Tactical Analysis: Sturdy Liverpool hold off plucky Spurs challenge to seal Champions League crown
Written by: Ajay A K
A sixth Champions League trophy came true for the Reds thanks to a goal in each half.
After two terrific comebacks against Barcelona and Ajax respectively, Liverpool and Tottenham face each other in what was a defining moment for both their clubs and their managers. Both Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp were yet to win a trophy for their teams, despite the sides putting in remarkable performances and creating fanbases with their brand of football.
Liverpool set themselves up in their standard but deadly 4-3-3, with the front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the key to their pressing game. The energy and pace of the trio were key for the high pressing side favoured by Klopp. Tottenham were in their 4-2-3-1 with Harry Winks returning to the squad after a long injury lay-off. The likes of Eriksen and Son Heung-min looked to occupy half-spaces and create overloads for the Spurs to exploit. The quick passing game Pochettino prefers was both the bane and the boon for his side.
Liverpool started the game with a direct approach, trying to find the pacy Mane and Salah from deep. Their direct approach aimed to push the Tottenham players backward and then utilize the spaces in the middle. And their penalty came through this direct approach. Despite the goal and the high pressure, Tottenham tried to build-up play from the back. They were creating inroads steadily but failed to utilize their domination on the ball to great effect due to their lack of clinicality in the final third. The attacking full-backs from Liverpool withdrew offensively, being dominant more defensively.
However, whenever Spurs pressed high, both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson drifted forward to the vacant spaces. Most of Liverpool chances after taking the lead came through their marauding full-backs. The first half was pretty evenly matched in terms of domination, but Liverpool held the better chances. The pace of Mane and Salah did create problems for the Spurs defense, but it did not pose a potent enough threat to double the scoreline.
The second half started in a similar way to how the first half started with Tottenham moving the ball well and trying to find gaps in the Liverpool defense. Klopp’s men were aiming to be more direct and whenever the Spurs defense came in compact, they used the spaces in between to penetrate and push bodies forward.
The Reds' shot-stopper pulled off some crucial saves to seal the win
Tottenham soon started to grow into the game and controlling the tempo, began to create more concrete chances, grabbing whatever slipped through the wall of Virgil van Dijk and his fellow defensive partners. But Tottenham’s search for equalizer did leave a lot of spaces for the Reds to attack. The Reds did sneak odd chances but lacked clinicality similar to Spurs in the final third. Poch’s side was slowly creating the better of chances but whenever they got past the Reds’ wall led by Virgil van Dijk, there were the strong sturdy hands of Alisson Becker denying them a chance to get back into the game.
Alisson denied Heung-Min son and pulled off a stop to prevent Lucas Moura from equalizing. He then pushed away Christian Eriksen’s free-kick from the edge of the box towards the end of the second half. A scrappy corner allowed the ball to fall on Divock Origi’s feet for the Belgian to double’s Liverpool lead three minutes before the end of normal time. Tottenham’s desperate attempts to pull one back where stopped sturdily by the Reds as they marched on to their sixth Champions League trophy and Klopp’s first final victory.
It was a story of grabbing the chance when it presented itself for Liverpool, weathering a well-drilled Tottenham side that found ways to escape the systematic pressing from Klopp’s side. The Spurs’ double-midfield pivot had great potential to shine but the early setback forced them to rush things a little bit in their bid to find the equalizer.
Their lack of effectiveness hit the Spurs hard and Pochettino will be impressed by how far the team has gone during this season despite the lack of new signings. For Klopp, it is a culmination of the amazing work he has done with Liverpool. His legacy will reverberate through time, not just for the UCL trophy but also for the incredible league campaign where the Reds finished one point off the top.
Published: Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:14 AM IST