Liverpool's final performance never hit the heights of earlier in the competition, but few Reds fans will care after an early Mo Salah penalty and late Divock Origi strike saw Tottenham beaten 2-0 in Saturday evening’s far from classico Champions League final at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Salah’s penalty inside two minutes was the perfect start for Liverpool, but the game then dragged along uneventfully for most of the 90 minutes until unlikely hero Origi provided the night's best moment of quality to secure the trophy.
After all the excitement generated by both teams’ rollercoaster paths to the final, the decider itself was a let-down with both Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino’s sides falling horribly flat.
But last year's beaten finalists had the greater experience, and took their chances when they came, with Spurs looking quite stage struck in their first ever UCL final.
The complex stage sets from the predictably lame pre-game ceremony had barely been cleared away when Liverpool winger Sadio Mane got in down the left, checked back and crossed. Although Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko was just a few years away when he made himself big to block, referee Damir Skomina pointed quickly to the spot for handball.
Salah’s penalty was pretty central, and not perfectly struck. Having already committed himself to his left, keeper Hugo Lloris could turn his head to watch but not move a shoulder as the ball passed a couple of inches away. It was the fastest goal in a Champions League final since Paolo Maldini put Milan ahead of Liverpool after just 51 seconds in Istanbul in 2005.
After such a lightning start, the energy almost immediately fizzled away. Neither team appeared sure how to react to the early goal, and there were many more balls hit aimlessly out of play than passages of joined-up football. The first 45 minutes had the lowest pass completion of any game in this season’s Champions League. Which is not a good look for the final.
By half-time Spurs had 61% possession but just two shots at goal. Both flew way too high, from Sissoko and Christian Eriksen. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s two best attempts were hopeful long-shots from their full-backs Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson, neither of which were enough to properly worry a shaky looking Lloris.
It was pretty poor quality fare from two teams hyped pre game as well-oiled machines, expertly carrying out masterplans from coaches Klopp and Pochettino.
Perhaps it was the familiar problem in this showpiece fixture of two teams from the same country both not rising to the occasion. The three week gap since the end of the Premier League also did not help. Nor did centre-forwards Harry Kane and Roberto Firmino looking well below match sharpness in their first games back from injury.
Half-time did not change much, but both teams had half chances soon after the resumption. Lloris did well to reach Robertson’s cross ahead of Sane, before Dele Alli’s shot was blocked by Virgil Van Dijk. Both sets of fans inside the stadium were also noisier as they tried to lift their sides.
Reds substitute James Milner drew gasps with a 20 yard slider in front of his team’s supporters. Tottenham fans wanted another handball penalty call at the other end but Skomina said no.
Pochettino sending on semi-final hero Lucas Moura for midfielder Harry Winks opened the game up. Son Heung-min, probably Spurs’ brightest player and he tried to accelerate through the middle but Virgil Van Dijk covered. Alli then headed over from Kieran Trippier’s cross.
Into the last 15 minutes and Tottenham at least kept pushing - Allisson was finally being forced into some decent work, with saves from Son and Moura. The Brazilian then should have hit the target when a corner fell his way eight yards out. But he did not.
That was Spurs last hope. Moments later, three different defenders should have easily cleared James Milner’s corner, but the ball found its way to fellow sub Origi at the back post, and he hit an excellent low finish inside the far post.
Just like against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg, the Belgian emerged as an unlikely hero. But a player almost loaned to Huddersfield last summer was the most decisive player in this year’s Champions League - with all his three shots in just over 200 minutes of playing time finding the net.
For the first time since an emotional rendition pre-game, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out around the stadium as last year’s finalists closed in on their sixth European Cup, and Klopp’s infamous record of losing finals was ending.
Neither of these teams had been among the top six favourites to win the competition last August - and both had looked almost certainly eliminated at various times along the way. In the end Liverpool did not play anywhere close to their best tonight, but they did not need to.
: Lloris 6; Trippier 6, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6, Rose 6; Winks 5, Sissoko 5; Alli 5, Eriksen 6, Son 7; Kane 5.
Lucas Moura 6, Dier 6, Llorente N/R.
Alisson 8; Alexander-Arnold 7, Matip 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 8; Henderson 6, Fabinho 7, Wijnaldum 5; Salah 6, Firmino 5, Mane 8.
Origi 8, Milner 6,