By Samindra Kunti in Madrid
June 3 – Liverpool won a sixth European Cup by defeating Tottenham 2-0 in a Champions League final that failed to ignite. Mohamed Salah converted a second-minute penalty before Divock Origi ensured Liverpool’s win on almost on the whistle.
After a protracted three-week build-up and all the hype and hysteria surrounding the all-English Champions League final, the 90 minutes exploded into life after Slovenian referee Damir Skomina awarded Liverpool a penalty for Mousa Sissoko’s handling of Sadio Mane’s cross. Salah duly converted the fastest-ever spot kick in the final’s history as the game began with the drama that had so bookmarked the semi-finals.
But perversely the Salah’s goal seemed to suck the oxygen out of the game. Tottenham were rattled and, bar Son Heung-min who channelled his team’s best efforts on the left, the Londoners underwhelmed despite having the bulk of possession and wasting a hatful of half chances.
Jurgen Klopp’s team were content to sit back and defend. Virgil van Dijk marshalled his defense and further forward the midfield trio of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum provided enough steel and solidity to neuter Tottenham.
In a second half marked by early substitutions, substitute James Milner had the gilded-edge opportunity to wrap up the game in the 68th minute, but his attempt slid wide. At last Tottenham, with an invisible Harry Kane, threw caution to the wind, but two fine saves from Alisson preventing both Christian Eriksen and Son from equalizing was just too little too late.
How different this was for Liverpool from the disastrous final performance last year by goalkeeper Loris Karius that lost them the final in Kiev. Instead it was Belgian substitute Divock Origi, for much of the season a fringe player in Liverpool’s squad, who stabbed home Liverpool’s second.
The pre-match favorites deservedly won the Champions League, but like the other all-English final in Baku, the game will not be remembered as a playing spectacle.
Liverpool returned home on Sunday for a parade that had an estimated 750,000 fans lining the streets. English fans had travelled in huge numbers to the Spanish capital and the event passed off largely without incidents. Touts set asking price at €10,000 a ticket before the final and chaos ensued at times around the stadium in scenes that were almost reminiscent of the general disorder that surrounded Liverpool’s last European Cup win 12 years ago in Athens.
Before kick-off a one-minute tribute was observed in memory of Jose Antonio Reyes, the former Spain and Arsenal player who perished in a road traffic accident, aged 35.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, being chased by club owners Fenway Sports Group to extend his contract, said: “It is the best night of our professional lives. It took a while, it is important for our development and improvement. This little mark helps a lot, now we can carry on.”
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