Champions League review: Liverpool crowned kings of Europe

Mo-Salah

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Champions League final soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Felipe Dana / AP)

Here’s what happened in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final, in case you missed it…

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Tottenham 0, Liverpool 2: Game report || Game stats

MATCH RECAP IN A SENTENCE

Tottenham never recovered after Mohamed Salah converted an early penalty, as Divock Origi scored late in regulation time to lift Liverpool to a 2-0 victory in Madrid, giving the Reds their sixth European crown.

WHAT STOOD OUT

Salah’s penalty
Twenty-three seconds. That’s how quickly it fell apart for Tottenham on the night. After a quick start by Liverpool, Sadio Mane received the ball down the left flank and his shot was adjudged to have been handled by Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko.

Only 23 seconds had elapsed, but Slovenian referee Damir Skomina did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Spurs’ hopes for a reprieve were denied after the Video Assistant Referee reviewed the play, and Mohamed Salah made no mistake, converting from the penalty spot by firing a blistering attempt past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

In doing so, Salah became only the fifth African player to score in a Champions League/European Cup final. Salah’s opener at 1:48 of the match was the second-fastest goal in a Champions League final, behind only AC Milan’s Paolo Maldni who scored at the 50-second mark against Liverpool in 2005. It was sweet redemption for Salah, after he was forced to be subbed out of last year’s final with a shoulder injury, a game the Reds eventually lost to Real Madrid.

The Kane gamble
Tottenham striker Harry Kane was deemed fit to play in Saturday’s final after sitting out close to two months with an ankle injury. His last appearance came in Spurs’ 1-0 win over Manchester City in the first leg of the quarterfinals on April 9, so manager Mauricio Pochettino took a big gamble by including the Englishman in his starting 11.

As it turned out, the gamble didn’t pay off. Kane was poor on the night, comfortably kept in check by Liverpool’s superb centre back duo of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip. The Liverpool pair kept Kane in their back pocket all night, routinely outjumping and outmuscling him for high balls, and not giving him any time or space to operate.

Kane was barely involved in the first half, which led to some second-guessing of Pochettino as to why he didn’t start Lucas Moura, Spurs’ hat trick hero from the second leg of the semifinals vs. Ajax. Kane was clearly not up to the task on the night after such a lengthy absence, but Pochettino unwisely kept the faith with him for 90 minutes.

Klopp comes good
After coming out on the losing end in two previous Champions League finals, Jurgen Klopp finally tasted victory on Saturday, as he joined Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Rafa Benitez as the only other Liverpool managers to win the Champions League/European Cup.

Had Tottenham prevailed, Klopp would have become only the second manager to lose three successive finals – Marcello Lippi (1997, 1998 and 2003) of Juventus is the other. The German had yet to lift a trophy since joining Liverpool in 2015, and right or wrong, questions were being asked about whether he could finally get his team over the hump.

Klopp managed this game beautifully, setting up Liverpool in a way to allow Tottenham to control possession but not the game. The Reds defended brilliantly and never let the match get away from them. When Tottenham looked to be surging, Klopp replaced the ineffective Roberto Firmino with Divock Origi early in the second half. That gave Liverpool more pace up front, and the Belgian repaid his manager’s faith by scoring in the 87th minute to seal the deal for the Reds.

BEST GOAL

With Liverpool sitting on a 1-0 lead in the 87th minute, Tottenham couldn’t clear its lines off a corner kick. The ball eventually fell to second-half substitute Divock Origi, who beat Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a brilliant shot from a tight angle that nestled inside the far corner.

BEST SAVE

With Spurs looking for an equalizer in the 79th minute, Son Heung-min unleashed a low, rocket of a shot from 25 yards out that seemed destined for the far corner. But Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson read it all the way and did well to get down and deflect the ball out of danger.

BEST MOMENT

Jose Antonio Reyes was honoured before kickoff at the Wanda Metropolitano. The ex-Atletico Madrid and Sevilla star died in a traffic accident on Saturday. He was 35.

BEST TWEET

THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME

Tottenham’s lack of finishing – and urgency for much of the game – ultimately led to their downfall.

BURNING QUESTION OF THE DAY

SIX PACK OF STATS

• Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (20 years and 237 days) is the first player under the age of 21 to start in consecutive Champions League finals.

• Tottenham failed to lead at half-time in any of their 13 Champions League games this season.

• Saturday marked the first time that Liverpool used this starting 11 in 53 games across all competitions this season.

• Liverpool is the first side to win the Champions League final despite having less possession (35.4%) than the opposition since Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich in 2010.

• Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is the fifth African player to score in a Champions League/European Cup final, after Rabah Madjer (Algeria), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) and Sadio Mane (Senegal).

• Divock Origi is only the second Belgium to score in a Champions League/European Cup final, after Yannick Carrasco for Atletico Madrid vs, Real Madrid in 2016.

Stats courtesy of Opta

THREE STARS

1) Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, Liverpool: The centre-back pairing did a number on Harry Kane, and anchored a back line that frustrated Tottenham all night.

2) Andrew Robertson, Liverpool: The fullback gave the Reds’ attack width with his probing runs down the left wing, and delivered several dangerous crosses.

3) Alisson, Liverpool: The Reds’ goalkeeper made a trio of great saves in the final 15 minutes to deny Spurs an equalizer and a way back into the game.

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