Early penalty, late strike leads Liverpool to Champions League glory

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Jurgen Klopp finally has the silverware he has craved since taking over Liverpool four years ago.

A controversial penalty given in the first minute of action slotted home by Mohamed Salah set the tone for the match, and Divock Origi killed off the game with three minutes remaining as Liverpool topped Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in a Champions League final punctuated by poor passing and drab tactical organization.

The game in Madrid started in stunning fashion, with Liverpool earning a penalty after just 21 seconds of play. Sadio Mane‘s chipped cross attempt caught his defender Moussa Sissoko off guard, deflecting off the Spurs midfielder’s chest and rebounding off his outstretched arm in the top corner of the penalty area. Sissoko was clearly pointing instructions to a teammate behind him, and Mane’s cross seemed to come earlier than he expected.

That put Salah on the spot, and he delivered a powerful, thumping penalty just over the outstretched arms of a diving Hugo Lloris who guessed right but had little chance of stopping such a blast. The goal for Salah not only gave Liverpool the lead just two minutes into the game, but made him the fifth African to score in a Champions League final, and

Spurs responded well and proved the better side in the opening stages after the goal. They combined nicely at the top of the penalty area on a number of occasions in the opening 20 minutes, but couldn’t work a good look on net. The game devolved into a nervy showcase of uncertainty, with neither side quite sure what it was trying to accomplish. The atmosphere in the stadium also sported a nervous trepidation, not certain what to make of the first half-hour. Both teams passed poorly and neither team did much of anything in the attacking third. Liverpool played extremely conservative after the early opener and Spurs didn’t trouble the Reds back line much.

Finally, on 38 minutes Andy Robertson took aim from distance on the break and forced Lloris into a leaping save, tipping the ball over the bar. On the ensuing corner, Salah blasted a volley miles over the bar. Christian Eriksen down the other end on the stroke of halftime copied Salah, into a good shooting position in front of the box and ripping it into the seats.

After halftime, not much changed. Spurs held much of the possession but both sides proved sloppy. Lloris made a quality save on Robertson again from distance, beating a streaking Sadio Mane to the ball. Mauricio Pochettino brought in semifinal hero Lucas Moura on for Harry Winks with 25 minutes to go, but it was Liverpool substitute James Milner who had the earlier impact, firing a shot agonizingly wide right with Lloris rooted to the spot. Dele Alli looked to chip the goalkeeper but Alisson was on hand to collect easily.

Sissoko went down injured with 17 minutes to go, replaced by Eric Dier in midfield. Alli had a headed attempt on 78 minutes, but couldn’t get on top of the Trippier cross and struck it over the bar with Joel Matip defending. That woke Spurs up, with Son and Moura both testing Alisson in succession entering the final 10 minutes of the match.

With the momentum seemingly shifting in Spurs’ favor, Pochettino looked to capitalize by bringing on Fernando Llorente in place of Alli. Eriksen forced another fabulous save from Alisson with a close-range free kick in the 85th minute, and Son put the ball over the bar on the ensuing corner but was offside anyways.

Liverpool finally put the game to bed in the 87th minute as Origi, on in place of Roberto Firmino, fired a perfectly placed low effort through the legs of Toby Alderweireld and past a diving Lloris into the far corner. The goal for Origi is his third in the Champions League coming on just his third shot.

The final whistle sounded and saw Liverpool champions of Europe for the first time since beating AC Milan in 2005 on that epic outing in Istanbul. The European title is the first for Jurgen Klopp coming on his third try, losing once each previously with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.