Champions League Final 2019

Spurs derailed by early penalty

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino appealing to referee Damir Skomina as a worried Moussa Sissoko awaits in vain. The Spurs midfielder was adjudged to have handled in the box 23 seconds after kick-off. Liverpool went on to win 2-0.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino appealing to referee Damir Skomina as a worried Moussa Sissoko awaits in vain. The Spurs midfielder was adjudged to have handled in the box 23 seconds after kick-off. Liverpool went on to win 2-0.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

All the hard work by Pochettino preparing for the big game undone by moment of folly after just 23 seconds

MADRID • Mauricio Pochettino admitted "it was very tough" on his Tottenham side after a 23-second penalty conceded by Moussa Sissoko meant three weeks of planning effectively went out the window from the kick-off.

Having worked wonders to get Spurs to their first Champions League final, especially after becoming the only club in Premier League history not to sign a player in the last two transfer windows, the club manager was hopeful the footballing gods would smile upon his team in Madrid on Saturday.

But a moment of folly from Sissoko, who was adjudged to have handled in the box, laid waste to his tactical preparations, allowing Liverpool to keep his players in check, with Mohamed Salah converting the spot kick.

Jurgen Klopp's team were far from their free-flowing best, the Reds never really had to get out of second gear as the early goal enabled them to shut up shop, again proving why they had the best defensive record in England this term.

Although Spurs offered more of a threat after the break, they were reduced to speculative strikes from long range and their first shot on target came only in the 74th minute.

Alisson was also a safe pair of hands in goal, comfortably dealing with subsequent shots from Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen and substitute Lucas Moura.

After the 2-0 defeat - substitute Divock Origi added a second late on - Pochettino insisted he was "so proud of my players" as they "were unlucky" before defending his decision to start Harry Kane and Harry Winks, who were quiet on the night, with the pair missing the league run-in through injury.

He said: "Finals are about winning, not about playing well - it's not tactics. To start 1-0 down from the start was tough, we changed our plans. That was the circumstance we cannot manage or prepare for. You can never believe you will be 1-0 down after a minute.

"To concede a penalty after 20 seconds has a massive impact. It's so painful, but we need to keep going. Of course, it's going to be tough but, after a few hours, we need to change our minds and be positive.

"My decisions were all about analytics and thinking, and all of the information."

While the decision to award the penalty looked slightly harsh, with the ball appearing to hit Sissoko first on the chest before striking his upper arm, it was the correct one.

Uefa's chief refereeing officer Robert Rossetti had told the Times of London in January that with the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in the Champions League this season, officials "would penalise any unnatural arm movement that makes contact with the ball".

That was why referee Damir Skomina had no hesitation to point to the spot as Sissoko already had his arm up when Sadio Mane crossed the ball - and a quick referral to the VAR corroborated the call.

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand also blasted the France midfielder for "making the decision easy".

The pundit told BT Sport: "When it's up in the air in the penalty area, you're asking for trouble. I don't know why his hand is up there - whom is he talking to?"

Pochettino will now have to contend with a summer of speculation over his future, but the Argentinian, who has been linked with a move to Juventus or Bayern Munich, suggested he may stay in north London to try to guide Spurs to another European final.

The 47-year-old, who has yet to lift silverware as a coach, told BT Sport: "When you live this experience, you want to do it again. I hope we can do it again in the future.

"It's about trying, it's about believing, it's about building, and I hope it happens again as soon as possible."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline 'Spurs derailed by early penalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe