After a three-week wait, Madrid finally played host to the 2019 Champions League Final. In a confirmation that Liverpool have returned to the European elite, the Reds beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
In a match where the lay-off left both sides lacking sharpness, the fixture had a more pre-season feel at times. Adding to the delay, the heat and a first-minute penalty call completely changed the game. It all made for a mistake-ridden opening 45 minutes with less quality and few chances. Still, Mohamed Salah got his moment of redemption scoring from the spot.
Having conserved their energy, things settled down in the second half and the Reds coiled to play more on the break as Spurs sought an equaliser. Liverpool continued to hold off the London side and limit their chances and the professionalism of Jurgen Klopp’s lads ensured the result.
Despite the dream start, the match remained wrought with tension for 85 minutes before the Reds sealed Spurs fate. As Alisson proved the value of every pound of his fee, Liverpool left it late to finish off their opponents. In what has become his signature for the season, Divock Origi slipped home an 87th-minute goal to secure the club their sixth European Cup.
Here are four findings from the match.
Sadio Mane spent this entire season surging to new levels. The Senegalese forward carried the Reds at times when the attack struggled. Yet his versatility amidst the front three can easily be overlooked. In the final, his impact cannot be underestimated.
Direct and dangerous, Mane led the line from the left, repeated driving runs that sent Spurs deeper into their defensive third and opening space for the side. On the ball, he threatened more than any other Liverpool player. His mazy run that turned Christian Eriksen inside out before nearly setting up a goal captured his night. His performance was worthy of a goal.
Since rising to the role of Virgil van Dijk’s deputy, Joel Matip grew into the player that supporters might have hoped Liverpool secured in 2016. Having been a standout in the Bundesliga, the centre-half started strongly before struggling with fitness and form. Before the season started he was the fourth option.
During both the league and European run-in, Matip has been massive. He became more than a worthy partner to van Dijk and his form forced both Joel Gomez and Dejan Lovren to the bench despite being fit. In the finals, he was unflappable and was on track for man of the match consideration after the first half. He even got an assist on the final goal.
What a difference a year and a world-class keeper can make. The one-time most expensive goalkeeper in the world has proven beyond doubt that he is more than worth his fee. After securing the most clean sheets in this season’s Premier League, the Brazilian shares the most in the Champions League too shutting out a side in the final for the first time in nearly a decade.
Every time Alisson was called on in the second half, he made it look easy. He was active but never truly troubled. Only pushing away Christian Eriksen’s late free-kick even forced the keeper to stretch, so good was his positioning and awareness. His calm assurance refuses to be rattled. He is a rock for the side.
With the match still hanging in the balance, a late corner could not get cleared, eventually getting pushed to none other than Divock Origi to put the contest beyond doubt. In what can only be described as a strange season for the Belgian, the striker contributed some of the most decisive goals in the campaign. It was only fitting that his excellent finish secured the win.
Against, Everton he scored the greatest derby goal of all time. His last gasp goal at Newcastle kept Liverpool’s title hopes alive. Then his brace banished Barcelona from Anfield and the Champions League. It all led to another crowning moment for Origi in the right place at the right time, taking his chance to secure legendary status.