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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.

Guardiola: ‘We’re here to win the Champions League’

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Pep Guardiola has put down a marker as Manchester City beat Real Madrid to reach the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

He now wants his Manchester City side to go on and reach the holy grail and win the Champions League, the trophy their Abu Dhabi owners crave above all others.

Man City beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their Round of 16 second leg, and 4-2 on aggregate, as Guradiola outwitted Zinedine Zidane over two legs to set up a winnable quarterfinal against Lyon in Lisbon, Portugal next Saturday.

Asked by BT Sport after the game what this win against Real Madrid means for Man City and their mentality, Guardiola did not play down their chances.

“For us, it is of course important, we beat them twice. Zizou never lost one knockout game. You see the calm and personality they play with, they are good,” Guardiola said. “But we are here to try and win the Champions League. It is just one step. If we think that is enough, we will show how small of a team we are. To win the Champions League you have to beat the big clubs.”

Man City will face one of those big clubs, likely Bayern Munich or Barcelona, in the semifinal stage of the Champions League but first they have to get past underdogs Lyon, who stunned Juventus as Memphis Depay has led the Ligue 1 side to the last eight.

“I spoke to the scouting department and they told me ‘be alert’ and we have eight days, we will enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, then we will start to think about Lyon,” Guardiola said when asked about their quarterfinal opponents.

Man City are the heavy favorites to beat Lyon and they are the bookies’ favorites to win the Champions League overall.

Pep Guardiola has now piled the pressure on his team to prove just how good they are and even without the injured Sergio Aguero, and with Fernandinho playing at center back, they eased past Real Madrid.

Manchester City have fallen at the quarterfinal stage when favorites in each of the last two seasons and Guardiola knows this is their best chance to win their first-ever Champions League trophy as Bayern Munich or Barcelona are very good, but not unbeatable, if they get past Lyon.

Guardiola looks hungry and he badly wants to win the Champions League for the first time since 2011 as he failed to win the trophy at Bayern Munich and in his first three seasons at Man City.

The stars are aligning for Man City to deliver the one trophy Guardiola hasn’t won since he arrived in Manchester in 2016 and the one trophy the club hasn’t won since their Abu Dhabi owners took over in 2008.

In this year, just a month after they overturned UEFA’s decision to ban them from the Champions League for two seasons, success would surely taste even sweeter for everyone connected with Man City.

Lyon shock Juventus, reach Champions League quarterfinal

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Juventus – Lyon was mean to be a straightforward comeback win for the home side to reach yet another UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

It was anything but as Lyon shocked Juventus to dump Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. out of Europe as Maurizio Sarri’s side continued their poor form since the restart.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions

Juventus won 2-1 on the night, as Ronaldo scored twice but Juve came up one goal short and for the second season running Ronaldo has failed in his quest to lead the Italian giants to the Champions League title.

As for Lyon, who haven’t played in over 5 months as the French league was cancelled in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, they put in a heroic display as they now face Manchester City in Lisbon, Portugal in the last eight on Aug. 15.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Lyon got off to the perfect start in Turin, but it was fortunate, as Houssem Aouar won a very dubious penalty kick as VAR checked the decision but somehow it stood.

Memphis clipped home a delicious panenka to put Lyon 1-0 up and leave Juventus needing to score three goals on the night to advance.

Federico Bernardeschi went close and Anthony Lopes saved well from Ronaldo’s free kick as Lyon sat back and soaked up pressure.

Juventus won a penalty kick before half time, as Memphis handled Miralem Pjanic’s free kick but it look harsh as his arm wasn’t in an unnatural position.

Ronaldo slotted home the spot kick to make it 1-1. Game on.

At the start of the second half Ronaldo smashed home a beauty to make it 2-1 as Juve needed one more goal to advance to the last eight.

Ronaldo was everywhere and he then set up Gonzalo Higuain to head home, but his effort was off target from close range.

And Juve couldn’t find one more goal to send them through as Lyon advanced on the away goals rule and shocked everyone by dumping the Italian champions out of Europe.

3 things learned: Man City v. Real Madrid

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Manchester City – Real Madrid was a fairly straightforward win for the hosts, as they reached the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals by beating the 13-time European champions 2-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for Man City after a bad mistake from Raphael Varane was ruthlessly punished. Real’s Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema combined well at times and although Ederson denied them early on, Benzema pulled one back in the first half as Rodrygo’s cross was nodded home by the French striker.

