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
Spurs on TV usually sees us get off to a shaky start and this match was no different. 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.
Man of the match:the referee
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Controversial choice before the match and had a shocker!
Andy B says
An interesting take on the match.
I really wanted Moura and Llorente to start, with the option of Kane and Dele Alli to come on in the last half hour, if needed.
Dele Alli has been poor for the majority of games this season and in no way deserved to be picked instead of Moura. I know that Alli and Kane link up well together, when they are in form. The problem with this decision to pick them for one of the most important matches in Spurs history is that Alli has not been in form and Kane has been out for so long.
The last time Kane was out injured, Spurs won 4 games in a row and then when he returned to the team, we lost 4 games in a row. I was hoping that Pochettino would learn from that experience.
Saying all that, the biggest problem was that Kane was starved of service. That may have also happened to Llorente and Moura if they had started. But at least with Llorente on the pitch, the spurs players could have bypassed the midfield with longer passes. Llorente has proved that he is the best in the team for keeping and laying off the ball, with clever flicks.
The reason Kane was starved of service was that Eriksen and Alli didn’t turn up for this match. Alli should have been replaced much earlier than when he was.
I do like the dynamics of Llorente laying off the ball for Son and Moura to use their pace against the opposition defence. Liverpool were so poor. I mean they only had 3 shots on target all game and their passing was atrocious. I think the Son, Moura and Llorente combination could have worked well against them.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen can come out of this game with credit and so can Winks, who I thought had a fine game.
I think the heat and humidity played it’s part in turning it into one of the poorest finals ever. At least it wasn’t in Baku – what a farce that was.
As a fan of entertaining football, the highlight of the champions league for me was watching some of the clever passing of Ajax. It would have been good for football in general if Ajax had won the competition, especially as their team is now likely to be decimated, in this ever increasing money oriented business.
The highlight of the season for me, was seeing Micky Hazard boss the Inter Milan midfield with all his skills and trickery. Him and Hoddle were such entertaining players in their day and worth paying the money to watch them. I just hope we can bring in a couple of special players in this transfer window.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It really was a catch 22 situation for Poch. Imagine the meltdown had he not picked Kane and we’d seen the same performance, the same lack of cutting edge and similarly lost 2-0. There would be a large potion of the fan base calling for his head this morning. Poch really had to start Kane, but should’ve pulled him on 60 mins as Klopp did with Firmino. Similarly for Dele. He’s had a real stop-start season and doesn’t look 100% right, but he’s a big game player and was outstanding in the second leg against Ajax, so deserved his place.
Moura is really the only player that a case could be made for starting, but to get him in the team would’ve been difficult. I was very surprised that Poch didn’t go with the 4-4-1-1 that did so well second half at Anfield, as this would’ve allowed him to include Moura and Son as the wide midfielders, but he went with Winks instead. I thought this was risky given Winks’ lack of match fitness, but he turned out to be our best player for the 65 mins he was on the pitch.
As for Llorente, he’s been at his best when coming on as a sub. He holds the ball up well, but van Dijk and Matip like to play against players that don’t give them the runaround. Son and Lucas might well have given them more problems than Kane or Llorente ever did. However, that’s all ifs and buts with the benefit of hindsight.
Andy B says
What is your opinion on Son and Kane playing together? Why do you think that Son has often performed brilliantly when Kane is not in the team, and less so, when he returns?
Is it a positional or psychological change that affects Son, or just a change of the team dynamics as a whole?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I think that Son not only steps up and accepts the increased responsibility, but also that more of the ball goes through him when Kane doesn’t play. With Kane in the team Son plays out on the left and gets less touches of the ball. The play is dictated to get Kane in to scoring positions because he is a lethal finisher. When Kane doesn’t play, Son is more central and he therefore gets more touches and looks to run in-behind more often. He becomes the primary rather than secondary option. So, to answer your question, it is more team dynamics.
