Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool show they can win ugly for one lasting, beautiful triumph 5 months ago

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool show they can win ugly for one lasting, beautiful triumph

You always felt that the Champions League would be decided by Moussa Sissoko's armpit

Just 26 seconds of the game had elapsed by the time that Sadio Mane had fired a cross, or a shot, or just a cynical attempt to win a penalty under the new UEFA rules, into the body of Moussa Sissoko.

It bounced off the area between the hefty French midfielder's ribs and armpit and then onto the inside of his arm, which he had been holding completely perpendicular, out from his body, like a kind of demented pigeon attempting to flap out of the way of a slow-moving London bus.

Replays showed that Sissoko was pointing behind him, we're still not quite sure what at, perhaps the late run of Roberto Firmino or, equally as likely, a low-flying UFO that had entered the Wanda Metropolitano.

Regardless, it didn't look like a penalty but given the aforementioned rule change and the fact Sissoko did have his arm in a position he simply did not need to have his arm in, one was awarded.

Salah smashed the ball straight through Hugo Lloris and Liverpool were 1-0 to the good before anyway had even had time to exhale, tap their mate on the shoulder and say "This is it. Here we fucking go."


Yes, somehow this went in

By half-time, people were calling it the worst final in recent memory. Both teams were struggling to fall into the familiar playing patterns and grooves they had honed to a sharp point over a long season. At one point the game had the lowest pass completion of any Champions League fixture this season.

There were signs, though. A thumping long ball from Virgil van Dijk here, a curled knock down the channel for Salah to chase from Andy Robertson, there. Heung-min Son making a nuisance of himself in between the fullbacks and the central defenders; Danny Rose bursting forward with vigour, pulling off a nutmeg, and then kicking the ball straight out of play.

It was hard to take given the magic that both sides had produced in their respective Balboa-esque comebacks during the semi-finals.

It was equally hard to take given that the two starting strikers for both teams, Roberto Firmino and Harry Kane, players who, at their best, have the ability to win games like these on their own, looked even more off the pace than the free BT Sport YouTube stream.

And that looked like this.


... Yeah.

In particular, watching a visibly unfit Harry Kane go up against Virgil van Dijk was a bit like witnessing a sumo wrestler step into the Octagon with a small, gaunt, impoverished child from the Victorian era.

So what was there to be done for Spurs? Throw on Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente, the little man/big man, quick man/so-far-behind-man-he's-still-got-PONY-on-his-shirt partnership that saw them past Ajax?

Who else was there? Erik Lamela? Meh. Eric Dier? Oh, fucking hell, no.

In the end, Liverpool blinked first and Divock Origi came on for Firmino along with their very own Old Faithful James Milner. And that's from Jurgen Klopp, who rarely, if ever, makes substitutions before the hour mark.

Eventually, Pochettino did respond in kind and Harry Winks was withdrawn for Lucas. Kane, despite appearing to play with both feet steel-bolted to the turf and a coathanger stuck down his jersey, remained.

Sissoko, who after his New York traffic warden impression early on was his usual physically imposing, destructive-running self and was unfortunate to be forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury.


Enter the Dier.

It was after that the game burst into life. Not because of Eric Dier though. Obviously not because of Eric Dier.

Spurs pushed, mostly through the singular force of will of Son, and Liverpool looked to hit them on the counter. Back and forth, to and fro. Alli had two decent chances, an audaciously attempted chip over Alisson that ended up floating into the keeper's arms like he'd kicked one of those plastic footballs you'd win at the school fête, and a header he did miraculously well to win over Joel Matip powered over the bar.

And still they came. Son fired in a long-range drive, Alisson beat it away. The ball immediately came back into the box to an unmarked Lucas. A snapshot without any real conviction. Alisson save. Son tried another piledriver, this time off his left, but his legs were gone, and it dribbled harmlessly across the turf.

You could even feel the spirit draining from the most optimistic and opportunistic football player in the world.

As if to rouse him, Llorente entered the field with nine minutes of normal time remaining for Spurs' final change. One last hurrah for the cumbersome target man who looks like a flamenco dancer. His presence, however, only seemed to momentarily distract the Liverpool back four rather than actually discomfort them. He was involved, and by involved I mean 'watched Trippier's cross sail over his head' as Rose won a freekick on the edge of the Liverpool box. But yet again Alisson made another confident save, parrying behind a belatedly curling Eriksen free-kick.

Lucas had the freedom of the Liverpool penalty box from the resultant corner but could only flick it into Son, who was offside, who could only flick it over anyway. That about summed it up.


Even so, you still felt a Spurs equaliser was close, or even inevitable, and that extra time and penalties were about to rear their ugly (if you support either of the two teams) or gorgeous (if you support literally anyone else) heads.

And then, just like that, the game was done. A season over.

Tottenham couldn't clear a Liverpool corner properly as Eric Dier fluffed a header and then the follow-up whilst Jan Vertonghen, so often dominant in the calmest, most assured way imaginable like a rare, non-sex pest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, lost a crucial 50/50 for the loose ball.

It dropped to Matip who, with the single best touch of the game, laid off a beautifully weighted first time pass into the feet of Origi.

On his left foot, even the most ambitious Liverpool fan would have hoped for nothing more than the Belgian get a shot on target.

He did far more than that and rifled it into the bottom corner past a despairing Lloris.

It was conviction, it was belief, and that was Europe conquered again.

It didn't look like a Liverpool game. It didn't feel like a Liverpool game. At times they looked a world away from the slick, vorspung durch tekkerz outfit Klopp has so ably crafted them into. At times they couldn't string two passes together. At times it looked as though they would crumble like a semi-melted Twirl down your lap.

At times it looked like the same old story. Another European final, another runners-up medal for Klopp.

And yet, this time, on this night, you could just tell. You could always tell. It just went their way. They were wearing a self-ordained destiny on their sleeves, van Dijk and Salah and Mane and Henderson. Robertson and Alexander-Arnold and Wijnaldum and Alisson. It was theirs. It was theirs all along. Even when you thought it wasn't, it was.

And even when you thought it was all going a bit too smoothly, a bit too easily, a bit too 'not-Liverpool', that it was about to blow up in their faces once again, it was theirs as well.

Champions League number six; their ugliest, most beautiful triumph yet.