Tottenham Hotspur kicked off against Liverpool in the Champions League final in Madrid with a chance to etch themselves into history as one of the best ever Spurs teams to take the field. However, it was not to be at the Wanda Metropolitano. A ridiculously early penalty from Mohamed Salah off of a handball in the box from Moussa Sissoko set the tone for the match, Divock Origi fired home a scrappy second goal late in the second half, and Spurs fell in the Champions League final 2-0.
The Champions League final is not a time for half-measures. It’s not a time to play it safe. It’s a time to be bold, to go for glory. That’s exactly how Mauricio Pochettino set up his starting XI at the Wanda, turning to his 4-4-2 diamond formation that had so much success against Liverpool at Anfield.
Harry Kane returned to the starting lineup in place of Amsterdam hero Lucas Moura, who returned to the bench. Harry Winks also started in midfield, his first action since his surgery a few weeks ago. With Kane starting, it was also the return of DESK — Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and Kane. Moussa Sissoko was the other central midfielder. Pochettino rolled out the expected first team defense of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in central defense, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose out wide, and club captain Hugo Lloris in goal.
The match started disastrously for Spurs, just 30 seconds in the game. Moussa Sissoko was called for handling the ball inside the box. Sissoko had had his hand out to the side in an unnatural position, and although Sadio Mane appeared to be aiming directly at Sissoko’s arm and it the ball hit his shoulder, the official awarded the penalty after a brief VAR check. Mohamed Salah cooly slotted the spot kick home, and Liverpool led 1-0. A dodgy decision, but nothing Spurs could do anything about.
The opening 15 minutes were a bit dodgy and frantic, with Spurs especially looking rattled after conceding so early. Dele Alli had some fortune getting forward with the ball and Son was able to work his way into the box early, but with no shots.
Liverpool, meanwhile, tried to play long balls from deep to Sadio Mane on the left side as they tried to stretch Kieran Trippier. Klopp opted not to press too emphatically in the early going, and Spurs were able to keep the bulk of the possession.
Trent Alexander-Arnold had the first real look at goal from either side in the 18th minute, flashing a low ball at goal that forced a dive from Hugo Lloris but thankfully drifted wide of the left post. Tottenham nearly got through on goal on a counterattack two minutes later, but Son was dispossessed by Alexander-Arnold before he could get a shot away.
Andy Robertson had Liverpool’s best chance from the run of play in the 39th minute, firing a blast from just outside the box that forced Hugo to tip over the bar. Jan Vertonghen had a bit of an injury scare and was briefly taken off the pitch with what looked like an injury to his arm, but he was back on the pitch soon after.
It was a quiet first half, opening goal aside. Spurs tried to play Son Heung-Min who probed Liverpool’s back line on a number of occasions, while Liverpool continued to try and spring Mane. Neither keeper had a whole lot to do, but early goal aside you could probably say that Spurs just edged Liverpool as the better side in the first half. Liverpool took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
The second half kicked off with no changes to either side, and the game started off much in the same way that the first half went: a lot of possession, but not a lot of chances for either side.
Tottenham had a nice 3 on 3 opportunity in the 53rd minute, but were again pretty wasteful in Liverpool’s attacking third. Liverpool tried the same thing with a ball to a rushing Salah just after, but Vertonghen was there to cut out the chance.
After two unsuccessful corner kicks from Spurs, Liverpool made the first substitution for either side, bringing on Divock Origi for Roberto Firmino in the 58th minute. Klopp then made a rather head-scratching decision to bring on James Milner for Georgino Wijnaldum just three minutes later, obviously not liking what he was seeing from his side.
After Milner came on, Liverpool started pressing high, trying to force Spurs to make a mistake in midfield, but Spurs were mostly able to successfully play through their pressure.
Spurs made their first substitution in the 66th minute, with Pochettino rolling the dice, as Ajax hero Lucas Moura came on for Harry Winks.
Liverpool nearly doubled their lead in the 69th minute from James Milner — Mane with possession dribbled into the box and effectively shielded to find space for Milner, but his shot went just wide of the post.
Spurs were forced into their second change of the match after Sissoko was forced off the pitch due to injury. Eric Dier was his replacement in midfield.
Liverpool’s defense continued to be the story of the match, especially the positioning of Virgil van Dijk. Sonny had what looked like a decent run at goal, but van Dijk was with him every step of the way to prevent a decent opportunity.
Tottenham’s first decent look at goal came in the 79th minute — Trippier put a lofted cross into the box from the right that found Dele’s head, but he wasn’t able to direct the ball on target, and Son flashed a decent strike that forced a parry from Alisson just afterwards. Lucas Moura wasn’t able to put the rebound past the Liverpool keeper either.
Tottenham’s final change came at 80’ when Dele Alli came off for Fernando Llorente.
Spurs thought they might have had a penalty in the 84th minute after Danny Rose was brought down at the edge of Liverpool’s area, but after a brief VAR check it was just outside of the box. Eriksen’s free kick was a beauty and forced a diving save from Allison; in the ensuing corner Sonny nearly put the ball in at the back post, but was judged offside.
But Liverpool made no doubt of the final result in the 88th minute from substitute Origi, who scored the only goal of the match from open play, firing home a good look across the goal and past Hugo to put Liverpool up 2-0.
Spurs had five minutes of extra time to pull out a miracle, but despite throwing everyone forward, they weren’t able to get a good look. The official waved off what looked like a sure penalty on Harry Kane in the box at 92’, and Spurs couldn’t get it across the line. The final score was 2-0 — Liverpool won their sixth Champions League title, and Spurs were left wondering what might have been.
- What a god-awful trash-ass match.
- The officiating was awful in this match, with a number of questionable calls and no-calls. None was bigger than the penalty shout, which looked extremely dubious as it came off of Sissoko’s shoulder first. The flip side is that Sissoko was defending with his arm parallel to his body, which was a big mistake.
- The worst part about that penalty is that it completely sucked the life out of what might have been an exciting final. Instead it was dull and turgid, with neither side making chances and instead degrading into a sloppy mess.
- Those who were critical of the decision to start Kane were probably correct. Kane had only 11 touches in the first half and looked rusty as hell out there, but he did improve in the second half and had a couple of shots that unfortunately were straight at Alisson.
- Liverpool’s defense was EXCELLENT in this match, and Allison came through when it counted. Spurs had a number of half-chances that were cut out by van Dijk.
- Look, Tottenham were fine. They played Liverpool even, maybe even a touch better. That opening goal was really the difference, and it sucks that it happened this way.
- It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I am so, so proud of this Tottenham team and what they’ve done this season. It wasn’t the ending that we wanted, nor was their final match a good one, but just getting here was an incredible achievement.