by Harry Hawthorne June 07, 2019
By Harry Hawthorne - @harryhawthorne
At the time of writing this piece, the emotional power of Liverpool’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur has refused to be displaced in my mind. Nearly a week has passed since the Reds clinched their sixth European Cup in Madrid and it feels like everything in my life, never mind my head, has been shelved. It’s been difficult enough to describe to others the unadulterated and pure joy that the Reds have pumped in to our hearts, never mind to put it in to writing.
For the uninitiated, the fans of everyone else to put it bluntly, Liverpool winning the Champions League represents a very good football team winning a very big trophy. But for us, for all of us, we only have to look at Jordan Henderson’s embrace with his father, the sheer disbelief on the face of our Trent Alexander-Arnold and the astounding number supporters painting the streets of Liverpool red as their side paraded the biggest of trophies to understand why this victory means so much to so many. Personally, the memories of being with friends and celebrating something that has provided almost unrivalled joy will stick with me for the rest of my days.
The bragging rights, pure pride and night to savour this team has gifted us only tells half the tale. The whole journey to another European Cup victory has been largely unprecedented and makes last year’s push to Kiev infinitely sweeter. The loss to Real Madrid would have always felt bittersweet without the Red’s recent victory. The moments and stories created on the way to last season’s final would have always felt special, football’s magic isn’t just about a win but the experience of watching your team failing and winning that makes so many catch the bug that is this sport.
Kiev and the run to the final that proceeded it would have stuck close to us forever. But rather than representing a story on its own, Liverpool’s loss now seems like an opening chapter to an ongoing epic. We have had the first two acts, or possibly the first few chapters of many more to come but crucially, not one part of Liverpool’s latest triumph feels like the end. Saturday’s victory does not just represent a trophy for a football team, but a reference point for a truly special side to lay down a marker for what comes next.
To lay praise to the stunning brilliance of this Liverpool team seems almost too on the nose. It is there for everyone to see and savour. The ego and strength that for so long seemed to have vanished from the club paired with world-class ability of everyone involved in this side’s success is simply staggering when examining where the club sat in the hierarchical ladder that is European Football.
Pre-Klopp, Liverpool were floundering. By no means a disastrous side but by no means one that could realistically challenge for elite honours either. A push towards the title in 2014 is well documented as a moment rather than a part of something bigger. Everything about that whirlwind of a season seemed immediate and pressing. Win and go down in Liverpool history or fail and come to terms with an opportunity missed. Emotion is a strange thing in football. With it, Liverpool do not come close to clinching the title in 2014 but being able to detach themselves from the pressure it brings could be seen as one of that side’s greatest downsides.
And this is where this Liverpool team thrives. The emotion of the Kop and the defiance of Klopp’s men against Barcelona at Anfield this season was the key factor that put Liverpool through on the night. But this is threaded together with a strong string - defined by nous and a cold-hearted ruthlessness that only the best teams possess. So many league games this season were won due to the combination of these factors. Emotion tied together with the footballing ability to detach, take a step back and go for the jugular.
This was exhibited in Madrid on Saturday. To say that Liverpool played well would be hard to argue for the most optimistic of supporters. And while it is the case it didn’t matter in the end it is the fact that Liverpool didn’t let it matter that is key. Liverpool’s midfield and forward line largely struggled on the night; the ball wasn’t treated nearly as well as it has been for the vast majority of this season.
For most sides this is a problem that loses them a game, that means that a side comes up short. For Liverpool, others stepped up. Both centre-halves showcased what has made them one of Liverpool’s most effective defensive cores in modern times. Never shaken, never doubting. Behind them a goalkeeper who appears as unflappable as those standing in front of him. Allison’s saves were better than they looked, as the manager said post final: “he makes the difficult look easy.” Always assured and composed, when Liverpool were under pressure the keeper succeeded in making it seem so very different.
It is no coincidence that in the area the final was lost in Kiev last year the final was won this time around. Liverpool had the discussed ruthlessness to see a problem and eradicate it. Rather than buying a better goalkeeper, ambition and the ability to identify a key weakness has meant that the club have bought the best. It is decisions such as these that exhibit the point I have previously made; Liverpool are here to stay.
It feels strange that only a week following one of the greatest nights this club will ever have that I keep looking forward. That I keep wondering what this side will do next. But while other seasons have been defined by optimism rather than expectation, you back this manager and these players to keep being brilliant, to keep being clever and to keep making us all very happy.