Liverpool made up for the disappointment of losing the Champions League in 2018 by going one better this year. They beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in one of the least memorable cup finals of all time. Two sets of players, who appeared exhausted from the off, struggled to put two passes together, take a corner that beat the first defender or cross a dangerous ball from the wing. It was the worst final I have ever seen, writes Vernon Grant, and I was at the 1993 FA Cup final between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal, and the even worse replay!
None of which matters a jot if you are a Liverpool supporter. A win is a win and after missing out on the Premier League title despite having lost only one game, they deserve to land the Champions League title. They were unfortunate to lose last year. They had been on top in the early stages of that final against Real Madrid until Sergio Ramos assaulted Mo Salah and put him out of the game.
Since his arrival at Anfield there can be no doubt that manager Jurgen Klopp has improved individual players and the squad overall. The signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton was crucial to the change in fortunes for the Reds. When Liverpool paid the Saints £75 million for the central defender, many keen watchers of the game wondered if they had paid too much. We know now than Virgil van Dijk was a superb signing by Klopp, whose post match reaction can be watched here.
Spurs were very disappointing at the final played in Madrid. For me, only Danny Rose came out of the game with any credit. Dele Alli was so bad he was replaced by Fernando Llorente. Kieran Trippier, who only twelve months ago looked like being a star for club and country, contributed little other than a pathetic face clutching dive when an opposing hand brushed his face.
Harry Kane was clearly not match fit but then, as I was saying to members as long ago as last August, the Spurs players who spent last summer performing for England at the World Cup were always likely to run out of steam late in the domestic season. Spurs lost 13 games in the Premier League season, 20 in all competitions. Investment and a rebuild is required if Tottenham are to win honours. Whether the likeable manager Mauricio Pochettino stays remains to be seen. They need him to.
Spurs may have had more possession and brought out a couple of good saves from the Liverpool goalie Alisson Ramses Becker in the second half, but they never looked like the force that swept aside Ajax in the semi-final. Ajax would have given Liverpool much more of a game. I can only imagine the Dutch players went to bed having watched the Champions League final wondering about what might have been. What a once in a lifetime opportunity that Ajax team missed out on.
That feeling will sink in with Tottenham players this week. They will realise that had they played their ‘A’ game, they would have beaten a lacklustre Liverpool. Despite winning a penalty within thirty seconds of the kick off, put away by Salah, Liverpool did not build on that and it was only in the 87th minute that victory was assured when substitute Divock Origi scored the second goal. Then the Liverpool fans could begin their celebrations.
You only have to watch the post match scenes and listen to the tributes the players pay towards Klopp to know that their boss has built a great team spirit. In turn it was interesting to hear the manager say that but for dressing room speeches made by James Milner throughout the season, Liverpool would not have won the Champions League final.
Here an emotional captain Jordan Henderson speaks about Klopp.