I still think Son plays very well when Kane is in the team. When Kane is out it is just more noticeable what Son does and how good he is, as we don’t really have another big scoring option ie a volume scorer. We often win games 1-0 with Son the only scorer and so his importance is highlighted and magnified even more. With Kane also in the team, if Son scores then Kane often does too. Spurs often score more than one goal, which mitigates the importance of the goals if you get what i mean? ie we possibly win 2-0 or 3-1 so the individual game-winning goal is magnified less.
Hi Mark and all
Thanks for another great wrap and for excellence in reporting all things THFC all season.
As I I have said several times, this is a wonderful community that fosters strong camaraderie and delivers advanced footballing insight.
I have tried to capture the final in verse below.
I went off a bit early and posted it on the Everton thread – but after watching the replay I’ve polished it up.
All the best to you Mark and all over the off season.
This promises to be a crucial window in the history of our club.
And a final comment about big Moussa. Unfortunately he will be remembered for the penalty, but as a strident critic of him in the past I simply have to congratulate him on his renaissance. Nothing short of remarkable and well done sir!
THE MADRID SURRENDER TO UNREMEMBER
Finally given the chance to be able
To sit at this rarefied table
European glory rarely does beckon
But it only took twenty two seconds
Sissoko put hands up as defender
Metaphor for a painful surrender
Ref’s whistle immediately blew hot
No VAR – he just pointed to spot
Captain Hugo our hopes are with you!
But Mo stepped up and put boot through
From there it was a long way back
But conviction this team doesn’t lack
We were always well up and about
But Alisson was keeping us out
Exponentially his confidence grew
As our aim simply wasn’t too true
Winning the stats with “other” Harry our star
Lloris tipped a bullet over the bar
Super Jan and Toby closed down all threat
But going forward we weren’t a sure bet
Son as always was busy and bright
But others were just not in sight
Rose planted a thorn in their side
Alas Harry Kane underdone, fried
Klopp ensured all hatches were battened
Both teams looked decidedly flattened
Big Moussa ran hard to turn worm
But their strong pack of seven stood firm
So it won’t be remembered as epic
Liverpool prevailed on work ethic
Until finally Origi finished us off
To the men in red, our caps we do doff
Now it’s beaches, transfers and friendlies
We definitely have to secure N’Dombele
Danny will Google some names to pursue
The Chairman has big deals to do
So believe in our great club we must
This game we love and for glory we lust
Our magnificent players have all been august
And high above all – in Poch we do trust!
Let’s fervently hope
That this is our new start
Because winning and losing
Is a long way apart!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Very well said, I don’t know how you manage to come up with these works of art! Thanks for helping making this community and all the best over the summer.
Mark from Virginia says
Thanks for the write up. I didn’t feel too disappointed after this game as my expectations were not very high – it was a miracle that we were in the final. You do make a good point regarding Liverpool being vulnerable and “there for the taking” – it was a missed opportunity, though Trippier’s tendency to be a liability showed up at the wrong time again! I thought he should have come off instead of Winks. It may have been useful to have KWP come on with instructions to attack the 18 from the right flank – this is where Liverpool looked most vulnerable – as you said- on the flanks.
Regarding the hand ball – I thought, after seeing the tricky corner employed against Barca, that maybe part of Liverpool’s plan was to look for Sissiko’s arm – he does that with his arm quite often and it could have easily been noticed as a potential way to cause Spurs to concede a penalty or at least a set piece in a dangerous area. Either way – Spurs’ luck ran out early in this one – it was probably all used up getting to the final! A great run for sure! Let’s hope the team make good and timely decisions over the summer and we come back stronger than ever!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Mark, I think that having the feeling of regret is the one thing we didn’t want from this match. Had the 97 point swashbuckling Liverpool showed up then we’d have had no complaints. However, I thought we played a really good game to control possession, but just had no incision in the final third. Had we gone for it a bit more like we did in the final 15 minutes, we may well have been talking of a different outcome as Liverpool were indeed there for taking.
