In a Champions League final that saw two managers gamble with their line-up, only one manager’s gamble fortunately paid off. And the lucky manager was Liverpool FC’s Jurgen Klopp. The German tactician had never won a trophy with his Liverpool side since his appointment back in October 2015.
But on Saturday, June 1st 2019, at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid; Liverpool broke their near-success syndrome of the last two seasons. Sadly, it was also the day that the former Sevilla and Arsenal star, Jose Antonio Reyes, died in a car crash close to Seville.
But after the one-minute silence observed in honor of the late player, Liverpool and Tottenham got down to the business of the night.
For both teams who have struggled in the last couple of weeks to make something of their 2018/2019 season; but had fallen short of their respective targets, the game meant a whole lot.
The players were psyched up and the respective managers had victory and honor in their views. However, the starting line-ups of both teams, spoke volumes. For Liverpool, a Roberto Firmino who has been largely a spectator in this season’s champions league found himself in the starting line-up to pair Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane in attack.
The Brazilian had been injured and out of important knock-out games; most notably against Barcelona in the semi-final of the UCL – but being a first choice for manager Klopp, he found himself starting the final.
For Tottenham FC, manager Mauricio Pochettino’s gamble back-fired on the night. His decision to bench semi-final hero, Lucas Moura, to start a Harry Kane who was out of form and out of sorts failed.
Harry Kane had been absent from the team due to injury since April; and as to why Pochettino would slot him into the starting line-up knowing he wasn’t match-fit, still baffles me. As such, Harry Kane was hopeless and ineffective on the night, slowing down his teammates and contributing practical zilch to the game play; while a fit and proper Lucas Moura watched from the bench.
The game kicked-off is bubbling fashion; as under a minute of play, Tottenham conceded a penalty when Sadio Mane deftly hooked the ball up and struck Moussa Sissoko around his under-arm. The referee quickly pointed to the spot, and thus began the contentious issue of ‘was it a penalty?’, ‘was it the right decision or call?’
Eventually, Mohammed Salah stepped up for Liverpool and buried the ball past Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris to take Liverpool a goal up in the all-English Champions League final. The game wore on from that moment is a rather drab fashion; as both sides struggled to assert themselves on the opposition. The all round play was quite lethargic at some point as well.
Tottenham, however, got the better of the Liverpool in terms of possession, but struggled to really fashion out any serious goal attempt.
Attempts from the likes of Son Heung-Min, Christian Eriksen and eventually the hat-trick hero, Lucas Moura, who was brought on in the second half were all dealt with by Liverpool’s goalie, Alisson. As the final minutes of the game approached, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, made a change that would turn out to be his best ever decision, by bringing on Divock Origi and taking off Roberto Firmino.
The Belgian star who shone brightly against Barcelona in the second-leg semi-final fixture was the key-player once again on the night.
With three minutes to go, he received a pass from defender Joel Matip and struck a beautiful shot past Hugo Lloris of Tottenham to make it 2 – 0 for Liverpool and sink all Tottenham hearts on the night. At 2 – 0 down, there was no coming back for an abject Tottenham side on the night, and Liverpool held on to become the new kings of European football, to the joy of several travelling Kop supporters.
The victory saw Liverpool earn sixth Champions League title to stay behind only Spain’s Real Madrid and Italy’s AC Milan as the most successful teams in the competition. Liverpool’s victory also helped the club and fans banish the sad memories of their loss in last season’s final against Real Madrid; as well as their near-success syndrome in the Premier League – which has seen them finish second for the second-consecutive season behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
As for Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham side, the future is bright for the club and the crop of talented youngsters in their fold. Having just reached their first ever Champions League final, while ending up as losers; they would need to swallow the defeat and learn from the experience in order to propel them towards a more successful campaign next season.
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