What manager Mauricio Pochettino, his staff and players could never have imagined was that Tottenham’s first ever Champions League final would be lost after just 28 seconds.
In what was Liverpool’s very first foray forward, Sadio Mane’s attempted cross hit Moussa Sissoko on the arm and referee Damir Skomina instantly pointed to the spot.
Those in white on the pitch, along with the 17,000 traveling Spurs supporters behind the goal, were shell-shocked.
Liverpool’s talisman Mo Salah confidently stepped up and struck it hard to Hugo Lloris’ left, not for one second looking like missing.
It was a fitting moment of redemption for the Egyptian star, who was forced off in tears with injury in the opening exchanges of last year’s final against Real Madrid.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to say but I’m very happy to play in the second final in a row and play 90 minutes finally,” Salah told BT Sport shortly after the final whistle. “It’s not an individual performance, the whole team was unbelievable today.”
After a flurry of Spurs’ missed chances towards the final whistle, Liverpool’s unlikely Champions League semifinal hero, Divock Origi, sealed the match with a strike in the 88th minute. The final score was 2-0.
For Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s victory — its sixth European Cup triumph and first since 2005 — breaks his curse of six consecutive defeats in major finals and gives the German his first Champions League title in three finals.
“I’m really happy, I have a lot of silver medals now I have a gold medal,” Klopp told reporters after the match. “In the dressing room everyone feels it but you don’t really know what to do with it — but tomorrow when we drive through the city (Liverpool), we will realize what the boys have done.
“I’m happy for the boys. Jordan Henderson is captain of the 2019 Champions League winner, that is satisfying. It was not important for me to touch the trophy, but I loved seeing the pictures of the boys with it. Going to Liverpool tomorrow and having something to celebrate is big.
“The last six occasions I flew with my family on holiday with the silver medal and it doesn’t feel good — so this is for them as well.”
Pandemonium, then quiet
So off-script was that scarcely believable opening 60 seconds, neither side knew what to do next.
At one minute and 48 seconds, it was the second-fastest goal ever scored in a Champions League final.
Tottenham players, to their credit, regained composure almost immediately. Though they controlled much of what followed, a blunt attack not once looked like troubling Liverpool.
Harry Kane — playing for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in the semifinal first leg seven weeks ago — flitted in and out of the game, dropping deep in an attempt to force some creativity.
The Spurs captain mustered just 11 touches of the ball in the first half, less than every other player in white.
Unsurprisingly, Son Heung-min looked like Tottenham’s most threatening player. On two occasions the South Korean’s twinkling feet looked to have evaded Liverpool’s defenders, only to be smothered by more backup in red.
After a heart-pounding start, the game — and the fans — suffered a significant lull. In the 45 minutes that followed Salah’s goal, the stadium was strangely subdued.
Whether it was the stifling Madrid heat, the nerves of the occasion or the bizarre opening 60 seconds that affected the two teams, neither side managed to play the swashbuckling football that had defined their Champions League runs this season.
The stunted football on the pitch was mirrored by the fans in the stands.
Trent Alexander-Arnold fizzed a shot narrowly wide after 15 minutes, temporarily resuscitating a stadium that had mainly fallen into a stunned silence since the opening goal.
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Tottenham fight back
The biggest cheer from the Spurs end in the first 45 minutes came after Salah shanked a volley high above the crossbar.
On a handful of occasions, a pocket of Tottenham fans would attempt to inject some life into the rest of the 17,000 around them.
They would begin to gather momentum, before promptly being drowned out by the swathes of red shirts at the other end of the stadium.
While ‘Allez allez allez’ — Liverpool’s adopted Champions League anthem — sounded at regular intervals in the first half, it was sung with far less gusto than football fans have become accustomed to over the course of the season.
Tottenham knew it needed a reaction in the second half to have any chance of salvaging the game. The club had waited nearly 140 years for this moment, and everybody involved was determined to not go down with a whimper.
Lucas Moura, Spurs’ hat-trick hero in the semifinal against Ajax, forced goalkeeper Alisson Becker into a sharp save after Kieran Trippier’s rasping strike had stung the Brazilian’s hands.
The fans behind the goal Tottenham were now attacking responded to the players’ efforts. For the first time, it was songs from the Liverpool end that were engulfed, fading into the noise of their opponents.
Dele Alli, one of several of Spurs’ big names to have a quiet night, somehow missed a header from underneath the crossbar, but was spared his blushes by the linesman’s flag.
With Liverpool fending off wave after wave of Tottenham attacks and Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip being truly stretched for the first time in almost 90 minutes, Origi found the decisive goal.
A crisp left-foot strike that evaded Lloris’ despairing dive found the bottom corner, causing those in red to truly erupt for the first time.
“I look stupid if I’m going to say we dominated, had 68% possession, had eight shots to their four,” Pochettino said. “The final is about winning, it’s not about deserving it or playing well, it’s about winning. Nobody will remember that we it deserved it more.”
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After 90 fraught, nerve-shredding minutes, it was Origi who provided Liverpool’s moment of catharsis.
As the full-time whistle blew, Liverpool’s bench scattered onto the pitch. Van Dijk held his head in his hands, unable to comprehend the enormity of his achievement.
James Milner held six fingers up to fans, his face contorted with joy, his biceps and veins bulging.
Since Klopp took over four season ago, this team has improved so much together but had ultimately only known defeat and second best.
Tonight, the German and his players walk away with club football’s most coveted prize.
They’ve conquered all of Europe — and you wouldn’t bet on them stopping now.