MADRID, June 1, 2019 – The all-English Champions League Final took off like a rocket, courtesy of Mohamed Salah in the opening minutes and then fizzled and stuttered like a damp catherine wheel until Divock Origi exploded almost on the final whistle.
The outcome was Liverpool defeating Tottenham 2-0 to win the most prestigious prize in club football for a sixth time.
Their other hero was keeper Alisson Becker whose fine saves in the closing stages illustrated precisely what they missed when luckless Loris Karius was in goal, disastrously, against Real Madrid in Kiev a year ago.
Along the way – only Madrid (13) and AC Milan (seven) have won the cup more often – Liverpool also ended manager Jurgen Klopp’s jinxed run of six defeats in finals.
Klopp, the second German to win the prize with a foreign club after Jupp Heynckes with Real Madrid in 1998, was thrown in the air his celebrating players.
He said: “I am so happy for the boys all these people, and my family. They suffer for me, they deserve it more than anybody. Did you ever see a team like, this, fighting with no fuel in the tank? It is the best night of our professional lives.
“It took a while, it is important for our development and improvement, This little mark helps a lot, now we can carry on. The owners never put pressure on us. Normally 20 minutes after the game I am half drunk, but now I have only had water!”
This was the second time the Champions League had seen an all-English final after Manchester United’s shootout victory over Chelsea in 2008 but this was also the first season in which the Premier League had provided all four finalists in UEFA’s two competitions.
More’s the pity that this final was as unsatisfying a football exerperience as Chelsea’s Europa League dismissed of Arsenal in Baku in midweek.
Mauricio Pochettino, manager of final debutants Tottenham, had answered the most burning of selection questions including top scorer Harry Kane in his starting line-up even though the England leader had not played for seven weeks after injuring an ankle in the quarter-final opener against Manchester City.
Liverpool had been pre-event favourites and took a dramatic step towards that goal after Slovene referee Damir Skomina penalised Mousa Sissoko in the 25th second for handling an attempt shot cross Sadio Mane. Salah duly rapped the quickest-ever sport kick in the final’s history past Hugo Lloris.
The first Egyptian to score in a final also claimed its second-fastest goal since Paolo Maldini struck against Liverpool for Milan in 2005.
For Tottenham, conceding such an instant penalty was shattering. Salah’s conversion exacerbated the pressure and the nerves and encouraged Liverpool to believe in a manner never evident in Kiev. Spurs would have expected Liverpool to be immediate high energy but not to such happy effect and they struggled to raise anything like their normal game.
Sissoko thrashed an optimistic effort high over Alisson’s bar and Liverpool responded with a low drive from Alexander-Arnold which skimmed narrowly wide and a shot the fullback partner Andy Robertson was tipped over the bar Lloris just before the interval.
Tottenham played with more intent at the start of the second half and prompted Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to make the first substitution – bringing on Divock Origi in place of Roberto Firmino whose lethargy had born witness to his own injury issues.
Spurs had no option but to throw caution to the wind. Finally, too late, they began to put Liverpool keeper Alisson to work. With 10 minutes remaining he made fine saves within seconds from Son and Moura then produced an even better one from Christian Eriksen’s left-wing free kick.
Liverpool duly capitalised in the 87th minute when Origi jabbed home their second goal after Spurs failed to clear a right-wing corner.
Their all-round workmanship had earned the right to celebrate. Tottenham did not disgrace themselves but, in time, will regret having allowed this rarest of opportunities pass them by.
As Pochettino said: “To concede a penalty after 30 seconds had a massive impact for the team but they were great because it was difficult after that. Overall we dominated the game but they were more clinical in front of goal. So congratulations to them. They made an amazing season.”