Best of 2019: Liverpool's Sixth Champions League
Liverpool rules Europe once again as we look back at the biggest stories of 2019.
It is fair to say Tottenham and Liverpool pushed their luck, faith and ability to the limit in the Champions League last season.
The stories of the semi-finals were well-known as Tottenham came from behind to edge Ajax, and Liverpool did likewise to eliminate competition favourite Barcelona. But it was worth remembering the difficult path Tottenham and Liverpool had to negotiate to reach the all-English Champions League final in Madrid.
Indeed, by losing four of their 12 games, Tottenham and Liverpool had been on the brink of elimination from the Champions League more than once during the season.
On the skids after losing it's opening two group games, Tottenham also lost back-to-back games in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. But that didn't change the mindset for Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld:
If we win it, I think we deserve this as well. This year, our route in the Champions League has obviously not been easy, so I think it was a very tough route but I think that the mentality of the team showed that we can achieve anything that we want.
There was a similar argument from Liverpool that it was just as mentally strong, scraping through with a win on the last day of the group stage. Indeed, there was plenty of motivation for Liverpool after losing last season’s final and fighting Manchester City until the last day of the Premier League season only to miss out on the title.
With three weeks to prepare for the final at the end of the Premier League season, there were measured approaches to the contest, but emotions and nerves were also considered factors according to Tottenham captain Harry Kane:
It will be a game with a lot of energy. I think that the team that can control their emotions and control the situation better will have a great chance of winning.
Alas, it was not to be for Kane and Tottenham, as Liverpool ruled European football for the sixth time in history.
An early penalty from Mo Salah and a late strike from Divock Origi took Liverpool to a 2-0 win, raising the trophy for the first time since 2005.
It was also Jurgen Klopp's first European success after falling short in his previous two attempts as manager:
I don't want to explain why we won it. I only want to enjoy that we won it and all the rest is not important. It's for all the people around the world, in the stadium, they were with us, and they are now celebrating like crazy. I feel mostly relieved to be honest.
But it wasn't to be for Klopp's opposing number, Mauricio Pochettino, in his first European final as manager:
I think we all feel very disappointed but the season was fantastic. We need to feel proud. I feel so proud of all my players, all the club and our fans.
With Harry Kane back after injury, Tottenham had more possession and more shots, but Liverpool got the goals and some brilliant saves from goalkeeper Alisson which went a long way to ensuring Klopp's sense of relief:
You saw it was a fight. The final is about the result and tonight the boys showed it, the resilience, everything that you need, to block the decisive balls. Ali had to make a few saves, he, of course, played a sensational game, absolutely, he looked completely unbeatable.
As Tottenham ended its first Champions League final heartbroken, Liverpool celebrated a sixth title as it again ruled European football.