Reds bring it home
None of it was pretty, but Liverpool won’t care. The Reds defended an early goal for 90 minutes, holding off a surging Tottenham Hotspur for a 2-0 win to capture their first Champions League crown since 2005.
Mohamed Salah scored on a penalty in the second minute after an inadvertent handball by Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko. And until the London side was willing to throw players forward late in the second half, Liverpool was happy to boot the ball downfield in defense. Substitute Divock Origi, a hero of the Reds’ miraculous semifinal comeback against Barcelona, scored on a loose ball after a corner kick in the match’s waning moments to protect his side’s lead and seal the result.
If not for that strike, the game could have gone down as one of the worst Champions League finals ever, save for 1991’s scoreless match between Red Star Belgrade and Marsaille. It would have been even more of a letdown after the path both clubs took to reach the final. Tottenham erased a 3-0 aggregate deficit to Dutch side Ajax in the semifinal with three second-half away goals from Lucas Moura. Liverpool lost the first leg of its semifinal with Barcelona 3-0, then scored four unanswered goals at Anfield to advance.
Experts called both results improbable, and occurring on back-to-back nights, the wins accounted for some of the most dramatic professional football in recent memory. The drama raised the stakes to an immeasurably lofty height for the Champions League’s second ever all-England final.
But the first half, save for the handball by Sissoko 23 seconds in, was a snoozer. Tottenham held 63 percent of possession, but most of that time was spent knocking the ball back and forth between defenders. Harry Kane, the team’s top goal scorer back from injury after 53 days, was a nonfactor. He emerged in the second half with a pair of noncompetitive crosses and a few passable shots on goal.
Not that Liverpool was much better. After Salah’s penalty, Andrew Robertson had a nice chance late in the first half, a screamer that Hugo Lloris had to flick over the crossbar. In the second half, Salah was efficient running into space, and winger Sadio Mane was creative with the ball in developing chances, but none materialized until the match was practically salted away.
It certainly won’t matter to Liverpool’s supporters, who saw their side come a single point short in the standings for a Premier League championship, but now have an honor far greater: champions of Europe.
The Reds have done it now. Divock Origi corralled a loose ball off a corner kick and smacked it past Hugo Lloris for the score that should hand Liverpool its first European Cup since 2005.
Tottenham getting desperate, and it shows
Finally, this is the match we bargained for. Harry Kane seems to have emerged from his daze to at least take some touches for Tottenham, which has done much better pressing downfield into the attacking half. Dele Alli has been a positive influence distributing in the midfield and Son Heung-min has provided a burst of energy. For Liverpool, Salah is playing the game supporters wished he had last year, when he was knocked out with an early shoulder injury. He’s aggressive, mobile and finding open space. Now, can his teammates hold off Spurs’ desperation push in the final 10 minutes?
Spurs miss a chance
What a wasted chance for Tottenham in the 70th minute. Spurs swung the ball in and around the 18-yard box left and right and left again, but came up utterly empty. The sequence ended with a feeble cross into the box that Reds’ keeper Alisson snatched up with no trouble, and nearly led to a scoring chance for Mohamed Salah.
Tottenham tries to make its move
Here is Spurs’ go for broke move, and really the only card manager Mauricio Pochettino can play to drum up some offense. Lucas Moura, who scored three goals in the semifinal against Ajax, came on in the 65th minute for Harry Winks. Tottenham is in desperate need of a change of pace and to possess the ball in the attacking half. But Liverpool has been content to boot the ball the length of the field on defense, which has certainly been effective, but terribly boring.
Game’s first subs are for Liverpool
Divock Origi, who scored two goals against Barcelona in the semifinal, entered as a substitute for Roberto Firmino in the 58th minute. James Milner also entered as a substitute for Gini Wijnaldum, who scored two goals against Barcelona in the semifinal, in the 62nd minute.
Halftime: Liverpool 1, Tottenham 0
Through 45 minutes, the Champions League final risks turning into a snoozer unless both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur can find their form. The Reds lead, 1-0, on a Mohamed Salah penalty in the opening minutes, but after the wild start, neither side seemed capable of mustering much offense, let alone clean play.
