Player ratings - European Champions edition: Liverpool 2-0 Spurs

Liverpool-team-celebrate-on-open-top-bus
In Madrid, we won it six times. Just let it sink in. Six time European cup winners, more European cups than giants of clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Twice as many as United and as many as every other English team combined. Sounds good doesn’t it? Let’s see how our history makers got on.

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Alisson (9) - If there was one stand out difference between this year’s final and last year’s, it was our goalkeeper. Twelve months on from witnessing a career defining horror show from Karius, our new number one ate up everything Spurs could throw at him. A string of good saves second half and a composed figure of authority throughout - the polar opposite of what we witnessed last year. Don’t get me wrong, Alisson has had more difficult saves to make this season than he did against Spurs but the ease and effectiveness of his contribution, on the biggest of stages, can’t be understated. His goalkeeping was immaculate, what he could hold he did, what needed palmed away was comfortably cleared away from goal. No follow up shots, no second bite at the cherry for Spurs, everything dealt with and dealt with expertly. Man of the match for me.

TAA (7) - The youngest player ever to play in consecutive Champions League finals and this time, he got his hands on the famous trophy. Comfortable throughout, as the team as a whole never got out of third gear. Displayed some of his superb cross field passing and on the whole, was fairly comfortable defensively throughout. A club legend at twenty years old. Fair play son, literally living the dream.

Matip (8.5) - The biggest compliment I can pay Matip is that there has been practically no difference in the performance level of he and Van Dijk over the second half of the season and whisper it quietly but Matip has actually (arguably) shaded Van Dijk with his performances in the last six months. Calm and composed throughout, brought the ball out well as always and was spraying the ball about like a centre midfielder. In fact, our centre midfielders wish they could pass as well as Matip. Some game to pop up with your first assist for the club as well. If Matip can maintain his form moving forward, we arguably have Europe’s top two centre backs. Really pleased for him. Keep it up Joel.

Van Dijk (8) - When it was announced Harry Kane was playing, my response to my mate was ‘I’m not worried, I’ve no doubt Virgil will absolutely eat him.’ My mate being a die hard Celtic fan and so familiar with Virgil’s particular brand of excellence agreed and so it played out as Kane was limited to only four touches in the first half and barely more than twenty the entire game. Van Dijk just dominates forwards and having now won the Champions League, he’s got to be a shoe-in for The Balon D’or this season and it will be thoroughly deserved. I can’t ever remember one player having such an impact on a team. Genuinely seems to love playing for Liverpool as well. What a guy.

Robertson (7) - Robbo became the first Scot to play in a Champions League final since Paul Lambert won the tournament with Dortmund (coincidentally) in 1997 and it’s a proud day for us to have a Champions League winner back in our ranks. Much like Trent, Robbo mirrored the whole team in never really getting out of third gear but once again, dominated his side of the pitch and very nearly scored in the first half. If he’d scored in a Champions League final, I think I’d have fainted and missed the rest of the game. Said this week he’d love to finish his career at Liverpool. Make it so FSG. No, really. Make it so...

Fabinho (7.5) - Our midfield has looked a lot more balanced since Fabinho has become a mainstay and Hendo has moved further forward. He was dominant on the night once again, those long legs nicking back possession time and again. Another brilliant signing from Klopp who started slowly but by the end of his first season, has become undroppable. Can’t wait to see how he develops next season, has the potential to be the world’s best holding midfielder, if he isn’t already.


Henderson (7) - Not a vintage display as such but he led the team superbly through the game, keeping everyone on their toes and not allowing standards to slip. Played a big part in our control of the game and limiting Spurs to very few proper chances. Seeing him breakdown in his dad’s arms after the game showed what it meant to him and nobody deserves it more. A player who divides opinion and has been much maligned throughout his career, is now a Champions League winning captain. How’s that for huff and puff?

Wijnaldum (6) - A vary generous six for Gini as Timp’s greatest fears were realised and he was fairly anonymous throughout. Closed the spaces will and did his part positionally in a midfield that decided to contain Spurs after the early goal but offered little else. Understandably subbed second half.

Salah (7) - Pretty rubbish if truth be told and took a fairly rubbish penalty but who cares, it went in and with it, the demons of Kiev were exorcised. Fair play, it takes a lot of bottle to stick away a penalty inside the first minute of club football’s biggest game and I can’t say I was confident as he was walking up. The net bulged however and after last year’s heartache, I’m really chuffed for him to have scored what turned out to be the winning goal in this year’s final.

