Feature Photo: Francisco Seco / AP
Seven is a charm for Jurgen Klopp. The German coach finally clinched a European Cup title leading Liverpool to a 2-0 win over Tottenham to conquer the Champions League 2018-19, and breaking a curse made of six international Final losses. Liverpool took a rapid lead with a penalty by Mohammed Salah, and controlled a game that offered few emotions until Divock Origi’s late second goal.
Far from the fireworks seeing during the Semifinals, the match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid was not a great Champions League last act, if truth be told. Liverpool’s immediate advantage forced the Spurs to take the initiative, but the Reds’ defense – perfectly directed by center back Virgil Van Dijk – closed all spaces. When Tottenham managed to be more dangerous in the second half, goalkeeper Alisson Becker confirmed that bringing him to Anfield Road last summer had been an awesome idea.
The two coaches offered no surprises in their lineups: Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino decided to deploy Harry Kane, 50 days after his injury in the Quarter Finals bout against Manchester City. But the Spurs’ best striker was expectedly far from his best shape and ended up nowhere to be seen for the whole 90 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp suited his team up as best as he could for his second Champions League Final in a row, 12 months after the bitter end in Kyiv against Real Madrid, confirming his usual trident with Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. There was no room in either starting lineup for the heroes of the Semifinals, Divock Origi on Liverpool’s side, and Lucas Moura among the Lilywhites.
Liverpool took the lead at the very first try. Referee Damir Skomina had started his chronometer since just 30 seconds when Sadio Mane’s shot in Tottenham’s box hit Moussa Sissoko between his chest and his arm. Skomina had no hesitation, judging Sissoko’s arm being well extended as sufficient reason to allow the penalty.
Mohammed Salah buried the spot-kick with a central, but powerful shot, canceling the nightmare of one year ago when a jiu-jitsu-style lock by Sergio Ramos had almost dislocated his shoulder and quickly ruled him out of the game.
The rest of the first half was a lively yet inconclusive dance, with Tottenham accumulating a ball possession that peaked at 65%, but Liverpool were more dangerous again with a rocket fired by Andrew Robertson, deflected above the crossbar by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The most exciting moment – no pun intended – ended up being the pitch invasion of a scantily dressed pretty blonde girl, promptly tackled by security.
Divock Origi replaced a disappointing Roberto Firmino in the 57th minute, and Mauricio Pochettino eventually mirrored the move by sending in his Semifinal savior Lucas Moura to take the place of Harry Winks. After additional substitute James Milner fired a shot that ended close to Hugo Lloris’ left post, defender Virgil Van Dijk had to use all his experience to block a progression by Son Heung-min – the most dangerous among Tottenham’s lines.
The Korean striker tried again in the 79th minute, but Alisson Becker parried back his shot, as well as a subsequent attempt by Lucas Moura. Christian Eriksen shot a free kick alla Del Piero – the “Alessandro Del Piero style,” a curling shot from the top-left corner of the box – calling the Brazilian goalie to another superb save.
Sometimes, a good goalkeeper is all that you need – and, on that note, memory cannot but go back to last season’s Final, when Loris Karius’ double mistake had paved the way to Real Madrid’s triumph over the Reds in Kyiv.
With four minutes to go, Belgian-born Origi sealed victory and cup for Jurgen Klopp’s side, finalizing a confusing corner kick action with a lethal left-foot shot that left no chance to Hugo Loris.
The all-English Final ended with Liverpool clinching their 6th Champions League of their history, and compensating the disappointment of finish second to Manchester City in the English Premier League despite totalizing an astonishing 97 points. A season that won’t easily be forgotten around Anfield Road.
German coach Jurgen Klopp, the “most successful of losers” among the top European trainers, finally managed to lift an international trophy – winning a Final at his 7th attempt. He did so via a solid performance that left little room for entertainment and only cared about the outcome. A pretty Italian way to win a Champions League, isn’t it?
June 1, 2019 – UEFA Champions League 2018-19 Final
SCORERS: 2′ Salah pen., 88′ Origi
|TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier; Alderweireld; Vertonghen; Rose; Winks (66′ Lucas Moura); Sissoko (74′ Dier); Son; Alli (82′ Llorente); Eriksen; Kane (Vorm, Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Aurier, Foyth, Davies, Walker-Peters, Wanyama, Lamela) Coach: Pochettino|
|LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum (62′ Milner); Salah, Firmino (58′ Origi), Mané (90′ Gomez) (Mignolet, Kelleher, Lovren, Moreno, Lallana, Brewster, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Sturridge) Coach: Klopp|
REFEREE: Skomina (Slovenia)