Champions League

Champions League 2018-19: Liverpool clinch sixth title

 
10:03am on Wednesday 4th September 2019
By
Martin Macdonald

Liverpool were crowned winners of the Champions League, the first English champion in seven years, defeating Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side. The final itself would prove to be a dull affair, as Liverpool were handed the initiative only moments into the game via a penalty awarded for a controversial Moussa Sissoko handball. Mohamed Salah rammed home the spot kick, while Divock Origi made it two late on to seal the win. The most refreshing aspect of the tournament was the performances of Ajax, who rolled back the years to reach the semi-final - knocking out Juventus and defending champions Real Madrid in the process.

CHANGES

Juventus continued their relentless pursuit of the Champions League by acquiring the tournament’s most prolific scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo. Even at the age of 33, he commanded a fee in excess of €100 million. One of the biggest-spending teams of the summer were Liverpool, who built upon their final appearance in 2018 by signing Alisson from Roma and Fabinho from Monaco for large fees, while Naby Keita finally arrived from RB Leipzig. Two of the most freely spending clubs in recent seasons, Manchester United and Real Madrid, didn’t splurge on any major transfers in the summer, and it showed as both had abject tournaments. For Madrid, they had a new head coach in place in Julen Lopetegui, who left Spain days before the World Cup in acrimonious circumstances.

SUMMARY

For eventual semi-finalists, Ajax, their Champions League campaign started earlier than most at the second qualifying stage, which took place at the end of July. They made it through three ties to reach the group stage proper, where they were drawn against Bayern, Benfica, and AEK Athens.

Ajax were one of only five teams who went through the group stage without losing a game, alongside Bayern, Porto, Barcelona, and Lyon.

The group stage was more competitive than in recent seasons, as no team secured maximum points, with Porto recording the most impressive total with 16 in a group with Schalke, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Some big names went out without making a mark. Inter, Valencia, Napoli, and Benfica all finished third in their respective groups, while Monaco, who lit up the competition with their performances two years prior, finished dead last in their group after accumulating just one point.

The most entertaining action could be found in Group C which featured Liverpool, Napoli, Red Star, and PSG, who were now under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel. After being defeated 3-2 by Liverpool in the opening fixture, the Parisians responded by demolishing Red Star 6-1, which makes it all the more baffling that the Serbian outfit would go on defeat Klopp’s men 2-0 in November. In the last round of fixtures, it was must-win for the Reds against Napoli, and they did just that as Salah secured the 1-0 win against Napoli at Anfield.

The round of 16 produced some interesting clashes, with Atletico Madrid being drawn against Juventus, Man Utd facing PSG, and Liverpool battling Bayern. One of the most dramatic ties was undoubtedly between United and PSG; the Red Devils looked dead and buried after a 2-0 home defeat at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Kylian Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe. However, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now in charge, they turned things around in Paris, Marcus Rashford’s 94th minute penalty seeing them through after a controversial VAR-given handball.

The other English teams were impressive, too, as Liverpool knocked out Bayern, Tottenham destroyed Dortmund, and Man City annihilated Schalke.

The best action was between Ajax and Real Madrid. Despite losing the first leg 2-1 in Amsterdam, the Dutch side battered Madrid 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu, with the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt announcing their talents on the world stage.

Everyone tells you it will be something special if you win something with Liverpool and this was proper proof.Jurgen Klopp

Ajax didn’t get a favourable draw in the next round, either, as they took on Ronaldo-led Juventus. This proved to be a tighter affair, but Erik ten Hag’s outfit defied the odds again to go through, with a towering De Ligt heading proving the difference as the tie finished 3-2 on aggregate.

Man Utd’s tournament was easily finished by Barcelona, Liverpool eased past Porto, and Tottenham won the battle of England versus Man City.

The semi-finals of the 2018-19 Champions League season will go down as two of the greatest in history.

The first saw Tottenham take on Ajax. Spurs looked abject against the classy Dutch in the first leg as they lost 1-0 and Ajax would continue their dominance into the second leg as they scored another two through De Ligt and Hakim Ziyech. Tottenham needed a hero, and three goals in the second half. Step up, Lucas Moura. The Brazilian, who had been deputising for the injured Harry Kane, scored a marvelous hat-trick, with the final goal coming six minutes into injury time.

Barcelona looked likely to meet Tottenham in the final as they cruised past Liverpool in the first leg of their semi-final at the Camp Nou, with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi running riot in a 3-0 win. But, in the greatest Champions League night in Anfield history, Klopp inspired his men to a 4-3 win on aggregate, with Origi and Gini Wijnaldum both scoring a brace to send the home supporters into euphoria.

The final took place on 1st June at Atletico’s new Wanda Metropolitano stadium in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 64,000 spectators.

The pre-match atmosphere was electric, but Tottenham were stymied by the early decision to award Liverpool a penalty after Sissoko was punished for handball. Kane started the match despite only very recently recovering from injury, but both he and Spurs couldn’t make an impact on proceedings, and their hopes of glory were eventually ended by Origi, who lashed a smart finish across Hugo Lloris with three minutes remaining to make it 2-0.

The result took Liverpool to six European titles, with only Milan and Real Madrid having won more.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

The Dutchman’s influence on this Liverpool team has been nothing short of remarkable. Within 18 months of his arrival, he tackled and battled his way to two European finals.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

JURGEN KLOPP

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

The young Englishman provided one of the moments of the season as his quick thinking from a corner kick allowed Origi to score at a vital moment in the semi against Barcelona. A superstar in the making.

TOP GOALSCORER

LIONEL MESSI - 12 GOALS

TEAM OF THE SEASON

GOAL OF THE SEASON

RONALDO latches on to a delightful pass over the top of the Utd defence from Leonardo Bonucci, and keeps his eye on the ball all the way to rifle a stunning first-time volley past David de Gea.

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Alexander-Arnold’s genius quick corner which took everyone, including the Barcelona defence, by surprise, which allowed Origi to score the tie-winning goal in the semi.