Erik Zen says
Mark superb write-up and thanks for your phenomenal work this season. Totally agree with Toby4eva about this beautiful little community. And speaking of that man, another epic poem from the official laureate, kudos!
Regarding the final, Liverpool have built a cast iron defence and they also had the valuable experience of the final last year. It might seem they were there for the taking, but actually they showed immense maturity and game management to stifle us. So many coulda-woulda-shouldas to ponder but Poch and the players did their best and deserve massive respect for getting that far. Sad as who knows if we’ll get another chance, but haven’t we been written off every season and always come back?
Now for the transfer news agony. Just please get a right back. Kyle Walker seems like a bargain at 50m now. Will try to avoid repeat refreshing…
Back in a couple of months… COYS!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I definitely believe Liverpool’s experience of last year’s final helped them with the build-up and pre-match. They knew what to expect and could plan accordingly. I think Liverpool’s match tactics showed us a lot of respect, but also said to the weakest part of our team – our full backs – if you can beat us then its yours. Peak Walker and Rose would’ve destroyed them, but Trippier and Rose could not.
This summer is really huge for us. A world-renowned and respected manager, the new stadium, training ground and now an appearance in a major final are all great selling points to top talent to come and join us. We are on the rise and have to go for it.
Thanks for the write-up and delighted to see your praise for Winks, who I thought was fantastic but seemed to get no credit in the press.
Prior to the day, I had hoped that Poch would go with Son & Moura ahead of a diamond midfield (Dele, Eriksen + Sissoko, Winks). The hope being that two pacey players positioned between each centre-back and their respective full-back would have pinned Liverpool back, or left acres of space to attack into if Trent/Robertson went forwards, (or left space for Dele to attack into if the centre backs pulled wide).
Hypotheically, had Kane been unavailable, how would you have seen the above playing out … ?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi James, an interesting question, and one that we’ll never truly know the answer to. What we do know is that Poch tried the diamond in the match at Wembley. That game saw our full backs roasted by Mane and Salah holding their positions high and running in to the spaces our full backs left. The four players at the points of the diamond couldn’t help as they were too narrow. That may have not mattered in this match here as Liverpool were so defensive and narrow themselves. A twin strike partnership may also have given the Liverpool centre backs the runaround. However, Klopp may have switched the tactics to replicate that Wembley match if we played that way here and we could’ve seen the same result… or maybe a more entertaining, higher scoring match, we’ll never know.
I think for these reasons that is why the 4-4-1-1 we saw in the second half at Anfield was so successful. It got wingers and full backs in to the wide areas that Liverpool leave in the defensive phase (see the match pics above). It forced the Liverpool wide forwards and full backs to have to play 2 vs 2 against our wingers and full backs and they were pushed back as a result. It also allowed the man off the front to join the striker and attack the Liverpool centre backs 2 vs 2. I was really surprised Poch didn’t go for that 4-4-1-1 again here – it was also successful when he used it in the first leg against Man City who also use a 4-3-3 setup. Again we’ll never know if this would have also worked as we were 1-0 down inside a minute and Liverpool could’ve held out for a 1-0 win. However, this 4-4-1-1 setup had proved it could work during the match at Anfield, so I was surprised Poch didn’t try it at some point during the contest.
Martin C says
Thanks for your superb analysis of this match and throughout the season.
I too was anticipating a mirror of our superb second-half approach at Anfield, but still, believe Poch deserves tactical credit for restricting the Liverpool attacking threat and achieving such a high percentage of possession.
For me, the main disappointment was our poor decision making and control in the final third.
Your comment “Possession without incision” really does sum up our poor recent league form and amplifies the need for a special creative midfielder to be added to our squad in the summer.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Martin, that has been our bugbear for quite a while now. We really do need another creative midfielder but also another volume scorer who can replace and rotate for Kane. We’ve gone down the inexpensive route with the likes of Llorente and Janssen but I feel we really need to bring in another top striker as not only competition for Kane, but one that will also allow him to rest and rotate. Kane has played an obscene amount of games for many years for both club and country and its manifested itself up with the time he’s been out injured this season. Spending £30-£40m on a top player will pay itself back with better runs in the Premier League and going deeper in to Europe.
