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Three things learned: Tottenham v. Liverpool, Champions League Final

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MADRID — Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday, as Mohamed Salah‘s early penalty kick and Divock Origi‘s late goal was enough to edge Jurgen Klopp‘s men past Mauricio Pochettino‘s side.

[ MORE: Klopp reacts ]

In a game lacking in quality throughout, a handball given against Moussa Sissoko which resulted in a penalty 23 seconds into the game set the tone for a game riddled with errors.

Klopp and his Liverpool players celebrated wildly at the final whistle, as the German has won his first trophy as their manager and their sixth European title. In a season where Liverpool’s defensive unit has often won them games, they held firm once again as a lackluster Harry Kane and Spurs failed to make the most of several second half chances.

Here’s what we learned from a tense, dramatic encounter in the searing heat in Madrid, as Liverpool were crowned Champions of Europe for the first time since 2005.


HANDBALL CALL HARSH, BUT CORRECT

This is the last thing any player on either side wanted to happen 23 seconds into the match. Moussa Sissoko was the unlucky man.

Sadio Mane‘s clipped ball inside first hit Sissoko’s side then his outstretched arm, and in the laws of the game that is a penalty kick whether it was deliberate or not. UEFA’s head of referees Robert Rossetti said that “if the defender is making the body bigger in order to block the ball it is not fair” and that is what referees will make the call on.

Was this moment below fair on Sissoko? No. A few years ago there would have been outrage had this penalty been given. But under the new rules and the VAR world we live in, it had to be given.

That moment set the tone for a game where Liverpool largely held Tottenham at arms length.


SALAH, KLOPP GET THEIR TROPHY IN POOR FINAL

A punishing swipe of the Egyptian King’s right foot set Liverpool on their way to being crowned Champions of Europe.

Mohamed Salah didn’t play his best game, and both teams gave the ball cheaply in one of the worst finals in recent memory. Maybe it was the pressure of such a big occasion. Maybe the extreme Spanish heat. Or maybe, and more likely, it was the fact that these finely-tuned athletes had a three-week break after a punishing 10-month season and then had to restart their engines for the grand finale.

For large parts of the game Salah was hardly anywhere near the ball. But the way he celebrated his penalty kick showed just how much that moment meant to him. After being injured early in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final last season, this was Salah’s shot at redemption. It wasn’t the best penalty kick he’s ever taken but it wasn’t about that. It was about scoring and exorcizing the demons from last season’s final.

Salah and Liverpool didn’t know if they would get another chance to play in the Champions League final and the way Salah’s final, and Liverpool’s hopes, were ended prematurely last season suggested he may not lead them to glory like he was supposed to after a glorious debut campaign.

But after Liverpool came up agonizingly short in the Premier League title race, Salah’s general brilliance helped lead them to the final in Madrid and his powerful penalty kick won them the trophy they deserved after such a stunning campaign. And Klopp can now shut everyone up as he has delivered the European Cup after losing his first three finals as Liverpool manager and his last six as a manager.

Liverpool are the Kings of Europe once again.


KANE GAMBLE BACKFIRES

It was the call which would decide not only the legacy of Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur, but likely that of the club itself.

And he got it wrong. With incredible emotions swirling around both sets of fans in the Spanish capital ahead of the game, it seems like starting Kane was a heart over head decision by Pochettino.

Harry Kane hadn’t played since April 9 when he injured his ankle against Manchester City and he looked like it. Pochettino decided to start Kane up top and leave out Lucas Moura, and that decision backfired. Spurs’ talisman looked unable to crank into third gear, let alone fourth or fifth, and his first touch was off and Tottenham’s entire attack faltered because Kane couldn’t manoeuvre himself deeper to create space for Alli and Son. Of course, Liverpool scoring in the second minute meant they could sit back and defend their lead, but Kane, as expected, just wasn’t his normal self.

Son, Alli and Christian Eriksen all struggled to impact the game and it was only when Lucas Moura came on in the second half that Spurs looked dangerous and able to get behind Liverpool’s defense but Alisson denied them on several occasions. Kane had 11 touches in the first half, fewer than any other player on the pitch. He had a few dangerous moments late on, but that was when Spurs had thrown everyone forward and had Liverpool pinned back.

The decision to start Kane will be remembered as a huge mistake by Pochettino. Not just because Kane didn’t score, but because he ruled with his heart over his head.

Hudson-Odoi reportedly agrees to huge new Chelsea deal

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Callum Hudson-Odoi‘s promise and performance have earned him a very rich five-year new deal, especially given his young age, according to the BBC.

Oh, and his agent certainly deserves some credit, given the rumored and continued pursuit of the Chelsea star from Bayern Munich and other clubs.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

The Englishman turns 19 in November, and plays primarily on the left wing. Rumors of his departure were rooted in his desire for playing time, and Maurizio Sarri gave him a little more than 1000 minutes in which Hudson-Odoi produced five goals and five assists.

