As a Spurs fan; the dream Champions League run, turned into our nightmare final.
Frustration, annoyance, anger, sadness, disbelief. As a Tottenham Hotspur fan since 1990, this is pretty much sums up my footballing life. Sadlt though, these are the words that describe how I felt at the full-time whistle at the end of the 2019 Champions League Final in Madrid.
Scenes: Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino celebrates his side's 2nd leg semi-final 3-2 wIn over Ajax in Amsterdam taking them into the Champions League Final.
After what was an incredible game in the Johan Cruyff Arena for a 2nd leg semi-finals that saw Tottenham steal a 95th minute winner courtesy of a Lucas Moura goal, the feeling amongst most Spurs fans was one of confidence as we headed to Madrid. While I personally would've preferred a testing final against foreign opposition, a final against arguably the best club in Europe over the last two seasons (Man City might want to have a say in that claim) and a domestic rival, there can't be doubt that Liverpool have been the best side in the Champions League tournament since the start of the 2017/18 season.
They reached the final last season against a Real Madrid who thanks to a mistake from Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius and a stunning overhead kick goal from Gareth Bale, one worthy of any international footballing final, confirmed their win, as manager Zinadine Zidane and Los Blancos claim their 4th Champions League title in 5 years, a fantastic achievement for a cub that has historically dominated Europe's premier club competition since it's inception. Just for clarity Real Madrid have 13 European Cup / Champions League's in their trophy cabinet.
Having to face a Premier League opponent has it's advantages because of how familiar both teams are with each other, but over the two league games during the season, Tottenham were arguably the better side on both occasions. In the game at Wembley Spurs were undone by two goalkeeping errors from Michel Vorm, gifting Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino goals in London. At Anfield, Spurs dominated their Merseyside top 4 rivals again, but once again, were defeated thanks to another goalkeeping mistake this time by the ever reliable Hugo Lloris netting into his own goal in the 90th minute.
So things couldn't have got off to a worse start for Spurs when after 30 seconds Saido Mane picked up the ball and flicked it into the armpit of Moussa Sissoko and referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot. A very harsh penalty in my opinion as the ball was going away from goal, it hits Sissoko as far away from his actual hand as is possible and the ball was kicked from such a short distance it was more ball to hand than the other way around. Even so Salah stepped up and slotted the Reds into the lead. Tottenham pushed for the equalizer but they never really penetrated the Liverpool defence.
Key Moment: Referee Damir Skomina points to the spot for this handball without consulting VAR.
Jurgen Klopp and his players may have had the final defeat to Real Madrid 12 months earlier on their minds as they didn't look like the attacking threat we were used to seeing from them, not just from their performances in the league but from their Champions League run too. They seemed weary to commit men forward but were very comfortable siting back as the Spurs attack huffed and puffed.
Harry Kane started the game despite being out with an ankle injury for 7 weeks prior to the final. Many felt Lucas Moura was hard done by as he almost single handedly got Tottenham into the final, but I can't see how Pochettino could not start Kane, either way, he would've been criticized whoever he would've picked after a Tottenham loss. Kane looked half the player he is and didn't deliver the goals when it mattered, starved of opportunities, he just couldn't get into the game.
For all the possession they had the goal wasn't coming and the final nail in the coffin came when Origi hammered in a left footed shot into the far right hand side of Lloris's goal, and the game was over. Liverpool claimed their 6th Champions League, and even though this , for me, felt like the Red's worst performance of the season, the experience from last year and the rock solid defence which has been so important for them throughout, won them the title of Europe's best. A well deserved victory and one that , really, all the Spurs players and staff will regret that they didn't make more of the situation they were in. The three weeks from the end of the Premier League season to the Champions League final was said to be a good thing, to allow players to rest, recover and be 100% fresh for the game but it felt like it had the opposite effect and the final was one to forget. Liverpool desperate to not let another final slip from their grasp, and a Spurs team who looked nervous by the occasion.
Defeat: Harry Kane refuses to look at the coveted Champions League trophy as he collects his runner-up medal. Can he help carry his boyhood team into another showpiece European final again?
Who knows if and when Tottenham will ever make a Champions League final. It was such an unexpected experience that us as Spurs fans hand to make the most of it. Watching highlights of the quarter final against Man City as well as hitting repeat on my video of the final seconds of the semi-final against Ajax, it was a roller coaster ride for us and , in my lifetime at least, a great footballing feeling I've never experienced. Yes I remember the FA Cup final win in 1991 and the League Cups that followed in 1999 and 2008 but this was different. Watching videos on social media of the fans celebrate and, for me at least, listening to The Four Seasons December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) constantly in the run up to June 1 the feeling was great and it became the unofficial song during the later half of the season. Money doesn't buy European success (just ask Man City and PSG) so throwing money at the squad won't mean we will make it again anytime soon, but this is definitely a moment in the clubs history Daniel Levy and Mauricio Pochettino need to capitalize on and finally end their trophy hoodoo as soon as possible, they may well never have a better chance than now.