Mohamed Salah focus as Egyptian makes the difference for Liverpool despite average display

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Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League final as the Reds claimed their sixth European trophy.

The Egyptian scored in the second minute after he converted a penalty following Moussa Sissoko’s handball. Divock Origi doubled their advantage on the 87th minute to confirm victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Here, we take a look at Salah’s performance.

KEY STATS

Goals: 1

Assists: 0

Shots (on target): 6 (1)

Passes (success-rate): 16 (44%)

Key-passes: 1

Dribbles: 0

Tackles: 0

Dispossessed: 0

30-SECOND REPORT

Having sustained a shoulder injury in the early stages of last season’s Champions League final, Salah was hungry to prove his mettle as a big-game player and lead Liverpool to their sixth Champions League crown.

With Spurs enjoying the bulk of possession, Salah’s role changed into a more defensive one early on following his penalty, as he helped restrict ball-playing from the back. From an offensive sense he was closely marked by Jan Vertonghen and was restricted from getting on the ball himself. Despite showing flashes, he didn’t get close to another magical moment after his penalty.

GOT RIGHT

Rose to the occasion: The pressure that accompanies a Champions League final – especially when you’re the talisman of the team – is truly immense. Salah had a few nervy moments while trying to pull the trigger, but he rose to the occasion when his team needed him to. Ultimately, the night will be remembered for the indelible impact he had on the game – a goal that set the tone for most of what was a dour contest.

Threat on the counter: With Spurs pushing for a goal, it was only a matter of time before Salah’s pace began to cause serious problems. Both Sadio Mane and Salah were dangerous on the counter but failed to threaten Hugo Lloris.

GOT WRONG

Shooting accuracy: It was one of those nights for Salah when the ball just wasn’t connecting right. He hit six shots, only one of which was on target. There were occasions where he could have done a lot better given his quality, but he failed to do so. To his credit, the Egyptian struck the goal that decided the fate of the game.

VERDICT

Clearly, it was not the best of nights for the former Roma man, but the Champions League medal on his mantlepiece will have you believe otherwise. Salah deserves the plaudits for his early goal and diligence in a thoroughly professional display.

RATING: 6/10

Stats from whoscored.com

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Champions League final: Solid defence secures Liverpool win after early shock for Tottenham

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Mohamed Salah‘s involvement in the Champions League final came to a premature end last year but it took less than two minutes for him to put things right this time around as his early effort was integral to Liverpool lifting their sixth European title.

It wasn’t a scintillating display against Tottenham from the Egyptian but a debatable penalty decision saw him convert from the spot early on and put Liverpool in the driving seat, a position they simply refused to surrender.

Spurs struggled to comeback from that devastating blow and offered little of note going forward. An 87th minute strike from Divock Origi then put the tie to bed at the Wanda Metropolitano.

SHOCK START

The Europa League final’s first half was a bit of a non-event and that of the Champions League followed suit – apart from the startling moment of controversy barely 30 seconds into proceedings of course.

Mane’s cross struck Sissoko yards away from him inside the penalty area and referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot, much to the surprise of all onlookers. Replays show that the Spurs midfielder indeed had his arm extended but the ball appears to strike him on the armpit before possibly rolling onto his hand.

Even after VAR reviewed the incident, the original decision stood and Salah slammed home from 12 yards to give Liverpool a dream start.

For Spurs, the early setback was a shock they struggled to recover from. It was evident in their play that they were rattled while the Reds were naturally the more settled outfit having secured the early lead.

The Londoners were sloppy with their passing and when they did get into dangerous positions, loose touches or poor decisions saw them fluff their lines.

The dubious nature of the decision coupled with the timing of the goal impacted Spurs heavily.

DRAB AFFAIR BUT DEFENSIVE MASTERCLASS

Unfortunately, that start – however controversial – was the best part of this final. The early goal gave Liverpool something to hold on to. They weren’t exactly sitting deep but there was a certain passivity and caution about their play that Rafa Benitez would’ve been proud of.

