A poor Champions League final saw Kieran Trippier constantly attacked and more set piece misery as it ended Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool in Madrid.
Tottenham succumbed to defeat after a spirited performance in the Champions League final. Kieran Trippier found himself constantly under attack from passes in-behind for Sadio Mane. Spurs eventually used their width to open up a narrow Liverpool down our left. However, yet more set piece misery gave the Reds a third goal from a corner in as many games against us this season as it ended Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool in Madrid.
Mane vs Trippier
From the off Liverpool had a plan to constantly run Sadio Mane off the shoulder of right back Kieran Trippier. The Reds continually looked for this pass with both short and long balls played in to the space behind the Spurs right back.
The tactic paid instant dividends. Liverpool looked to get behind Trippier three times in the first 30 seconds as they won a penalty. Joel Matip sent the first pass downfield after receiving the kick-off. Jordan Henderson then tried a lofted header over Trippier before sending a lobbed pass beyond him. Sadio Mane was then galloping in to the space.
What followed was one of the most bizarre and opportunistic things you’ll see. Trippier recovered his position after Mane was slowed by the bounce of the ball. Moussa Sissoko then arrived to offer help cover, but was pointing at something. Seeing the outstretched arm, Mane then deliberately kicked the ball towards it. The ball struck Sissoko on the chest and then deflected on to his arm as it came down. A penalty was instantly awarded by referee Damir Skomina.
Mo Salah converted the spot kick. One that Hugo Lloris would definitely want back as it somehow evaded him after he went the right way. A harsh penalty and Spurs 1-0 down inside of a minute.
Liverpool continued with the tactic of trying to spring Sadio Mane beyond Trippier throughout the match. Long passes from Virgil van Dijk or shorter ones from Henderson and Wijnaldum saw the wide forward constantly on the shoulder and seeking to hit the space.
Narrow Liverpool concede the flanks
After scoring, Liverpool retreated in to a narrow medium block for much of the match. They used their front three to press and hound Spurs when the ball was in and around Hugo Lloris, seeking to create kicking errors. However, once Spurs had navigated this initial pressing wave, Liverpool retreated in to a narrow and compact shape.
Whether these were Jürgen Klopp’s tactics for the whole game or his orders once they had a goal, Liverpool sat in this shape for the remainder of the match. The space for Tottenham was on the outsides, but full backs Trippier and Rose weren’t aggressive or found often enough to expose the space they were being afforded.
When the ball did end up with Trippier and Rose they frequently either turned down the opportunity to cross first time, recycled possession or had a poor touch.
It wasn’t until the last twenty minutes that the full back pair became a factor. Kieran Trippier put in a couple of decent crosses, one of which went straight through the six-yard box. However, it was Danny Rose’s left side that would be the route to shooting opportunities, as he and Son Heung-Min attacked Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Second half tactical tweaks
Tottenham had a lot of possession but rarely any attacking incision to hurt Liverpool. For the second half, Mauricio Pochettino switched Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Dele went to the left of the advanced midfield trio and Eriksen to the number ten position.
The move allowed Dele to make diagonal runs in-behind against Liverpool’s high defensive line. Dele got in-behind on one Eriksen lofted pass, but saw his shot blocked. He then got in again to attempt a curling lob shot that had the trajectory, but not the power to beat goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Spurs open up midfield
Chasing the game, Mauricio Pochettino rolled the dice. Lucas Moura replaced Harry Winks, who had arguably been Tottenham’s best player up until that point. Eriksen dropped in to Winks’ role to put a trio of Son, Lucas and Dele behind Harry Kane.
The switch had both positive and negative impacts. Eriksen got on the ball more and Tottenham opened up the left side as Son and Rose could attack Trent Alexander-Arnold. Chances, shots and free kicks in dangerous positions were the positive result of the change.
On the flip side, space was now given up in midfield. Sadio Mane enjoyed the increased room as he ripped past Eriksen off the dribble and James Milner squeaked a shot just past the post. Mo Salah also started to roam in the spaces being afforded. His best chance saw him cut in off the right, but Jan Vertonghen brilliantly blocked his shot aimed at the far corner.
More set piece misery
Corners have been a big factor in Tottenham versus Liverpool matches this season. Liverpool scored one as they surrounded Michel Vorm at Wembley. Toby Alderweireld then gifted the Reds the win at Anfield after poor marking and a bizarre own goal.
Divock Origi settled matters this time as he pounced to put Liverpool two goals ahead. The corner, however, should’ve been dealt with and was highly avoidable in the first place.
Hugo Lloris had sent a booming kick downfield that went straight through to Alisson Becker. After Spurs had built from the back all evening this was a rash move. Players were subsequently caught out of position by the quick turnaround of possession. Andrew Robertson could therefore sling in a cross from Becker’s throw out. Danny Rose dealt with it, but needlessly put the ball out for a corner when he could’ve let it run.
Like Vorm experienced at Wembley, Liverpool had started the match by hounding and surrounding Hugo Lloris at corners. The Spurs keeper had fared well and so they backed off.
However, as in the match at Anfield, Spurs failed to deal with the second ball and were caught narrow. As a result, Liverpool could keep the ball hemmed in around the Tottenham box. Origi found space by just maintaining a touch of width. He then located the only inch of the net that Hugo Lloris couldn’t cover. Game over at Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool with only stoppage time to play.
To their credit, Spurs didn’t give up, highlighting the fighting spirit that has been a huge part of this Champions League journey. Shots from Son cutting in from the left and also Danny Rose forced decent saves, but this was one escape act too far.
Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool overall
A real opportunity missed. The early penalty put Spurs in a tough position, but a blunt Liverpool performance saw them there for taking. That is the bitterest pill to swallow.
The heat was equally a factor. The teams also looked off the pace having had three weeks to prepare. Both sides failed to play anywhere near the quality of football that we know each is capable of.
Spurs controlled possession for much of the match, but failed to make the final pass count. Possession without incision has been a recurring theme this season and reared its ugly head on the biggest stage of all.
Final score: Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool.
MOTM: Sadio Mane.