Where Tottenham Went Wrong Against Liverpool In The Champions League Final

Tottenham paid a huge price for Harry Kane’s chronic lack of match fitness and I feared it was always going to be that way from the moment Mauricio Pochettino confirmed he would start.

It was almost impossible for the Spurs striker to be more than 30 or 40 per cent of his maximum fitness after the ankle injury he suffered against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final and, for much of this game, he was chugging like a tugboat.

He’d have been a much better option coming on at 1-0 down with 25 minutes of the regulation 90 and, maybe, extra-time remaining.

Because that way he would have been going up against players who were more fatigued rather than players at their freshest, particularly given the heat in Madrid.

As it happened, he had to play in an emotionally-draining, physical ­environment against arguably the best pound-for-pound central defender in world football and he barely troubled Virgil van Dijk.

I fully understand how difficult it would have been for Pochettino because Kane is his top scorer and talisman.

He’ll have been in Pochettino’s ear every day for the past fortnight as well: “I want to play, gaffer, I want to play.” The early penalty conspired against Tottenham as well but they did have enough momentum in either half ­because they passed the ball through midfield very well.

Heung-min Son was played through for a decent opportunity during the first half and, had Lucas Moura been up alongside him rather than Kane, then between them they could well have ­created an opportunity to send Spurs in at the interval level-pegging. Moura is more direct, quicker over five or six yards, and that would have worked in Spurs’s favour.

Pochettino finally introduced Moura with 25 minutes to go but for the wrong Harry.

Harry Winks was one of Tottenham’s best players, maybe even their best, and I’d have taken Kane off.

Pochettino continued to gamble but it didn’t pay off and there were times, especially before half-time, when Spurs were almost playing with 10 men. As for the early penalty, by the rulebook it was right but I always look at these things from an old-school angle.

And unless you put your hand out and try to stop the direction and flight of the ball, I’m always ­going to question it.

This time Sadio Mane’s cross hit Moussa Sissoko on a breast plate, under an arm, and rolled to hit his outstretched right arm.

I just wonder if, in the first 30 seconds of a final, and particularly one of this magnitude, referee Damir Skomina could have said, ‘I’ll let that one go’.

What was also ­noticeable was the lack of tempo throughout the game and, for managers, it has to be difficult to know whether to beast players or take them off the bridle during the three weeks between the end of the season and the showpiece finale.

You have to take that from the ­players themselves, some want to go in and do extra and stay right on top of it, some want a break.

Roberto Firmino (right with Origi) is usually Liverpool’s hardest-working player and he looked tired and not ­really with it.

It was a problem for both teams that their ­pivotal player looked a little bit out of sorts.

In some cases it was almost like they were playing in a pre-season game and not a Champions League final, with players not quite getting where they wanted to.

They were undercooked, the heat and emotion made it look a slow-motion version of the two teams we know are in there.

But Liverpool, thanks to that Mo Salah penalty and Divock Origi’s late strike, just did enough to lift the trophy for a sixth time.

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