Thursday 20 June 2019

Liverpool deliver knockout blows

Weird Wide World of Sport

Jordan Henderson celebrates with Mohamed Salah after the striker had fired Liverpool in front from the penalty spot
Jordan Henderson celebrates with Mohamed Salah after the striker had fired Liverpool in front from the penalty spot

Dave Devereux

My Champions League final evening didn't exactly start on the right foot as I arrived home 15 minutes before kick-off, only to discover that the locality had been hit by an untimely power cut.

A hastily arranged visit to the father-in-law's became Plan B, and we arrived just in time to see Spurs suffer an even worse start to their night as the man in the middle took centre stage with just 23 seconds on the clock.

It wasn't quite lights out for the underdogs, but the bulb was already starting to flicker.

The early penalty call against them was a bitter pill to swallow for Tottenham fans and although there was obviously no intent on Moussa Sissoko's part, given what we'd seen earlier in the competition and the directive to referees, it came as no surprise when the man in the middle pointed to the spot.

When Mohamed Salah slammed the spot-kick to the net, to exorcise the ghost of last season's shoulder injury nightmare in the decider, we could have expected it to rid Liverpool of any big match nerves and allow them to play with their usual swagger and style, but instead it seemed to suffocate their panache.

Having been pipped by Manchester City in the Premier League title race, despite amassing a ridiculously impressive amount of points, few could argue that they didn't deserve something tangible to show for their efforts - apart from Spurs fans that is.

The Londoners gave it their best shot, but they simply weren't good enough to benefit from a below-par Liverpool display, and although they forced Alisson into a few saves before Divock Origi's late clincher, they too were far from their free-flowing best.

The goalkeeper was rock solid between the posts for the Reds as he denied Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen in a performance which was like the difference between night and day when compared to the hapless Lloris Karius against Real Madrid a year earlier. Along with the towering Virgil van Dijk in front of him, the Brazilian shot-stopper has helped to metamorphosise Liverpool from nearly men to winners.

Tottenham's failure to capitalise on their chances was ruthlessly punished by a mature Liverpool, who in the main defended superbly and made the most of the chances when they came.

It wasn't a final that will live too long in the memory, but that won't matter one jot to the Liverpool faithful as they can finally celebrate Jurgen Klopp leading them to the trophy he deserved, after previously coming so close.

The German has transformed the club since taking over four years ago - they are now a defensively sound outfit that are capable of scoring in the blink of an eye and are a match for anyone not just on their day, but on any day.

Any team that knocks out Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the knockout phase en-route to the final deserves all the success that comes their way.

It won't be easy to wrest the Premier League title away from Manchester City, but the Anfield crew are by far the best equipped to dethrone the champions, particularly with the confidence of a trophy under their belts.

Klopp shouldn't be the only top-class manager turning heads, as despite coming up short again Mauricio Pochettino also deserves immense credit for the work he has done with Tottenham, a club punching above their weight on a restrictive budget.

It just wasn't to be on a night when the scantily-clad pitch invader that briefly held up proceedings in the first-half spent more time in the limelight than a clearly off-colour Harry Kane.

If Spurs can hang on to their boss and start to splash at least a little bit of cash, they're more than capable of ending their long trophy drought.

After last season's error-strewn defeat to Real Madrid in the final, few could have foreseen Liverpool going all the way 12 months later, but then again this year's Champions League has been about as predictable as Anthony Joshua being floored by some obese lad.

When Liverpool fought back off the ropes to knock out the mighty Barcelona in the semi-final, I had a feeling that this was going to be their year.

Let's just call it a sixth sense.

Gorey Guardian