Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool trophy drought was brought to an end in Madrid, as his side claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Tottenham in the all-English Champions League Final.
The Reds ultimately eased to victory at a boiling hot Wanda Metropolitano, thanks to Mo Salah’s early penalty and super-sub Divock Origi’s clinical late strike.
The Merseysiders were handed, literally, the perfect start as referee Dario Skomina awarded a penalty after just 25 seconds, when Sadio Mane’s cross hit the arm of Moussa Sissoko.
Salah, whose final ended in tears 12 months ago, coolly converted from 12 yards to hand the favourites an early lead.
And from then, a game where both sides struggled to find fluency, where Liverpool were as bad as they have been in months, was settled late in the day by Origi.
The Belgian, who bagged a brace to put Barcelona to the sword in the stunning semi-final comeback, came off the bench for an under-par Roberto Firmino after 57 minutes and fired a low left-foot strike into the bottom corner to seal a sixth European Cup three minutes from time.
purs had moments of good play and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men were blunt in attack and never looked like handing the Argentine his first trophy as a manager.
Here are six talking points from the Wanda Metropolitano…
- Striker gambles
Both managers elected to drop their semi-final strike heroes to bring back main men in Madrid.
For Klopp, that meant Origi heading back to the bench and Firmino starting in attack.
For Pochettino, Lucas Moura, despite a hat-trick that broke Ajax’s young hearts, was benched, with England captain Kane returning after more than 50 days on the sidelines.
Did either work? Ultimately no.
In the first period neither were particularly involved, with both managing just 11 touches before the break – no one on the field managed less.
Firmino’s lack of mobility played a part in Liverpool completing the fewest amount of passes they’ve managed in any half this season.
Kane was disappointing, rarely threatening in behind and too often showing short, making things easy for the Reds defence; Joel Matip hates people spinning off his right shoulder, but he barely had to check on Kane even attempting to do that.
Combined, ineffective forwards played a part in an opening 45′ that, despite an early goal, failed to catch fire.
It was little surprise that Firmino, badly off the pace, was replaced just 12 minutes into the second period, with Origi eventually notching the second to seal things
It perhaps was a surprise meanwhile however that Kane saw out the full 90 minutes.
- Consistency from Dario
The final could hardly have got off to a more controversial start, with Skomina’s decision to award a penalty for handball certainly dividing the footballing realm.
The decision was checked by VAR, who were happy to go along with the Slovenian’s judgment without the need for a touchline check.
Interestingly, it was Skomina who was on duty at the Parc des Princes in the second round and awarded a similar penalty for Manchester United , with Marcus Rashford’s conversion ultimately knocking out the French champions.
Often, the biggest issue that has fans up in arms about referees is a lack of consistency.
Right or wrong – and by the game’s laws, Skomina is correct with his assertion – you can’t point that particular finger at Saturday’s man in the middle.
- Winks showed why Pochettino wanted him back
Harry Winks returned to the Spurs starting XI and he helped Pochettino’s men largely dominate possession; certainly the early goal ensured that that had to be the case, with Spurs forced to be the more proactive as they chased the equaliser.
But the England midfielder showed why his Argentine boss is such a big fan and why he was so keen to have him back after groin surgery.
Sissoko gives drive from deep and Victor Wanyama offers strength and physicality, but neither are particularly strong when tasked with passing between the lines; that is something that is a real strength of Winks and his ability to work and recycle the ball enabled Spurs to grab a real foothold.
Unfortunately, what he doesn’t bring is goals, so when Pochettino went for broke on 65 minutes and brought on Lucas Moura, it was he who was sacrificed. Arguably, before then, he had been Spurs’ best player.
- Salah’s final moment
Twelve months ago, Mo Salah wanted to put Real Madrid to the sword, after an irresistible debut season at Anfield.
Thanks to the dark arts of Sergio Ramos, that didn’t happen.
In the build up to this final, the feeling around the Reds has been that the Egyptian was doubly determined to not miss out this time, that he had resolved to leave a positive mark on this final.
Twenty-five seconds in, he could hardly believe his luck, presented the opportunity to net from 12 yards – an opportunity that wouldn’t have been his had James Milner been on the pitch.
Salah made no mistake, giving him the moment, he has craved, and banishing whatever demons (if any) remained from Kiev.
- Game pays price for wait
There were three weeks between the Premier League’s final day and this showpiece event; simply, it was too long a gap.
It was a lethargic final; players minds may well have been willing, but in the searing Spanish heat, with sharpness lacking, their bodies simply were not – and not just Kane and Firmino.
That Liverpool claimed victory playing as bad as they have for months, giving the ball away repeatedly in dangerous areas, said it all. Spurs simply couldn’t punish unforced errors and were made to pay the price.
- Alisson proves his worth (again)
It was never going to be anything like Loris Karius’ nightmare 12 months ago because, quite frankly, Alisson is 1000 per cent better than the German – that’s an approximate measurement of course, but is definitely spot on.
But the Premier League’s golden glove winner, the man the Reds paid £67million for, was faultless here.
What he had to do he did well, making even a couple of difficult saves look routine. His positioning and footwork was first class throughout and he never looked like being beaten, while he commanded his area with a quiet authority throughout.
In truth, he may well have been man of the match, one of very few to play at something like their best.