Author: Ashley Munson
The European soccer season is officially over following Liverpool’s 2-0 Champions League victory over fellow English side Tottenham but, if we’re being honest, the finale was a tad disappointing in comparison to the rest of the tournament. The good news is we’ve picked out some alternative awards to keep you all reminiscing about every moment – the good, the bad and the ugly.
1. THE NEAR-IMMORTAL AWARD
Before the tournament kicked off very few would have given Tottenham a chance of reaching the final and even fewer would have backed them as the tournament progressed. They were like Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones: the sort of character that nobody expected to see alive in the season finale.
It’s a huge credit to the mentality within Mauricio Pochettino’s side that the came with minutes of exiting the competition on five occasions throughout their route to the final. Unfortunately, Liverpool proved a match too far.
2. THE SURPRISE PACKAGE AWARD
Ajax were on the wrong side of a Spurs comeback at the semi-final stage but what a tournament they had. The Dutch side shocked the world when they tore holders Real Madrid apart on their own turf, then to further display the quality in their ranks they knocked out Juventus as well.
It was a throwback to the times gone by alright. The biggest challenge for Ajax is still to come though, which is keeping some of their spine together. Seems like the class of 2018/19 won’t stay together much longer, though.
3. THE MOMENT OF MADNESS AWARD
You’re one of the most glamorous players in the history of the competition, a serial winner and were signed in the summer to help your new side lift the most prestigious trophy in club football so what do you do on your Champions League debut?
That’s right, tug on someone’s hair and get sent off; not Cristiano Ronaldo’s finest moment – and probably not the most memorable of Jeison Murillo’s career either. The sent off was a bit unfair, if we are being truthful, as Murillo – who in the Winter traded Valencia for Barcelona – went down like he had been struck by an airplane. Ronaldo was left in tears, but he later compensated with another heroic exhibition against Atletico in the knockout stages, only to see his Torino side get eliminated by a bunch of Amsterdam youngsters in the quarters. Tough luck.
4. THE SPORT WITHIN A SPORT AWARD
Shortly before the quarter final between Tottenham and Manchester City England skipper Harry Kane revealed his desire to one day play in America’s line NFL, but he didn’t get his football confused.
Instead this award goes to Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich who seemed to channel his inner Bruce Lee when kicking Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico in the head. Muller was sent off and missed both knockout games against the eventual winners, Liverpool. Judging by his kick, he might just forge a career out in MMA when retiring from soccer.
5. AND FINALLY, THE COMEBACK KINGS AWARD
This season was a complete rollercoaster and went on to prove why the cliché ‘it’s not over until it’s over’ is exactly that – a cliché. There are a few honourable mentions that fall just short of clinching the award.
Ronaldo already has a personal award for the wrong reasons but, like we mentioned, he single-handedly dumped Atletico Madrid out in the round of 16 with a second leg hat-trick in Turin – Atletico had won the first game 2-0. In the same round VAR caused controversy in the final moments of Manchester United’s with PSG.
The French champions lead the tie after a two-goal victory at Old Trafford. However, a Romelu Lukaku brace and a late Marcus Rashford penalty saw United progress to become the first ever team in competition history to overturn a two-goal home deficit to progress. Meanwhile, Porto would eliminate Roma with an extra time penalty, after losing the first leg at the Olimpico, leaving the Italians furious against the decision.
Now, if those results are worthy of a mention then it’s only fair to recap the semi-final beaten finalists Tottenham eventually won. After the home leg they trailed Ajax 1-0 and things went from bad to worse as two first half goals saw Spurs staring down the barrel but a Lucas Moura hat-trick, which included a 96th minute strike, saw the Londoners progress.
Unfortunately, Spurs have fallen at the final hurdle once again as it’s Liverpool who win THE COMEBACK KINGS award for their own semi-final heroics; a little bit of Lionel Messi magic had the Reds on the canvas at 3-0 down heading back to Anfield but Liverpool never gave up and roared back to win 4-0 on the night with a display that is up there with the best the European Cup has ever seen.
That’s that, another season is over. The Champions League produced moments of madness, moments of joy, moments of distress and moments of pure glee (and we’ve not even mentioned the Tottenham Manchester City second leg). Liverpool reign supreme again and, well, as for Spurs – always the bridesmaid.