Anather bit of great reporting by yourself Mark.While I do not want to put our loss down to the Officals.When I was refereeing,it was all ways stated ,if it was hand too ball,then so be it,but if was ball too hand,then no penalty.It set the tone for the first half,which Liverpool controlled in fairness,,but hey did not play any better than Tottenham.And did any one notice except on one occaision,when Salah got caught off side.,The amount of times that they were in an off side position and did not get picked up.where as out offsides which were all genuinally off sides,,were picked up no troule at all.That all said we were quite poor on the night,as were Liverpool..It was a chance missed,but the adventure was great.Hopefully a forerunner for the Future.
Many regards Brian
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Brian, some good points. That kind of handball was one that we saw a lot of in the World Cup and it frustrated the hell out of the tournament, as did the number of pens for holding at corners – where has that suddenly gone as we see very few now? As you state it was very much ball to hand, not intentional and there was literally nothing Sissoko could do as Mane whacked the ball at him. The refs and VAR are always going to give it as that is the directive from UEFA. It did ruin what could’ve been a good match. Would Liverpool been as defensive if they hadn’t taken the lead? Were their tactics to push for a quick goal and then drop off? We’ll never know, but i think the referee made a mistake by not at least taking another look on the sideline monitor at the pictures himself. As you say it was great adventure, but one laced with a whole host of what could’ve been!
Blue&White Blood says
Thanks for this Mark.
I went to watch the game in the new stadium (that and the test event are the only two things I’ve been able to get tickets to, even as a bronze member!) and as soon as the team sheet popped up on my phone I had a bad feeling about the game.
I cannot agree that Kane had to start – if we had no precedent for how Kane plays for the first couple of games after coming back from injury, then it might have been more of a worthwhile gamble – but we know only too well that it takes Kane a few games to get sharp again – frankly he scores a good penalty and can pick a pass, but doesn’t do much else in this recovery period. He is not clinical, nor dynamic in open play, does not take up good positions, looks laboured, etc. It reminded me of the way successive previous managers have picked the England team – all heart and rose-tinted specs, with no head.
It also feels like a huge lack of respect to Moura, the man who scored a *hat trick* in 45 minutes to see us through to the final. A not-match-sharp Kane in searing heat vs a Brazilian who was razor-sharp in the semi? Come on. Contrary to some opinions (including his own) I don’t think Poch would have been ‘killed’ at all for not starting Kane, and could have instead given Liverpool something to think about by bringing him and Llorente on for 30 minutes at the end or if we weren’t navigating the press well enough along the deck. I love the manager, he IS Tottenham, in its current guise, but I do think he got this call wrong.
Otherwise the team seemed okay to me (I mean, Trippier has been out of it since the World Cup, but as he hadn’t been dropped up to now, I didn’t expect him to be benched for the final.)
Sadly I didn’t enjoy being in the stadium for the most part as it was tense the whole game after the penalty and a stress-head next to me was screaming every profanity under the sun at the top of his voice at every Liverpool player (+ Steve McManaman’s co-commentary) at every opportunity (even when they didn’t have the ball) which was rather wearing over 90mins…
All that said, fair play to the lads in the second half, they gave it a good go, but nothing would creep in to save our skins. What I did enjoy, in a very bittersweet way, was the reaction of the Spurs fans who stuck around after the final whistle. Down at the goal line bar, renditions of all the usual Spurs songs were belted out at deafening volume, including what felt like a 30 minute rendition of the Dele song. Beer was thrown; passion, pride, defiance and gratitude were all there in equal measure. All emotions that were swirling around in my head amongst the noise. The unaware observer might have thought we’d won it!
A very Bill Nicholson night, in that having set our sights so high and reaching the final, even failure had within it an echo of glory.
Nice one B&WB.