Spurs were eventually forced to push ahead and take risks but Liverpool were under no such obligation and it told. Over the course of the 90 minutes, Mauricio Pochettino’s side had eight attempts on target, Jurgen Klopp’s had three and they scored twice.

For two sides that emerged victorious from exhilarating semi-finals second leg fixtures, they managed to produce the polar opposite for the ‘showpiece’ event.

Credit though must be attributed to Liverpool’s outstanding defence. Under no pressure to press ahead, the Reds maintained their shape well and comfortably dealt with any threat the opposition posed.

For all the celebrated attacking play and the plaudits the front three are regularly bestowed with, it’s the defensive improvement that’s been most telling and it’s what made Liverpool champions here.

Even when the lively – if erratic – Son Heung-min when on a sharp run through the middle and burst into the box, he couldn’t escape Virgil van Dijk who kept pace with every stride before thwarting him with a final lunge.

Liverpool defence

NO SPARK FOR SPURS

There’s a fair bit of sympathy for Spurs after that nightmare start and it was always going to knock them back onto the ropes. But where was the fight they showed against Ajax that dragged them into this final.

It may sound harsh but for many of these players, this was the game of their lives and it may have passed them by. Harry Kane, rushed back from injury, could only muster touches in the first half – no one had fewer. Harry Winks failed to pass the ball with authority and Kieran Trippier endured one of his worst performances of the season.

Lucas Moura, the hero in Amsterdam, started on the bench and failed to be the catalyst Spurs needed when he was introduced.

Make no mistake, the north London outfit were dealt a bad hand to begin with but what of the remaining 88 minutes plus injury time? They showed more intensity in the majority of their Premier League games this season than they did on this, the most important of nights.

Harry Kane

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A extremely professional display from Liverpool saw them clinch their sixth European crown in a Champions League final that used up most of its drama within the first minute.

Mohamed Salah fittingly dispatched a penalty – from a contentious Moussa Sissoko handball – in the Spanish capital, helping to banish painful memories of last year’s defeat to Real Madrid.

Tottenham were never truly in it as a superb Liverpool rearguard bottled up the Spurs attack, before the Reds’ super sub Divock Origi fired home late on to take the club’s remarkable European record to even greater heights.

Here are our Liverpool ratings …

TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1)

Hugo Lloris – Could have saved the penalty, generous height and right by his hand. Problems went far deeper than him, though 5

Kieran Trippier – Can finally say goodbye to a personally poor season. Out of position numerous times, as were his crosses 3

Jan Vertonghen – Went down early on with elbow injury. His calamitous header in danger area led to Origi goal 5

Toby Alderweireld – Could have got far tighter for second goal. Sluggish passing from back did not help Spurs one bit 5

Danny Rose – Quietly enhanced his reputation as one of the best left-backs in Europe. Wasn’t much invention in front of him 7

Harry Winks – Saw a lot of the ball and was tidy with it, but Spurs needed a more dynamic player to help break Reds down 6

Moussa Sissoko – Does he have a right to feel aggrieved? Maybe. But in the box, arm outstretched … just don’t do it 5

Dele Alli – The Dele who took games by the scruff of his neck has disappeared over the last 18 months. Will we see him again? 5

Christian Eriksen – Spurs were crying out for his magic with Liverpool so disciplined. One decent free-kick all to show for it 5

Son Heung-min – Strange game. At the centre of most Spurs attacks, for better or for worse. Better in second half 6

Harry Kane – Whether it was defensive brilliance or not, a bottled-up Kane wasn’t anywhere near his sharpest 4

SUBSTITUTES

Lucas Moura (66′) – Should have started in hindsight, but didn’t light the Wanda on fire during his 25-minute cameo 6

Eric Dier (74′) – Desperately poor clearance alongside Vertonghen error handed Origi the chance to clinch it 5

Fernando Llorente (82′) – Afforded very little time to assert his physicality up top N/A

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