The Forgotten Talking Points | From The Champions League Final

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I’ve waited a good 36 hours since the full-time whistle to write this – in part to compose my own thoughts and in part to have time to listen to the reactions of the players, pundits and supporters. While the Reds’ journey to Kiev ended in abject misery, the road there was glorious. I’m pleased at how many supporters have chosen to focus on the pride we can feel in our club and the progress we’ve made this season to become the first English team in the Champions’ League final in six seasons.

That said, reaction to the match itself has been largely summed up in a single word: Karius.

There’s no avoiding the nightmare he endured between the sticks in Kiev. But while some supporters have offered supportive words, other less loyal supporters have called for his head – both figuratively in the transfer market, and (disgustingly) literally, with a number of so-called Reds issuing death threats to the lad.

A number of equally-important points have been swept under the rug, such were the gravity of Karius’ errors. In light of the world’s schadenfreudean fixation on our German no. 1, I’m going to discuss them.

The overall defensive display was superb

The team can create magical attacking movements but retains a reputation for being porous at the back.

Centre-half Dejan Lovren has been a particular focus for criticism after a number of errors in his time at Liverpool. Renewed calls for his sale grow louder with each imperfect clearance or slightly-mistimed jump. But Lovren acquitted himself brilliantly in Kiev. Instrumental in the equalizer with his towering far-post header over Ramos, his work with young Trent Alexander-Arnold was stifling. Lovren has improved substantially since being partnered with Virgil van Dijk, both in quality and inconsistency. He’s proven his worth and his quality, and no supporter should be braying for his sale anymore.

Once again, young Trent utterly pocketed an elite-level winger. In Kiev, TAA completely shut down Ronaldo. The Portuguese legend had very few touches of note and played no role whatsoever in any of Real’s goal-scoring moves.

Virgil van Dijk again showed he has the making of a club captain with composed leadership from set pieces. That’s no small feat given the generally superior height of the Real team. He also made some critical tackles in key situations to spare a fragile Karius facing shots from dangerous areas.

Andrew Robertson capped off a dream campaign with another sensational performance at left back. One year after Premier League relegation, he weighed in with crucial interventions in a European final.

In fact, the backline had no fault in any of the three goals conceded. They’d played Benzema offside before Karius’ throw was turned in with some controversy. No defence in the world could have done anything about Bale’s wondergoal. And no defence can foot the blame for a goal like Bale’s second. The less said about that goal the better.

The pressing game worked – while it lasted

While the injury to Mo Salah proved damaging in equal measure to the side’s morale and tactical deployment, there’s no taking away from the effort and quality Liverpool put on display in the opening 30 minutes of the match before the Egyptian King went down. Madrid may have had bigger names in midfield, but Liverpool had greater intensity and the front six put real pressure on the Madrid midfield and created a number of half-chances that may have ended in goals on a luckier day.

In many ways, the opening half-hour was somewhat reminiscent to the City game at Anfield – minus the goals, of course. Real had the better possession stats, but the Reds had the better possession movement. The midfield – particularly Milner, cut passing lanes and didn’t give Madrid many options in terms of where to play the ball.

Sadly, Salah’s injury completely changed the match, both tactically and psychologically, but Kopites can really take heart from the side’s performance before his departure.

The overall lack of depth showed in Kiev

You can’t question the quality of this Liverpool side. The attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane needs no aggrandizement. You can’t question their work rate either, or the industrial efforts of the midfield trio. But injury and a general lack of depth hurt Liverpool in Kiev.

Losing Salah was bound to be a big blow, and would be for any side. But Adam Lallana, a talented player but a roving central midfielder, was the only fitting replacement for him. This left Liverpool without any real game-changers on the bench. Yes, Dom Solanke was named on the bench. But despite his goal against Brighton a fortnight prior, he never looked like changing the game from the bench.

As the clock approached 80 minutes and the Reds trailed by a goal, there was no natural attacker to bring on. The introduction of Emre Can, perhaps for his swansong, was a welcome infusion of energy as the players grew tired. That said, it didn’t do anything to make Liverpool more threatening to Keylor Navas’ goal.

This isn’t a failure of the players or the system, merely a reminder that Klopp’s squad – indeed his whole project- is very much a work in progress. Which brings us to the final talking point.

Win or lose, Liverpool have returned to a place among Europe’s elite

The media have been quick to turn our defeat into a case of “same old Liverpool with the Achilles Keeper.” But despite the loss,  there can be no disputing that we guaranteed our place among Europe’s elite.

It had been 11 years since our last final appearance, and it’s now been 13 years since our last Champions League win. But make no mistake: we are absolutely back with the big boys. And no one will relish the thought of drawing us in the group stage or knockout rounds next season.

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  1. Why is Liverpool still lack of depth? It has been 5 transfer windows since Klopp took over the club, and we are still in the period of replacing players instead of adding to depth. We have yet replaced creativity void by Countinho, Naby Keith is replacing Can and not adding to depth. Is Klopp or the transfer committee required to have positive transfer budget? Are we not allowed to buy more than 3 players in each transfer window?

