LIVERPOOL erased the disappointment of last season’s Champions League final loss by claiming the trophy for the sixth time with victory over Tottenham in Madrid.
It was Mohamed Salah, such a disconsolate figure when he was injured early in that loss to Real Madrid, who set Liverpool on their way with a penalty after two minutes when Moussa Sissoko was contentiously punished for handball.
In a final that rarely touched the heights of the blockbuster semi-finals that made this an all-Premier League showpiece, Spurs had chances but were denied by Liverpool keeper Alisson, who saved well from Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen.
And their failure to capitalise was ruthlessly punished when substitute Divock Origi ensured manager Jurgen Klopp won his first trophy as Liverpool manager by driving low and powerfully past Hugo Lloris with three minutes left.
Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino took the gamble of selecting England captain and main striker Harry Kane despite his not having played since April because of an ankle injury, replacing semi-final hat-trick hero Lucas Moura, but he had no impact.
Liverpool lifted the trophy that was taken from their grasp in Ukraine last season and now stand behind only Real Madrid and AC Milan as serial winners of this tournament, the final whistle sparking huge celebrations among players, management and the red wave of supporters in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
One of the enduring images of Liverpool’s loss to Real Madrid in Kiev was a tearful Salah being led off midway through the first half as realisation dawned he could not continue with the shoulder injury sustained in a tangle with Sergio Ramos.
It was a moment that changed the mood inside the stadium and left Liverpool unable to turn the tide once it went against them – so this was an occasion laced with meaning for the world-class Egyptian.
And his moment came almost instantly when he took responsibility from the penalty spot and powered the ball past Lloris.
How fitting it was that the player who has contributed so much to Liverpool’s renaissance should make such a significant contribution.
Another major difference from last year’s disappointment was the giant presence of Alisson in goal as opposed to the hapless Lloris Karius, who gifted goals to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in Kiev.
Here, the £67m Brazilian was a rock with his safe handling and vital interventions when Liverpool came under stress in the second half.
Alisson, along with Virgil van Dijk, has given Liverpool the extra dimension that pushed them so close to a first league title in 29 years and has now made them European champions once more.
Klopp casts aside ‘unlucky loser’ tag
Liverpool manager Klopp knew one sub-plot to this Champions League final, played out in the searing heat of Madrid, would be his grim record of losing six successive finals.
He had lost three with Liverpool, including in this competition last season, and while no-one can seriously doubt the German’s outstanding work it was his legendary Anfield predecessor Bill Shankly who coined the phrase: “First is first and second is nowhere.”
Klopp can now cast off that mantle and instead be known as the manager who restored Liverpool to the pinnacle of European competition.
Ironically, after a season of sustained brilliance and a single defeat brought the scant reward of second place to Manchester City in the Premier League, this landmark triumph was achieved with one of Liverpool’s least sparkling performances for some time.
That will not matter, however, because Liverpool earned this glory with wins such as those over Bayern Munich in the quarter-final and the astonishing 4-0 turnaround against Barcelona at Anfield in the semi-final.
Klopp was already a much-loved figure – now his name will be written into club folklore.
In the end the temptation was simply too much to resist – and it was easy to understand why.
Pochettino knew his world-class striker Kane was a player who had hurt Liverpool in the past and could hurt them again – so he left out Moura, the scorer of that dramatic hat-trick in the semi-final second leg in Ajax that took Spurs to the final.
Kane had not played since sustaining another ankle injury in the quarter-final first leg against Manchester City on 9 April and it showed as he failed to exert any influence on the game, Moura introduced belatedly but unable to produce a second miracle.
Spurs and Pochettino were left heartbroken and perhaps with a sense of missed opportunity, because Liverpool were nowhere near their best and occasionally looked vulnerable.
Pochettino, however, deserves huge credit for taking Spurs to their first Champions League final without strengthening his squad this season.
It surely will not be too long before he follows Klopp and wins his first trophy as a manager in England.
Match stats – three shots, three goals for Origi
- Liverpool have won their sixth European Cup – twice as many as any other English team (Manchester United, three).
- Klopp is the fourth Liverpool manager to win the European Cup, after Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Rafael Benitez.
- Klopp is the fifth German manager to win the European Cup, after Dettmar Cramer, Jupp Heynckes, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Udo Lattek but he only the second German to win the trophy with a non-German side (Heynckes with Real Madrid).
- Pochettino has lost both of his major finals as Tottenham manager, also losing the League Cup final against Chelsea in 2015.
- Tottenham appeared in their first ever European Cup final, becoming the eighth English side to do so. The past six first-time finalists have now lost (also Chelsea 2008, Arsenal 2006, Monaco 2004, Bayer Leverkusen 2002 and Valencia 2000).
- Liverpool (35.4%) have become the first side to win the Champions League final despite having less possession than the opposition since Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich in 2010.
- This was the first ever Champions League final without a single card shown.
- Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah became the fifth African player to score in a European Cup final after Rabah Madjer, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Sadio Mane.
- Salah’s opener for Liverpool was the second fastest goal in a Champions League final (1:48), only behind Paolo Maldini (00:50) for AC Milan versus Liverpool in 2005.
- Origi became only the second Belgian player to score in a Champions League final after Yannick Carrasco for Atletico against Real Madrid in 2016. Origi has scored with all three of his shots in the CL this season.
- Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (20 years 237 days) is the first ever player aged under 21 to start in consecutive Champions League finals.