Liverpool overcame Tottenham Hotspur in a cagey game to win Europe’s biggest club tournament for a historic sixth time. Here are four numbers that defined Liverpool’s Champions League campaign and eventual European supremacy.
6- Liverpool have won the Champions League for the sixth time. This takes them to third on the all-time winners list, behind only Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7). Before the win in Madrid, Liverpool were tied with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, with five tournament wins. The Reds’ sixth title also means that they have won more European Cups than all other English teams combined. Given Liverpool’s European form and pedigree, don’t bet against them catching up with Milan soon.
3- Jürgen Klopp is one of the best managers in the world, but had one unenviable record—of not winning a major European trophy despite being part of three finals. He laid that to rest with this win, finally getting to lift “Ol’ Big Ears” on his third attempt. He had come close in 2013 with Borussia Dortmund. Klopp had already won the Bundesliga twice in a row by then, and, in the 2012-13 season, his Dortmund team played some breathtaking football to reach a final showdown with arch-rivals Bayern Munich. They lost the final 2-1.
In the 2017-18 season, Klopp’s Liverpool were in similarly imperious form, blowing away Manchester City and Roma in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively, before being beaten by an experienced Real Madrid side in the final. In between, Liverpool, under Klopp, had stormed to the Europa League final against Porto in 2015-16, only to collapse to a 3-1 defeat.
This time though, Klopp and his team held their nerve and used all the experience they have garnered to get over the line against Tottenham Hotspur.
3-Move over, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, there’s a new super-sub in town. Divock Origi was signed by Liverpool in 2014, as a 19-year-old with a big future. In his five seasons at the club, the Belgian has never really clicked, having scored 28 goals in a stop-start career where the best he could hope for was a cameo or as cover for Liverpool’s established strikers. But the season he has had can’t be quantified just in numbers. He has scored just six goals in the league and the Champions League, but at least five of them were crucial.
In the Champions League particularly, he scored a crucial brace in the second leg of the semi-final at Anfield as Liverpool steamrolled Barcelona to win 4-0 in an unforgettable game. In the final against Spurs, he came on as a substitute to score the second goal of the game at the 87th minute to seal the Cup for Liverpool. It’s safe to say Origi will probably never score another three goals of such season-defining importance in his career.
140- Liverpool’s defence has long been the team’s Achilles heel. Although sides of recent vintage—like the 2013-14 team that ran Manchester City close for the league or the 2017-18 Klopp vintage that played breathtaking football to get to the Champions League final—scored a ridiculous number of goals, they were often hamstrung by a weak defence. In last year’s Champions League final, goalkeeper Loris Karius’ howlers practically gifted Real Madrid the Cup.
This year’s Liverpool were a vastly different beast. With the Brazilian Alisson Becker in command between the sticks and defender Virgil Van Dijk, who won the PFA Player of the Year, in imperious form, Liverpool balanced their attacking football with miserliness at the back.
The final against Tottenham was a case in point. Liverpool played more like a peak-José Mourinho team than a Klopp one. The Spurs players didn’t get any purchase against the well-drilled defence comprising Trent Alexander Arnold, Jöel Matip, Van Dijk and Andy Robertson. When Spurs did threaten, Becker was there to mop things up with eight saves, a Champions League record.
Liverpool paid £75 million (around ₹652 crore) for Van Dijk in January 2018, a world record fee for a defender, and again broke the bank in June 2018 for Alisson (£65 million), but that combined outlay of £140 million now looks like small change, such has been their impact.
16- After the Champions League final was won, Mohamed Salah revealed that he glanced at a photograph of him looking distraught at the final in Kiev the previous year, before the match against Tottenham. Forced out with a dislocated shoulder at 30 minutes after a rough challenge from Sergio Ramos in 2018, Salah was in tears.
This year, he used that photograph to motivate himself. “I was very disappointed that I got injured and went out after 30 minutes and we lost the game. It was something to motivate me to win. I didn’t look at the picture for a long time. You can feel what you can beat, so I just looked at it one time and said, ‘OK, let’s go,’” he said. He scored the first goal of the match, a second-minute penalty, and though he was not quite at his best, he caused the Tottenham defence problems throughout the game. He has now scored 16 invaluable goals over two Champions League seasons for Liverpool.