Liverpool Win the Champions League!

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Liverpool champions-league-final - Evening Standard

You’ll never walk alone! Liverpool win the Champions League as Mo Salah and Divock Origi take it away with a 2:0 win against Tottenham.

According to the Evening Standard, the northern team beat the Londoners to lift the Champions League for a sixth time in their history thanks to a controversial Video Assistant Referee decision and the most unlikely hero at the start of this mesmeric season.

Mohamed Salah converted the game’s only goal inside two minutes after Moussa Sissoko was penalised for handball, a penalty that would not have been given under Premier League rules.

After two semi-finals which promised so much this was a rather docile affair, but Merseyside won’t care a jot, there was nothing muted about the celebrations when Divock Origi struck the fatal blow across Hugo Lloris

Mauricio Pochettino has battled against ‘circumstances’ all season long. For the first time all campaign the Argentine had a full squad to pick from, but there were still big decision to be made. Pochettino went bold with both, handing starts to Harry Kane and Harry Winks, neither of which had featured since April 9, the latter undergoing surgery at the end of that month.

Klopp, too, had a decision to make over Roberto Firmino. The Liverpool boss reaching the same conclusion, the Brazilian started.

Everyone knew what to expect from Liverpool. All season they have been composed and consistent, Tottenham, especially since the turn of the year, have been the antithesis. The key for Pochettino was to banish their penchant for conceding early in Europe this season. That plan lasted the best part of 22 seconds.

Liverpool wins champions-league-final - Getty
Liverpool in action at the Champions League final. Image courtesy Getty | Evening Standard

Sadio Mane collected a clipped ball forward from Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, turned inside and scooped his cross into the midriff of Sissoko, before the ball caught the Tottenham midfielder’s outstretched arm. Referee Damir Skomina had no reservations in pointing to the spot and his decision survived a VAR review, no luck there for Tottenham this time.

Where they may have got help was Hugo Lloris. The World Cup winner has been the personification of Tottenham’s erratic season. There have been some notable howlers, but fine moments. Penalty saves against Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City have been vital, but not here, not against Salah. The man scorned a year ago following that collision with Sergio Ramos was destined to make his mark this time. Salah fired firm and fast down the middle, Lloris beaten.

Spurs had done it again, torn their plan up in the opening minutes, but this is familiar territory for them now. They recovered well, if slowly. Sissoko looked for redemption with an effort from range, well over Alisson’s bar. Spurs had more of the ball but were unable to click in the final third, Heung-min Son consistently a few paces ahead of his teammates.

Liverpool were hardly threatening, Trent Alexander-Arnold fizzing a long range effort past the far post while Andy Robertson drew a simple stop from Lloris. Spurs had their breaks, Danny Rose and Dele Alli too sloppy to get things going. This was the chance for the Premier League to prove this was the dawn of an era of European dominance, the first half was a display of tired, sloppy football. The kind of encounter expected after a three week break for both participants.

That, though, suited Tottenham to a tee. Liverpool were far from the dominant force many expected. The Premier League runners up, who twice beat Spurs this season, were not comfortable with just a one goal lead.

Pochettino will have known that his side have not lead any single one of their Champions League games at the break this season. They were 3-0 down going into the last 45 minutes of the semi-final, this is what they have done in Europe.

Liverpool wins champions-league-final - AP
Jubilation as Liverpool take the Champions League final. Image courtesy AP |Evening Standard

After a flat first half, the contest creaked into life following the restart. Kane, after just 11 first half touches, began to find his feet a little more, and Liverpool began to swing their trademark crosses over, a wonderfully shaped ball from Alexander-Arnold whipping through the Spurs box before another, this time from Robertson, brought Lloris off his line to smother.

The flurry of chances proved to be a false dawn, and both Klopp and Pochettino turned to their benches to inject some control into this final. An off colour Firmino was the first to go, replaced by semi-final star Origi, while James Milner was introduced to add a touch more experience to the mix.

Lucas Moura, the hat-trick hero from the semi-final, second leg in Amsterdam, was given around half-an-hour to prove that night was no anomaly, Winks hooked in another brave move from Pochettino.

The midfielder’s departure, though, opened up the space for Liverpool to exploit. Eriksen had been moved back to accommodate Lucas and was easily bypassed by Mane in the middle. The Senegalese found the feet of Origi, who touched back to Milner. His shot looked destined for the bottom corner but was just inches away from finishing Spurs off.

The contest was opening up, Kieran Trippier had two good chances to cross but continued his frustrating form and found no-one in white on either occasion. Tottenham though were slowly waking. A perfectly crafted Erkisen ball from deep sent them going, Kane touched into Son but the South Korean hesitated before finding Alli. The England midfielder lifted the ball as best he could but Alisson was able to recover.

Into the last 15 minutes, however, and it began to feel more and more like Tottenham territory. This is where they thrive in Europe. Son charged at Van Dijk, getting more from the Dutchman than any this season. Trippier had another chance to cross, finding his target this time as Alli guided his header just over before Son stung the palms of Alisson and Moura had him making a save again. Tottenham were growing and space was opening up, Pochettino sending on Fernando Llorente to cause mayhem as he had done in Holland.

A year ago Loris Karius sparked Liverpool’s unravelling, late on here Alisson was tightening their grip on the trophy, tipping Eriksen’s free-kick around the post.

There was a rally from Spurs, but after defying the odds all season long they could not muster one more miracle, the hope was fading and, in the dying moments, Origi sealed it. Tottenham failed to clear their lines from a corner and the Belgian secured his place in history.

For Liverpool, this was blessed reward. Revenge for a year ago and something quite magnificent to show for their frankly ridiculous season. The summer at Tottenham will be a busy one, and there is no knowing if they will be back on this stage any time soon. The opening chapter of Pochettino’s tenure at the club has closed, it remains unclear if it will be the end of the story. There is still no trophy in this tale, but that should not matter. This season can serve as a message for Pochettino: imagine what I could do with money. It is a story which deserves to continue.

The man in the limelight, however, is Jurgen Klopp. Six finals he had contested before tonight, six he had lost. It has all been building to this. The brightest moment of his career, it was hardly spectacular and was far from heavy-metal football, but he won’t care. Liverpool have, once more, conquered all of Europe.

 

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