Dear reader, 21 seconds. 21 seconds is all it took for Liverpool to utterly expose the hapless Kieran Trippier’s total lack of regard for positional play and to win the somewhat dubious penalty that saw them take the lead against Spurs in Madrid. And for Spurs, that Champions League minute-and-a-half covering the climax in Amsterdam to the referee pointing to the spot was the epitome of crashing from a very great height.
In tribute to the 2019 Champions League final, today’s column is going to be a slightly nervy, tired affair that will leave people thinking about all the class, brilliance and sheer drama of this season’s Champions League columns by me. It’s fair to say that the Champions League probably used up all its drama in the semi-finals as such the clash in Madrid won’t be remembered as a classic.
So, hands up if you had Divock Origi as the last scorer in the Champions League this season? I mean, at the start of the season when you wonder how things might pan out. Not many of you, I am sure. The Belgian seems to have found himself a useful knack that his fellow countrymen number nines seem to have lost – scoring important goals on the biggest of stages. Are you watching, Romelu? That could have been you.
And how dare Liverpool celebrate like that, with their 64% pass completion rate? And what about all those neutrals they left feeling disappointed by their performance on the night? Have some respect lads, will you?
I jest of course before the complaints start flying in quicker than Moussa Sissoko had broken Tottenham hearts. Had Liverpool ended the season without any kind of silverware it would have been either very, very harsh on them or very, very funny. I am still not entirely sure which.
The majority of the first half will be remembered for a determined, driven break through the midfield heading towards Hugo Lloris’ penalty area. The problem was, it was from the pitch invader – not Jordan Henderson. That said, Harry Winks stepped aside as if she was wearing a red shirt.
The second half was a little more frenetic as Spurs seemed to realise that they did need to try and get some shots on goal if they were to turn things round – Alisson was by far the busier goalkeeper but did he have to make any kind of save that you wouldn’t expect him to make? No, probably not. But, people will now remember that he has made the most saves by any goalkeeper in a Champions League final as if that, in itself, is an award. Yes, Spurs had more of the ball but they didn’t really land anything that looked like a killer blow to Liverpool’s belief that they were going to get to “talk about six, baby”.
After the game, King Kloppo hailed the team talk given by none other than James Milner, suggesting that without it Liverpool may not have triumphed on the night. Jurgeylad also informed us that his big rival Peppy G had been on the phone to congratulate him already before they both declared that they’d set about “kicking each other’s butts again” next season.
Mauricio Pochettino was understandably more downbeat saying that ‘now was the time for calm’ and that the inclusion of Harry Kane had nothing to do with the result. Poch said Kane had come off the pitch ‘fresh’. Well, that’s hardly surprising given he hardly touched the ball, no?
The Kane situation put the Poch stuck between a rock and a hard place. It was a decision that was nothing more than an irritating distraction – it would have been easier on Spurs if Kane had still been injured for the match. Not because Kane doesn’t add something to Tottenham, of course, he does. But because the whole thing about having to even make a decision has multiple knock-on effects and just makes life more difficult than it needs to be. And, frankly, it wasn’t down to Kane that Spurs failed to really threaten. I’d be looking at Christian Eriksen this morning and seeing if Real Madrid might still be daft enough to make a bid. And as for Kieran Trippier? Gareth Southgate knows, that’s all that can be said. Dele Alli isn’t immune from criticism either, it wasn’t his best night. Mind you, it’s not been his best season. ‘But what about his assist in Amsterdam?’ I hear some loyal Spurs folk shout from the back. My friend, that wasn’t an assist. That was a shocking touch that just happened to lead to the biggest goal Spurs scored this season.
As for it being ‘harsh’ on Lucas Moura, regular Spurs fans in a moment of honesty will tell you that apart from a treble against Huddersfield and that hat-trick in Amsterdam he’s actually been pretty average since the New Year. ‘But he’s got momentum’ people still cry. There was a three-week gap between Moura’s anonymous last performance of the season against Everton and the final. So tell me again where that momentum is meant to be?
People might think I am ignoring the fact that Liverpool have won their sixth ever European Cup/Champions League crown. I am not. But what can you really say about Liverpool’s performance?
It did the job. And that’s all they needed to do. It was rather strange seeing them sit back and knock it long and straight for Salah and Mane to run on to but, after all, they did have that early goal advantage to sit back on. And, bless them, it was quite hot in Madrid.
Sure, it was a little weird watching Jordan Henderson lift a trophy that is really only meant to be handed to the greatest players in European football but I soon changed my mind after I saw the footage of him celebrating with his Dad. If you haven’t seen it on social media yet, stop reading the rest of this rubbish and go and find it. It’s the most warming thing you’ll do today.
On TV, watchers abroad were treated to Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger in the Bein studio analysing the game together. That’s a little bit better than wheeling out Steve McManaman and Jermain Jenas again, eh?
Jose couldn’t resist one little jab, though – suggesting that Klopp and Liverpool had scored early then opted to ‘park the bus’. You have to respect Jose as that is the sort of pettiness I am sure we can all get behind.
One thing the Champions League final did do for us all is make us look at the Europa League final in a new light. And it also gave all those Arsenal fans a reason to come out of their dark rooms and engage in the world once again.
Over in Baku, (yes, all the way over in Baku) the first-half had been equally dire without any pitch invasions – after all, I don’t think anyone was that brave or stupid to risk doing that there.
Yet, in a magical little spell after the break, Chelsea did what Chelsea tend to do in these situations and find a way to win where Arsenal did what Arsenal tend to do and, you know, find a way to lose.
It will be a sweet goodbye for both Eden Hazard and Maurizio Sarri, both sure to leave the club over the summer with their winners’ medals tucked in their pocket.
As for Chelsea, they’re still likely to turn to Frank Lampard’s Derby County manager, Frank Lampard after he led them to Championship glory by winning their biggest match of the season against Leeds United.
And with that, the club football season was over. Gone. Finished. Never to be seen again. Until, of course, Sky get hold of it all again next season and remind us all of every single moment through the medium of highly irritating montages.