Hudson-Odoi must feel assured of a faster track to regular playing time under new manager Frank Lampard, and Chelsea must feel his ruptured achilles tendon will heal up properly.

None of his 2018-19 goals were in the Premier League, but Hudson-Odoi struck four times in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League trophy.

He missed the last month of the system of the season the aforementioned tendon injury, and he’ll earn close to $125,000 a week on his new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Wow.

That would’ve been the highest salary on nine Premier League teams last season, a tied for 47th in the Premier League last season (Spotrac).

Exactly who is Newcastle’s new $50M striker?

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Newcastle United’s club record signing of Joelinton is raising plenty of eyebrows, as fans try to grasp what they have in the $50 million Brazilian.

Suffice it to say that there isn’t an easy comparison.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old scored seven goals with five assists in Bundesliga play for Hoffenheim last season, adding four and two from Champions League and German Cup play.

[ MORE: Man Utd chase Pepe, Fernandes ]

He’s a unit, to be sure, at 6-foot-1 with tremendous leaping ability and a powerful stride. Joelinton certainly has the ability to dominate in the air and hold the ball up like Newcastle’s loan star Salomon Rondon in 2018-19, but he brings better passing than most center forwards.

There’s a temptation to compare him to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, another Premier League import from Brazil via Hoffenheim, as Joe Prince-Wright wrote in his morning post about the impending deal.

Firmino was on another level in 2014-15, coming off a remarkably complete seasons for a center forward. He also shoots more often than Joelinton.

What Newcastle supporters will like from Joelinton, what makes him unique for his size, is that he’s a tremendous dribbler. He has trickery to go with his pace, not strictly a locomotive.

His season didn’t have the goals, the Toon will hope, because he was supplying wingers Andrej Kramaric (17 goals) and Ishak Belfodil (16). That could be music to the ears of Miguel Almiron and… whoever else Steve Bruce has to deploy (Yoshinori Muto? Jacob Murphy?).

Joelinton also played less than minutes than the following three comparables: West Ham import Sebastien Haller, Watford target Ismalia Sarr, and Wolves star Raul Jimenez.

Will he be worth the spend? The six-year deal promises profit potential — something Mike Ashley and chief scout Graham Carr are clearly targeting — if he explodes and earns the admiration of bigger sides. As for now, he should be able to provide what Rondon did in 2018-19.

Filipe Luis signs for Flamengo after leaving Atletico

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazilian veteran left-back Filipe Luis has signed for boyhood club Flamengo after leaving Atletico Madrid on a free transfer.

The Rio de Janeiro club and the player confirmed the move Tuesday on social media.

Flamengo said the 33-year-old Luis has signed a deal until 2021.

Luis has played in Europe for 14 years but left Atletico on Sunday after his contract expired.

The left-back was a starter for Brazil during its recent run to the Copa America title.

With Atletico, Luis won the Copa del Rey in 2013, the Spanish league in 2014, and the Europa League in 2012 and 2018. He also had a brief spell with Chelsea in between, winning the Premier League in 2015.

Flamengo is third in the Brazilian championship after 11 matches, five points behind leader and defending champion Palmeiras.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS expansion side Austin FC name Wolff as first-ever head coach

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Former USMNT forward  Josh Wolff has become the first-ever head coach of Austin FC, as the MLS expansion franchise crack on with their expected entry into North America’s top-flight in 2021.

Wolff, 42, was the assistant coach for D.C. United before moving to the Columbus Crew were he worked as Gregg Berhalter’s assistant for the past five years. Wolff was then hired as Berhalter’s assistant when he took charge of the USMNT.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Austin FC say that Wolff will start his new job after the international window in November as he will continue with his current job with U.S. Soccer until then.

“I know that Austin has a true love of soccer, and it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the first ever major league team of any kind in the Capital of Texas,” Wolff said. “Our stated ambition is to establish ourselves quickly within MLS as a vibrant, attacking side and we want to reflect the diverse, competitive, and passionate makeup of our club’s home, both on and off the field.”

This move makes total sense as former Columbus Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, knows Wolff from their time together in Ohio. Precourt excercized his option to move his MLS franchise from Columbus to Austin which was confirmed in January 2019.

The Crew have since been kept in Columbus and Precourt is now the chairman and CEO of Two Oak Ventures, the entity which owns the rights to operate Austin FC and its stadium, while also holding the title of chairman and CEO of Austin FC. Austin FC’s new stadium at McKalla Place (the stadium and the complex around it looks pretty incredible) is privately funded and will hold 20,500 fans when it is completed.

Hiring a former MLS and USMNT star to lead the team makes a lot of sense and Wolff’s name has been mentioned plenty when MLS jobs have become available in recent years. He was on both the 2002 and 2006 USMNT World Cup squads and his experience across MLS and in Europe have given him a unique coaching style.

There is a lot of respect for Wolff among the American soccer community and his playing philosophy is very similar to Berhalter’s. Wolff becoming a head coach is good news for young domestic players.