From two teams that combined to score seven goals in miraculous comebacks in their second-leg semifinal matches, the first half Saturday yielded a combined eight shots (with only one on target) and eight corners (only two for Spurs). The teams were even stingy with fouls: only four to go around.
Tottenham held 63 percent of possession, but most of that time was spent knocking the ball back and forth between defenders. Harry Kane, the team’s top goal scorer back from injury after 53 days, was a nonfactor.
Not that Liverpool was much better. After Salah’s penalty, Andrew Robertson had a nice chance late, a screamer that Hugo Lloris had to flick over the crossbar, but the Reds have been hamstrung by any attempt to play attacking balls behind the defense.
It all added up to a first half that lived up to the billing on its weird factor — what else could we expect after the two oddest semifinals European soccer has seen — but light on action. If Tottenham wants to capture its first European cup, that will have to change in the final 45 minutes.
Things settle down — other than a fan on the pitch
Well, this match has slowed down considerably. Since the early handball situation, the two sides have managed a single shot and combined for three corners. The most exciting moment other than Salah’s penalty may have been when a female fan dressed in a bathing suit got on the pitch and ran all the way to midfield, stopping play briefly in the 18th minute.
Spurs have excelled at passing the ball between their defenders, but can’t drum up anything on the attack. Liverpool looks a bit better in possession, but has been sloppy in the midfield. The game is there for the taking if either team can get its act together.
What a bizarre start, and for Liverpool, what a perfect start. Not even a minute into the action, Sadio Mane tried to cross a ball through Tottenham’s 18-yard box when Moussa Sissoko got caught with his arm out barking defensive instructions. The cross smacked Sissoko’s chest, then upper arm, and the referee awarded Liverpool a penalty kick. Mohamed Salah’s finish was never in doubt.
Well, the fans are certainly ready
Here are Liverpool fans in Madrid:
And Tottenham fans back in London:
The Champions League’s second all-England final Saturday should be a dandy, set up by two of the most jaw-slackening semifinals Europe has seen.
After falling behind Barcelona, 3-0, in the first leg of its semifinal, Liverpool stormed back to a 4-0 win at Anfield that left Barca bewildered and Reds fans weeping in stands. It put Liverpool in the Champions League final for a second year in a row, following last year’s 3-1 loss to Real Madrid.
A day after Liverpool’s epic comeback came another. Tottenham, which trailed Dutch side Ajax, 1-0, after the first semifinal leg, conceded two goals in the first half. Lucas Moura’s second-half hat trick pulled Tottenham back from the brink and had them advancing on an away-goal advantage.
Both matches produced improbable results that continued storybook runs for the surviving sides. Liverpool came a point short of winning the Premier League title, losing a single match in 38 fixtures to eventual champion Manchester City. A win against Tottenham would award Liverpool a larger prize than they could have bargained for: champions of the continent.
Tottenham finished fourth in the Premier League, but pushed past German side Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax to reach the final for the first time. The match gives Spurs a chance to shed their “flaky” reputation and capture their first Champions League crown.
The game will be played in Madrid, but it’s the first Champions League final not involving a Spanish club since 2013.
Time: 3 p.m.
TV: TNT and Univision.
How to stream: B/R Live, Watch TNT app, Univision Deportes app.
Location: Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid.
- Defeated Barcelona, 4-3, in aggregate to advance to the final.
- Second place in Premier League.
- Last Champions League title: 2005, over Milan. Liverpool lost the final in 2007 and 2018.
- Defeated Ajax, 3-3 with an advantage in away goals, to advance to the final.
- Fourth place in Premier League.
- Last Champions League title: never.
Players to watch
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah was forced out of last year’s Champions League final in the early going after a dirty tackle from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. Salah’s resulting shoulder injury was so severe, it kept him out of Egypt’s World Cup opener. Now he’s healthy and Salah seeking redemption in Champions League final — 22 goals in 38 Premier League appearances this season — and could give Liverpool one too many offensive weapons for Tottenham to defend.
Midfielder Moussa Sissoko will be key for Spurs to control the game’s pace and take the legs out of Liverpool. The Reds and manager Jurgen Klopp have one style: whack the ball down the pitch as fast as possible. Tottenham could win the upper hand with a possession-oriented game, in which case Sissoko will need to post up in the middle of the field and control the ball. The more possession Spurs can hold, the better off they’ll be.