I’ve had to turn down the brightness of my screen as I write this, such is the level of hangover I’m currently experiencing.
It wasn’t even a case of drowning sorrows – yesterday was a celebration of Spurs’ achievement in reaching the final.
What a pity then, that 25 seconds in the match took such a turn. It was a handball, it was the right decision, but it felt so cruel that it would cost us our opportunity.
Some much-needed clarity on the handball rule next year will help, sure, but in the meantime, we were all left pointing at the big screens in the bar I watched the match in saying ‘did it even hit his hand?’ — ‘okay fine it hit his hand, but it came off his chest first sooo’ — ‘does pointing count as intent?’ — ‘wait… did Sadio Mané aim for his arm?’.
Well, all of that, but punctuated with expletives. And laughter, actually. Some people around me genuinely gave a hearty, almost maniacal belly laugh.
Because I guess in some ways it was perfect. Of course, Spurs would drunk-swagger their way to a final in the most incredible, inexplicable, unlikely of ways and then within 30 seconds of the showcase match on the biggest stage in club football have messed themselves in an agonising, almost apologetic manner.
Our most cynical fans would say ‘We’ve got our Tottenham back’. Right in the nick of time!
In a strange way, it was almost a relief when Divock Origi got the second, because a final being settled by that moment alone would have been a tough one to take, even for a fanbase who have had years of practice of ‘tough ones to take’.
The match itself was largely ‘meh’. Perhaps because of the early goal, meaning that Liverpool didn’t need to attack Spurs, and could instead remain compact and play on the counter.
Or perhaps because while Spurs were very competent in the first two-thirds of the pitch, the spark in the final third was entirely lacking.
Pochettino had an impossible decision to make and I still think he made the right call, even though in hindsight it’s easy to point at Harry Kane’s sluggishness and label it predictable.
Kane was not the only Spurs attacking player who failed to shine, though, and it was more that the collective did not click that was a disappointment, particularly after three weeks’ preparation time. Instead, we were left waiting for moments. There were a couple of times where they looked like they might arrive, only for Virgil van Dijk to shut them down; he is a truly wonderful defender.
Liverpool fans have surprisingly been really rather decent about the whole thing on social media; they can empathise, they had the same feeling last year. Their team came back stronger with key reinforcements so they can pat us on the head now and say nice things like ‘your time will come’.
But Spurs are at a crossroads, which Pochettino has been pointing out for a few months. The club needs to make sure that they take the same approach as Liverpool – spend big and spend well on fixing key issues – possibly even just to tread water, let alone to improve.
Champions League final was a destination for Liverpool, but a milestone for Tottenham – one club had invested, built and reached their zenith, the other got a glimpse of what they could be if they were to do the same. Back the manager, improve the squad, go again. We’ll be back.
— Raj Bains (@BainsXIII) June 2, 2019
Not buying any players in consecutive windows has showcased what a fantastic coach Mauricio Pochettino is, but it has also meant that the problems in the squad have now stacked up to such a degree that open-heart surgery is now required rather than the keyhole approach that may have done the job a season ago.
Regardless of what happens next, this weekend is one that will never be forgotten, but it will be the journey to the final that will forever make me smile.