For Andrew Robertson, the thrill of getting his hands on “the big cup” was all the more satisfying after twice missing out on the major prizes in the last 12 months.
Liverpool were pipped by a point for the Premier League title by Manchester City this season and lost last year’s Champions League final to Real Madrid in Kiev.
On Saturday, Robertson became the first Scot to get his hands on a winner’s medal in Europe’s most prestigious club competition since Darren Fletcher 11 years ago.
But while Fletcher was an unused substitute when Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 Champions League final, Robertson played the full 90 minutes as Liverpool defeated Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano in another all-English affair.
“In a strange way we probably played better against Madrid last season and ended up on the losing side,” Robertson reflected.
Mo Salah’s early penalty should have settled Liverpool but the Scotland captain admitted the Anfield side’s first-half performance was below par, although they stepped things up in the second period, and substitute Divock Origi sealed the win with a late second goal.
“I think when we scored early we were comfortable that we were going to control it,” Robertson said. “I don’t think Tottenham had many massive chances but we believe we can keep clean sheets, so when we got the lead I think we all believed.
“Milly [James Milner] said it during the week. We had a meeting and he said the one thing we’ve not done as a team is been in the lead in a final. So we knew it was new, and when we took the lead, for the rest of the first half we were hopeless, to be honest. But we got it together in the second half and the big cup is all that matters.”
Robertson, who joined Liverpool from Hull for £8 million in 2017, paid tribute to Jurgen Klopp for the way the Anfield manager has reestablished the club as a European superpower.
“It’s incredible what’s he’s created in the last three-and-a-half to four years,” said the former Queen’s Park and Dundee United left-back. “He’s changed this club completely and we quite easily could have got a very special double this season [of Premier League and Champions League].
“To come out empty handed would have been hard to take but we knew we had this final and now all the hard work of this season has paid off.
“He’s been incredible and, in my opinion, has turned this club around. We can compete for the Premier League and the Champions League, but when he came in, we were looking to make top four. So he’s made a massive difference.”
In the short term Robertson will now turn his thoughts to international duty and Scotland’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifying double header against Cyprus and Belgium. But, going forward, he is confident Saturday night’s victory will help Liverpool “kick on” and win more trophies.
“We’re a young squad and we now have that confidence and know-how of how to win a trophy,” added the full-back. “It’s our first trophy under this manager. I think only Jordan Henderson was involved in the League Cup win in 2012, so now we want to kick on and hopefully we can get our hands on another trophy next season.”
It was perhaps inevitable that this final failed to live up to the high drama of the semi-finals, when Barcelona and Ajax were on the wrong ends of a couple of memorable comebacks. The stifling heat and the fact both Liverpool and Spurs had been idle for three weeks contributed to a rather scrappy affair.
Spurs faced an uphill battle after just 22 seconds when referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot having adjudged Moussa Sissoko to have handled Sadio Mane’s clipped cross in the box. The video assistant referee’s review brought a substantial wait but no reversal in decision and Salah kept his nerve to blast the spot-kick past Hugo Lloris.
It was an error-ridden match thereafter, with Spurs chasing an equaliser but lacking the quality to find it. Danny Rose, Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen all lined up to be frustrated by the Reds’ impressive Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson, while Dele Alli had a night to forget and snatched at some half-chances. Origi then settled the outcome in Liverpool’s favour when he shot low and powerfully past Lloris with three minutes remaining.
Robertson said that before kick-off Liverpool felt much more relaxed and focussed than they had 12 months previously against Real Madrid in Kiev. And what about after the full-time whistle? “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” added the Scot. “There was a thousand things going through my head. To have that moment in front of the fans was just incredible and it’s something we’ll cherish.
“The trophy is heavier than I imagined. To get my hands on that cup was an incredibly special feeling. It’s one I would hope to have again, but there’s no guarantee of that.”