Football Features

Did the Champions League final lay bare the biggest flaw of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool?

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 0:09, 29 May 2022

Jurgen Klopp was left wondering after Liverpool were denied a seventh European Cup by Real Madrid at the Stade de France on Saturday evening.

The Reds were chasing an unprecedented quadruple heading into the final Premier League weekend but in a span of six days they were left ruing the small things. Aston Villa’s inability to hold onto a surprise 2-0 lead against title rivals Manchester City coupled with Real running out 1-0 winners having only produced one shot on goal.

For large swathes of the game on French soil England’s most decorated side in European Cup history were on top, but they ran into a wall named Thibaut Courtois, who produced no fewer than nine saves, which represents the most by a goalkeeper in a single Champions League final since 2003/04.

“In the dressing room nobody feels it was a great season at the moment. We maybe need a few hours for that,” Klopp told BT Sport.

“It was the two decisions against us were the smallest margins possible. We played a good game, not a perfect game. I don’t think a perfect game is possible against an opponent set up with a deep formation.

“We had a lot of shots but not the clearest. Courtois made two top saves. We conceded a goal from a throw-in. Valverde wanted to shoot, Vinicius was there and that’s it.

“The boys tried everything, especially at 1-0 down then we played like we wanted to play before. We had our midfielders too deep. It’s a threat they are with counter attacks. We wanted to be more brave in the second half. That’s what we said at half-time. We played around them. We should have played more in the formation than around them.

“It feels different. It’s not bad to get to the final. It’s a kind of success. Not the success you want to have. I have a strong feeling we’ll come again. The boys are really competitive. It’s an outstanding group together. We will have an outstanding group next season. Where’s it next season? Istanbul? Book the hotel.”

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Before looking too far ahead there’s some harsh truths. Liverpool ended up having no fewer than 24 shots on goal. It’s the most on record (since 2003/04) without scoring for a team in a single Champions League final. Meanwhile, talismanic Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah produced six shots on target, which is the most on record by any player in a single Champions League final.

Yet, like Klopp said, none of them tonight were the “clearest” of chances. For all their brilliance going forward and despite winning the League Cup and FA Cup this season, Liverpool were unable to score a single goal in five-and-a-half hours of football in major finals this term.

Even so, it was a gruelling campaign, Liverpool finished having played 63 games – winning two cups, losing one final and finishing one point off top in the Premier League. They were so close to perfection in many ways. But as Klopp touched upon, they will go again.