Given Manchester City’s lead in the Premier League, a Premier League win would have been a bonus, but Liverpool prepared for the Champions League final in anticipation. Players and supporters were convinced that they were the superior team.
Of course, Klopp appreciated Madrid’s experience. He, on the other hand, refused to accept the label of underdog. He wanted to believe that his squad could beat anyone if they played their own game. Thibaut Courtois’ goal was bombarded with 23 shots. He was unbeatable.
In the Premier League, Liverpool’s difficulty is that Manchester City has taken tenacity to new heights. The problem at the Stade de France was that the mindset monsters met their match in Real Madrid, who had their own reasons to believe.
Two unstoppable forces. Trent Alexander-Arnold had recounted the meeting in this way. Real Madrid, on the other hand, knew better than to engage in a strength test. Instead, they sat and waited, never seeming to doubt that the opportunities would present themselves. Others would not have remained so composed.
Not when Liverpool took the first nine shots, and the first touch in the box didn’t come for another half-hour. Not when Mohamed Salah had three times the number of chances as the rest of their squad combined and Courtois was pushed to the limit. Madrid continued to do so.
What more could Liverpool have done, is the question that will be asked.
Was this a blunder on Klopp’s part?
“When you lose, you have to believe you can do better,” he remarked afterwards, pointing to the crosses that went right into Courtois’ hands. “We could have done better in the closing third.” It’s rarely good news when their goalkeeper is named man of the match.
Salah may be wondering how he failed to make Madrid pay after talking about his thirst for vengeance. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was asked about Vinicius Junior’s threat earlier, will ponder on how he gave him the space to score from such close range.
There will also be discussion about how this generally free-flowing club, capable of ripping through an opponent in minutes when things are going well, has managed to be blunted in three successive finals this season, going five and a half hours without scoring.
Klopp stated, “It’s just a typical football outcome.” “We didn’t score a goal, but they did. In the realm of football, that’s the simplest explanation.” Maybe it’s as simple as that. As banal as it may appear, supporters and detractors alike may have to accept that this was not their night.
Early on, there were symptoms of that, a sense of dread.
Real Madrid’s resolve was predicted by Liverpool. But this was a different kind of occasion for them and their followers. Outside the stadium, there was mayhem, and on the field, there were issues. The squad bus was also late, having to navigate its way through the masses.
Then there’s another issue to consider. Thiago was uneasy throughout the warm-up, isolated from the rest of the team. A distraction on a day when everyone wants to trust the plan and their minds must be concentrated. Naby Keita appeared to be the most likely candidate now, but Thiago narrowly avoided being called upon.
Only after a postponed kick-off did this become clear. In either of their two warm-ups, the Liverpool players only had to look up to the stands to realise that the problems were caused by their own fans. Another problem, another diversion.
“I know the families had a lot of difficulty getting into the stadium,” Klopp remarked.
The next strategy would have been to get the game going soon, maybe knowing that Thiago would not be present at the conclusion. Score early and often. Madrid is in a rush. In the first few minutes, Jordan Henderson made a point of attempting to do so. Ibrahima Konate made a strong case for himself.
However, the target was not achieved. Even when Thiago threaded one of those passes that only he can spot, let alone execute, it didn’t work. Sadio Mane twisted and spun, navigating his way through the crowd and shot low into the corner. Courtois came to the rescue. Madrid remained steadfast.
That’s what they’re good at. This was their strategy, and the game was working in their favour.
Klopp continued, “I saw us doing some pretty excellent stuff.”
He was referring to the performance, but it might also be interpreted as a subdued representation of Liverpool’s season. It explains why there will be disappointment at not having more trophies to show for the previous year, but no rage directed at the players or the coach.
He expects the mood to improve after the team has had time to comprehend that. “I told the boys that I was already filled with pride, but I was the only one in the dressing room at the time,” Klopp added. That remark came before a defiant message about his squad.
“These youngsters had an amazing season,” he added, emphasising each syllable. “We didn’t win by the lowest margin conceivable in the two competitions we couldn’t win. City had a one-point advantage, while Madrid had a one-goal advantage. That doesn’t say anything about us.
“We will surely return.
“And we’ll be celebrating the season tomorrow. The lads will realise how great what they done after a night’s sleep and possibly another speech from me. Even if no one on the earth understands why we’re having a parade tomorrow, we’ll go ahead and do it anyhow.”
He is very aware of how folks on the outside will perceive his attempts to celebrate the season. He had already remarked, “History will tell us what people say about us because of these games.” In the end, it isn’t about how things appears from the outside.
Their own admirers travelled to Paris by plane, train, and car. Even by speedboat is possible. They arrived. And many of them will be in Liverpool. That level of passion is inspired by Jurgen Klopp’s team.
In that sense, their season has already been decided.