slid in a scrappy equaliser.
Extra time saw fan-favourite Ian Rush (who had recently returned from a stint at Juventus) put the Reds ahead once more. But McCall once again scored an equaliser, and there was nothing scrappy about his neat chest and volley. Alas, for Everton fans, Ian Rush popped up again with a deft header to make it 3-2 to the Reds.
First Win – 1964-65
Finally, let’s take a brief look at Liverpool’s first FA Cup win, way back in the 1964/65 season. After beating Chelsea 2-0 in the semis, Liverpool, then managed by Bill Shankly, faced Don Revie’s Leeds United. In an even and hard-fought contest, neither side would break the deadlock in normal time and it went to an extra 30 minutes.
Liverpool struck first through Roger Hunt before Leeds legend Billy Bremner got the equaliser. With the match looking like it might go to a replay, Ian St John headed the winner in the 117th minute to land the Reds their first FA Cup in their third-ever final.
Liverpool’s Worst Upsets
As with any successful team, there have been times in Liverpool’s long history when things in the FA Cup haven’t quite gone to plan. And, none in more dramatic fashion than in the 1988 FA Cup final.
1988 FA Cup Final – Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool
Arguably one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history, made all the more dramatic because it was the final, saw the Crazy Gang of Wimbledon get the better of massive favourites Liverpool. The Reds had just been confirmed as champions and many pundits were convinced they’d walk to the double. But Vinnie Jones, Lawrie Sanchez, Dave Beasant, John Fashanu and Wimbledon manager Bobby Gould clearly had other ideas.
Sanchez got the decisive goal, Beasant saved a penalty from Aldridge (the first missed in a final), Jones and Fashanu scared the hell out of half the Liverpool players and, well, the rest is history. Given that Wimbledon had only been in the football league for just over a decade, it was a remarkable achievement.
1959 FA Cup Third Round – Worcester City 2-1 Liverpool
Okay, Liverpool might have been playing in the second tier of English football at the time, but when they lost to Southern League team Worcester in the third round of the cup in 1959, it was a massive upset. On a half-frozen pitch in midweek after the initial game had been postponed, the Reds suffered what could only be described as a giant killing.
Worcester took the lead early on before the visitors pushed for the equaliser that just wouldn’t come. The game was decided by a Liverpool own goal as Dick White managed to lob his own keeper and hit the back of the Liverpool net. The Reds got a consolation goal but the home side held on to claim this famous victory.
2013 Fourth Round – Oldham Athletic 3-2 Liverpool
It wasn’t so long ago that Oldham were minutes away from a possible FA Cup final appearance when they lost out to Man United in 1990. But the Latics had certainly slipped down the pecking order by the time they faced Liverpool in the fourth round of the cup in 2013. Oldham were playing in League One at the time and few expected anything other than a comprehensive Liverpool victory at Boundary Park.
Especially as the visitors included such stars as Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and even Luis Suarez. But the home side played out of their skin, with Matt Smith’s fine brace proving decisive as the Lactics ran out 3-2 victors. And Suarez didn’t even bite anyone!
Other FA Cup Upsets
As well as these huge upsets, the Reds have also been knocked out unexpectedly a quite staggering number of times as well in recent years. In 1993 they lost a replay at Anfield 2-0 against second-tier Bolton, having drawn the first game away from home 2-2. The following season they lost to Bristol City, another side from the equivalent of the Championship and again in a replay.
More recently still, a third side whose name begins with “B” belittled Liverpool, Blackburn knocking them out in the third round in January 2000. Rovers were a midtable Championship side and, what’s more, the game, won 1-0 with a late Nathan Blake goal, was at Anfield.
In 2005 yet another “B-team” beat them, this time Burnley, again 1-0 but this time courtesy of an own goal from Malian international Djimi Traore. It was a bizarre one too, the unheralded defender pirouetting virtually on the goal line and spinning the ball into his own goal. Just a few years later and lightening was striking for the … we lose count.
In 2008, Barnsley won a fifth-round tie 2-1 at Anfield. Again it was dramatic, with the Tykes nicking a famous win thanks to a winner in injury time. You really would have thought the Reds would have learned their lesson by now, but just two years later, lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that Reading begins with, well, not a “B”, Liverpool were kicked out of the FA Cup by Reading. The Royals needed a replay but progressed into the fourth round 2-1 at the second time of asking.
All of which goes to show you that for all the glory Liverpool have had, there have been tough times too. And that’s before we even get to Steven Gerrard’s slip, Man City’s last-day fightback in 2022 or, going back earlier, Arsenal’s famous 2-0 win at Anfield in 1989 to clinch the title on goals scored!