No miracle finish for Tottenham after Moussa Sissoko’s nightmare start

All Mauricio Pochettino’s planning went awry after 22 seconds. Liverpool took full advantage to win the Champions League

A tremendous madness: Mauricio Pochettino’s soundbite to describe Tottenham’s passage to their first Champions League final was a decent attempt to sum it all up. There were the late goals that kept them alive in the second half of the group-phase campaign, not to mention the one from Lucas Moura that crowned the epic comeback in the semi-final at Ajax. And what about the VAR craziness in the quarter-final at Manchester City?

The well ran dry against a Liverpool team that showed control and a streetwise edge and it felt as though Pochettino’s comment could be best applied to the moment that shaped the match after 22 seconds. It was ludicrously risky of Moussa Sissoko to have his arm raised high as Sadio Mané shaped to cross and, although the initial contact appeared to be with the Spurs midfielder’s armpit, the luck was against him when the ball dribbled down his limb. Mohamed Salah’s penalty gave Liverpool something to protect – a task that a defence as suffocating as theirs embraced with relish.

Sissoko has been one of the stories of the season, a player transformed from figure of fun via cult hero to driving mainstay and it was only last Tuesday that he was named by a group of club legends as the man of the year. He kept his head up after the penalty concession and he was one of Spurs’ better players but this was not an occasion for any sort of lapse.

Pochettino had gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare his players on a psychological level; to push the limits of what they might have believed was possible. There was even a team bonding session that included firewalking and breaking arrows against throats. When Sissoko gave away the penalty, it felt as though the best laid plans were in ruins. How can a manager legislate for such a random act?

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Spurs have not made it this far without knowing how to dig deep and they advertised the equaliser late on, with Alisson forced to show why Liverpool spent so heavily on him last summer. It was not enough and the feeling was always that Liverpool had too much, that Spurs were creatively off-colour, even before the substitute Divock Origi twisted the knife.

The attention will turn to the futures of a clutch of Spurs players, as the club attempt to reset their project after a period of year-on-year growth under Pochettino. Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Christian Eriksen, in particular, will find themselves at the centre of transfer stories. It is to be hoped, meanwhile, that Pochettino signs up for the next chapter; that the chairman, Daniel Levy, can satisfy him regarding the collective ambition.

That is for the coming days. Here there was pride but the over-riding sense of an opportunity missed. The Spurs players looked broken at full-time, with Son Heung-min particularly emotional and, when Jordan Henderson hoisted aloft the trophy, Pochettino and Harry Kane could be seen disappearing up the tunnel.

Pochettino had started with Kane, which was harsh on Lucas, but did anyone seriously think he was going to omit his talisman, the symbol of this team? Kane had declared himself fit after his latest ankle injury and, in many respects, it was the safe decision from Pochettino, the path of least confrontation.

Kane put himself about but at no point did he get any change out of Joël Matip and Virgil van Dijk or look like making something happen. Pochettino started with a 4-2-2-2 formation before moving Son from left to right and switching to 4-2-3-1 but a feature of the evening was Spurs’ players gesturing in frustration or asking where the options were on the ball. Dele Alli booted over a microphone when substituted.

Liverpool now have six European Cups whereas this was only Spurs’ fifth season in the competition. It was a night when the established order held sway.