Benzema and Jesus both went close for either team in the second half and the latter made the most of another big mistake from Varane to make it 2-1 and seal Man City’s spot in the quarterfinals for the third-straight season with relative ease.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Etihad, as Manchester City – Real Madrid was an open affair but the hosts always looked in control.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DREAM ALIVE FOR MAN CITY

Pep Guardiola is like Indiana Jones entering the desert on his way to reaching the holy grail. Lisbon is now his ‘Canyon of the Crescent Moon’ as Man City have a quarterfinal, semifinal and final between them and footballing immortality. Man City have longed for Champions League glory and given their successful appeal against their two-season UEFA ban, they will now stride into Lisbon, Portugal as the favorites to be crowned champions of Europe. They strolled past Real Madrid and even without the injured Sergio Aguero, you’d fancy them to sweep all before them to reach the promised land. Man City have always found a way to mess things up in the Champions League but this season feels different. They gave up their Premier League trophy easily to Liverpool but it seemed like the Champions League was always the main focus this season. They now face Lyon in the quarterfinals and then their toughest test, likely either Barcelona or Napoli in the semifinals. Guardiola knows the holy grail is within reach as he is closer than ever to finally delivering the trophy Man City’s Abu Dhabi owners have built this whole project to win.


SLOPPY REAL MADRID EXIT WITH A WHIMPER

Missing captain and legendary Sergio Ramos through suspension from the first leg, Real Madrid needed young defender Edgar Militao to step up in is place. They did not need silky smooth defender Raphael Varane to give the ball away early on to give up a cheap and avoidable goal. Although Real recovered from that early error, they failed to get Luka Modric on the ball as much as they wanted to and Eden Hazard and Benzema only showed flashes of promise. Just when it seemed like Real would push hard for a second goal which would have taken the game to extra time, Varane made another big mistake. And that was that. After impressing in La Liga since the restart and winning the Spanish title, Real Madrid looked remarkably subdued as perhaps a few weeks off before this game impacted them. The Kings of Europe will have to wait another year to add another crown to their collection. Manchester City – Real Madrid was historic, as it marked the first time Zinedine Zidane has ever lost a Champions League game in the knockout rounds. The way his team limped out of Europe was surprising and disappointing for Real Madrid.


PEP BEATS ZIZOU, BUT FALSE NINE FAILS

It was a surprise to see Phil Foden start ahead of David Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva in a game of this magnitude but there’s always a method to Pep’s madness. And it isn’t madness, is it? It’s genius. Just like he did in the first leg at Real Madrid, Pep raised eyebrows as he started a central midfielder (Foden this time, Kevin de Bruyne in the first leg) as a false nine. Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling were rampant from each flank early on, putting defenders under pressure in their own box, and that was how they opened the scoring. But Man City then failed to build on that lead and let Real back into the game. Pep changed things around at half time and Jesus looked more comfortable centrally and so too did Foden. It was a small tweak but it got Man City back on track and Guardiola’s tactical nous made the difference, even though Man City were handed the win on a platter thanks to Real Madrid’s shaky defensive display.

VIDEO: Cristiano Ronaldo scores stunning goal for Juventus v. Lyon

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Cristiano Ronaldo amazing goal video? Cristiano Ronaldo amazing goal video.

Yep, we’ve all been here before.

Ronaldo, 35, smashed home an unstoppable shot to put Juventus ahead on the night and level on aggregate against Lyon ini the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg, as the Portuguese superstar scored his second of the game in style.

Season after season, Ronaldo does this time and time again as he’s now scored 37 goals in all competitions for Juventus this season. He’s 35. This just isn’t normal and all of those who doubted Ronaldo’s move to Juventus should watch him deliver week in, week out and be made to eat their words.

As for this game, he turned it on its head as things did not start well for Juventus at all.

After Memphis Depay scored an early penalty kick to put Lyon ahead in Turin, that meant Juventus had to win at least 3-1 on the night to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

Ronaldo scored a penalty just before half time to make it 1-1 and the comeback was on, then this stunning strike made it 2-1 on the night to Juventus and set up a grand finale.

Watch on in awe as Ronaldo cut in from the right and smashed home with his ‘weaker’ left foot. Safe to say that Ronaldo will have a sore back after carrying Juventus.