  2. Love this article and now my emotions are not so raw i’ll give my own thoughts.

    1. The keeper can’t come back from this. I would love him to come back and have the season of his life but after Saturday I will always worry these kind of mistakes are in him.

    2. The lack of cover for the front 3 was there for all to see on Saturday. For 25 minutes Madrid where rattled like most teams we have faced in this seasons competition. Once Mo went off they were clearly the better side and had the luxury of bringing Bale off the bench. It would of been nice to turn to Coutinho once Mo went off but we sold him and didn’t replace him….. Was that a mistake?

    3. The back four stepped up on Saturday and proved that every one of them can play like champions. Now it is time to take the next step and do this week in week out.

    4.For the last 2 seasons Liverpool have really suffered when key players are missing for various reasons and while I think our 1st choice starting 11 can hurt any team I do believe cover for that front 3 should be a top priority this summer.

    5. This team will be back in another champions league final and next time the depth should be good enough to get us over the line.

  3. You bring up some decent points, but all can be explained.

    Firstly, the “right” players may simply not be available. This includes players that choose another club over us. The truth is that players of the quality we need to improve the team are wanted by many of the top clubs, therefore reducing the likelihood of them joining us, and also raising the price. Add to this that every transfer is essentially a gamble; regardless of the price, players can turn out to be “wrong”. This brings me to my second point.

    Although it may not feel right, in the end, the club is still a business. And like any other business, it needs to generate at very least enough revenue to sustain itself. All employees need to be paid. Very few people work out of the goodness of their hearts, and this is no exception. As a result, there needs to be budget, which will also include transfers. Combining this with the “right” player argument, it’s relatively obvious that successfully replacing half the team in a single (or even a hand-full of) transfer window is prohibitively expensive and highly unlikely. I’d rather have slower, sustained progress than a club filing for bankruptcy.

    Lastly, consider the team as a cohesive unit. This is especially true in a “Klopp Team”. Replacing a large part of the squad every window is likely to devastate the team morale, and significantly reduce the effectiveness of Klopp’s tactics. Some manager’s strategies can deal with this (although usually only in the short-term), but Klopp is not one.

  4. Like I said before, whom so ever wants to wear/play for us..welcome to Anfield..the opposite…raheem sterling, phillipe couthino, torres, can…please leave with grace..stop making it difficult for us and yourself..second point I want to didn’t no one see what skulduggery Sergio Ramos was up to..the foul on the goalkeeper(a red card on its own), the ball a innocent bystander..and the wwe/UFC move which he perpatrated against mo salah..another red..why isn’t uefa tripping over themselves to administer a retrospective punishment..? day he will try this stuff at the wrong moment..will these referees go to specsavers..bring back colina..c.o.y.reds

  5. The bookies had predicted a 3-1 Real win, at first when Ramos man handled Salah to the ground and made sure Salah got seriously hurt, all this without even the ref giving out a yellow to Ramos, i figured oh ok, maybe this was the plan.
    However when Karius made TWO, yes TWO so called “mistakes”, then I totally got it. The plan was just not to ensure we could score, it also was to ensure if ever we staged a comeback, which we did, Karius would be there to foil it. After the game, my friend reminded me,” see what did i said about the bookies, a pro keeper can make one mistake in a final but 2, come on”.
    Guys lets face it, LFC under Klopp would not win anything of note. He does not learn from his mistakes, why do you think he keeps losing finals. We can finish 4th and get to the occasional final, just not win anything. How many times had he been told to get a solid keeper and now a keeper that he hand picked, had single handedly cost us at the grandest stage of all. However dont be surprised if Klopp still hands Karius the No 1 position next season as he believes in his “superior ” training.
    Any other Manager, Karius would be investigated for match fixing (based on what we saw, there is a real case) but Klopp would still back him. Look what Pep did to Hart and Hart is so much less of a calamity!

  6. Never want to sound harsh, but Chan, you’re mad mate.

    And I understand. We came so far, we improved so much. We so desperately wanted to lift the trophy we all felt we deserved.

    But on the day, we didn’t deserve it. Sure, Ramos’ challenge on Mo was too physical. Sure, he deserved a red for elbowing Karius in the face. Sure, Karius has let himself and the side down with those errors.

    But that’s football. It’s just plain immature to go about blaming the loss on anything other than the fact that our team did not execute to the required level. There’s no conspiracy. There’s no plot. We just weren’t good enough on the day. Doesn’t take away from our great season, from our progress, and from our return to the ranks of European elite, and that’s what this article was about.


  7. Greg, please watch the game again, we were matching Real even after Salah was out and even when we were 2 goals down, but Karius “mistake ” in for the 3rd made sure the match belongs to Real.
    We might not be good enough man for man but on that night, we hung in there but Karius made sure what ever fight back we gave, it would be in vain.
    No LFC players consoled him and rightly so, that is what a match fixer deserves.
    Made no mistake, we lost because we were sold out by Karius, a man Klopp brought in and trusted.

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