Mohamed Salah scored one of the fastest ever goals in a Champions League final and Divock Origi struck late as Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid on Saturday to clinch their sixth European Cup.
A disappointing final never truly got going after that, but Liverpool will not care. Alisson Becker made several confident saves in the latter stages before substitute Origi drilled in the killer second in the 87th minute.
That led to an explosion of joy from their supporters inside the Wanda Metropolitano stadium as Jurgen Klopp’s side made up for their defeat in last year’s final against Real Madrid and the deflation of missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.
Salah has his redemption after injury ruined his night against Real in Kiev, and Klopp has his first trophy as Liverpool manager. The German ends a run of six straight defeats in finals.
More importantly, Liverpool have their sixth European Cup, further cementing their status as one of football’s most storied clubs.
They now have more than Barcelona or Bayern Munich, and twice as many as their great rivals Manchester United.
Perhaps the occasion was just too much for Tottenham in their first ever appearance in the Champions League final. Beating Liverpool was always going to be a big ask, and they have now lost all three meetings with these opponents this season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to start Harry Kane after nearly two months out did not pay off, and he is still looking for his first trophy after five years in charge.
Nevertheless, if they can keep the manager, and with the impetus from the move to their new stadium, maybe they will be back on such a stage before long.
That they were here at all was remarkable, Lucas Moura’s sensational hat-trick that dumped out Ajax in the semi-finals capping a memorable Champions League season all round.
The stage was set for this match, only the second all-English final, but after all the hype and the stories of fans paying thousands for tickets for a game they simply could not miss, this was a strangely subdued affair.
Kane gamble backfires
Perhaps the stakes were simply too high, or perhaps the three-week break since the end of the Premier League season was to blame.
Most likely the suffocating Madrid heat stifled the players and prevented this from being like a typical Premier League clash.
It might also have been a result of the opening goal coming so early, badly affecting Tottenham’s confidence.
Pochettino had opted to start Kane after an ankle injury, meaning Lucas was on the bench. But Kane hardly touched the ball as Tottenham waited until the 70th minute to spring into life.
Eight members of Liverpool’s team also started last season’s final, when Salah went off injured and in tears in the first half.
This time Liverpool were the ones celebrating after a whirlwind start, Slovenian referee Damir Skomina pointing to the spot inside 25 seconds when Sissoko blocked Sadio Mane’s cross with his arm.
Salah confidently blasted home the penalty for the second-fastest goal ever scored in the final of the modern Champions League.
The only faster goal was Paolo Maldini’s effort for AC Milan against Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005, when the Anfield side famously came back from 3-0 down to win on penalties.
Spurs just did not get going, and there was none of the frenzied pressing and attacking associated with Liverpool either, although Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson both came close in the first half.
Pochettino’s team did improve after the break, but Virgil van Dijk was a rock in the Liverpool defence and there was no way past Alisson, with the Brazilian saving well from Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen late on.
It was left to Origi, one of the heroes of the stunning semi-final win over Barcelona, to wrap it up with three minutes left as he swept home inside the box to end any doubt.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)