Insomnia’s worst nightmare as Liverpool and Spurs pass the parcel
TV View: It wasn’t quite what we all wanted but in the end these teams owe us nothing
Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen sits dejected after losing the Champions League final to Liverpool. Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters
If Eamon Dunphy had been on duty you’d guess there might have been unfavourable comparisons to your average game in the Phoenix Park, while Johnny Giles would have been bemoaning the PlayStation generation. The occasion, then, turned in to a squib of the dampest kind, “it’s just been bang, bash, wallop sort of stuff,” said Brian Kerr at half-time, and it didn’t get a whole lot better after the break.
Mauricio Pochettino, by all accounts, had his players walking over hot coals as part of their build-up to the final, the hope being that it would strengthen their resolve. As it proved, though, watching the game turned out to be as painful as it would for those coal-walkers without the mind control to avoid ending up with incinerated feet.
But look, Liverpool and Spurs should be forgiven, not least because Uefa, compassionate souls that they are, left them with three weeks to fill before the final, by which time the season’s zest and energy had been sucked out of them.
And besides, after their majestically ridiculous semi-final exploits, if they had just sat on the pitch for 90 minutes and played pass the parcel – which, actually, is kinda what happened – we had no right to gripe. These lads owed us nothing, really.
Gary Lineker reckoned it felt like the semi-finals had happened around 1982, and then half-apologised for the length of the night’s build-up to the game, BT and Virgin both having kicked off two hours before the actual kick-off. Much of that time was filled with emotional montages narrated by poets or tunes that featured moments akin to Westlife hopping off their stools, slo-mo images of Jürgen Klopp flashing his Colgate smile at The Kop, while thumping his Scouse chest, heavily prevalent.
The big pre-match debate on BT was about whether or not Harry Kane would play from the off or be positioned on the bench, Glenn Hoddle displaying his body-language-reading skills when he spotted Harry getting off the Spurs coach, declaring “he has his starting face on!” He did too, as it proved, but Glenn was a bit dubious about the wisdom of the selection.
He was dubious too about Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to bring in a “mental coach” to chat with the players ahead of the game, at which point anyone old enough to remember hollered “EILEEN BLOODY DREWERY” at their screens.
Back on Virgin Media Tommy Martin was apologising to music aficionado Kerr for talking over Imagine Dragons who were performing their tunes out on the Metropolitano pitch, but Kerr was actually very grateful. Telling us that he’d just been at the Rory Gallagher Festival he said, with a hint of a sigh, “if Rory could come back from the dead and play tonight it’d be brilliant – and I’d put him on ahead of yer man”.
Off we went. You know that theory, ‘what this final needs is an early goal’? Well, bin that, the 44 minutes and 30 seconds that followed the penalty decision was insomnia’s worst nightmare.
“Not a great start from Tottenham’s point of view,” said Jermaine Jenas, an observation that was difficult to dispute, the rest of the half just proving to be a considerable challenge for those stattos charged with the task of counting incompleted passes.
Virgin’s half-time analysis suggested that Jurgen had found his inner Jack - hoof-a-rama, pump it up to the marauding full-backs, lump in the crosses, hope Lloris has a mare – although Niall Quinn was given the task of studying the rule book to check if that penalty award was justified. There was, indeed, “unnatural arm movement”, he concluded, so Spurs fans wouldn’t be justified in sending hate mail to Damir Skomina, although if he planned on taking his summer holidays in north London, he’d probably be best to opt for, say, Bundoran instead.
Second half. Jenas hailed Harry Winks’ contribution to the game, declaring him to be the most effective midfielder on view. Moments later he was taken off. “Oh,” said Jenas.
On the game crawled until Divock Origi decided to settle it with Liverpool’s second goal, and which one of us didn’t see Divock Origi being a key player in Liverpool’s season? (Klopp: “Ha, not me!”)
Back in the Virgin studio, Graeme Souness was just a little bit chuffed, his cheek muscles flexing so passionately Niall and Brian had to duck for cover. It might have been Phoenix Park stuff, but who the heck cares? Not Liverpool. Bang, bash, wallop, champions of Europe.