Firmino (6) - Like Gini, another fairly generous six as Bobby looked miles off the pace. Clearly not match fit but I understand why Klopp started him and the result ultimately vindicated his decision. Not a performance he’ll look back on as one of his best but I’m sure he couldn’t care less.

Mane (7.5) - Comfortably our best attacker on the night as has been the case for the vast majority of 2019. Looked the most likely to create something and caused Spurs problems all game. We’ve seen Mane, Matip and Trent to name a few, all took their game to another level this season. Long may it continue as Mane really is a lethal forward now.

Subs:

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Milner (7) - Gave us exactly what we needed when he came on, which was a right good injection of huff and puff, mixed with leadership and experience. Played his part in getting us over the line. Delighted for him to get his hands on the only trophy to elude him. What a career he’s had and it’s not over yet, as he’s rumoured to be offered an extension to his contract, which still runs for another twelve months. Well deserved.

Origi (8) - Ok, where’s the Origi statue going? He had three shots in this season’s Champions League  and scored them all, two (including the winner) in the semi final against Barca in arguably our most famous ever night at Anfield and one in the final. Not bad for a squad player is it? In fact, we couldn’t have asked for much more from Origi this season. He’s had limited game time but has scored some massive goals when called upon, both in the league and in Europe. His goals to minutes ratio stands up to anyone’s this season and he’s got an excellent attitude. What more do you want from a squad player? Personally, I’d be surprised if anyone still thinks we should get rid of Origi.

Gomez (N/A) - Glad he could play some part in the final after another year ravaged by injury.

Klopp-watch (10) - Jurgen’s getting a ten for delivering our sixth European cup and finally getting that ‘hasn’t won anything’ monkey of his back. The work he has done at our club during his tenure has been nothing short of spectacular and I’m so pleased he has something tangible to show for it, in the shape of the biggest prize in club football. Nobody deserves it more than our boss, especially after his wretched run in finals, both with us and prior. We’ve had three European campaigns under Klopp and reached the final every time. That’s no accident, we have a manager who is a master of European football. I really feel like this is a special period in the club’s history. Let’s get that new contract sorted.

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Summary:

The game itself was actually quite a drab affair, fairly low on quality but it was indicative of what we’ve been doing all season and the fundamental difference in this campaign compared to previous under Klopp and Rodgers before him is, this team just knows how to win and how to manage a game.

The penalty coming so early actually ruined it as a spectacle I thought. Both teams initial game plan went immediately out the window. We moved into ‘phase two’ of our evening’s game plan, as in the plan if we went a goal up and that plan was clearly to contain Spurs and play on the counter and I have to say, we were completely comfortable for the entire match. I never really felt we were under too much pressure or likely to concede and not once was I stressed out my mind as I usually am in finals. These boys have matured together as Klopp said they would and they now operate on an elite level that can turn up and beat a very good team like Spurs, without getting out of third gear.

The other major difference this year, as I mentioned in the ratings - the goalkeeper. Alisson had to make a few decent saves in the game but nothing out of this world. He does that side of the game so effortlessly however. He often has me screaming at the telly with his antics but his basic goalkeeping skills are masterful. His ability, authority and composure spread calm through the team, the polar opposite of what we had in goal last year.

This brings me to my next point. For the first two thirds of FSG’s reign, we were something of a laughing stock in the transfer market. From Andy Carroll, to Benteke, to Balotelli, I could write an article on its own about the amount of transfer flops we’ve had. No more though. Since Klopp has come in, we’ve gone from a laughing stock, to the shrewdest operators in the game and now they have a manager they believe in, were seeing FSG’s true colours.

We’ve always been a high scoring team under Klopp but we were wretched defensively and had a glaring weakness in goal. We twice broke world records to address that and boy did we address it. Alisson and Van Dijk have every right to call themselves the best in the world right now and few could question it. The brilliance of Klopp however from both a fan’s and an owners point of view, is that for every Van Dijk and Alisson, there’s a Robbo and Trent. Eight million pound outlay on the two deadliest fullbacks in the world.

Make no mistake, this was a must win game. I was terrified of the psychological impact it could have had on this team to lose yet another final. We finally got over the line however and that should only increase their thirst for more. For the first time since the Premier League began, I genuinely have us as favourites for the title next season. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for being European champions for the sixth time.

Number six was for you Bev. You’ll never walk alone
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