Within the first minute of the Champions League final on Saturday (Sunday morning NZT), Liverpool forward Sadio Mané kicked the ball into the outstretched arm of Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Moussa Sissoko.
The referee deemed this an infringement worthy of a penalty kick, from which Liverpool would score and take a lead it would not relinquish.
Sissoko's helping hand swung the first all-English final in European club football's most prestigious tournament since 2008.
"To concede a penalty after 30 seconds, that completely changed our plans and had a massive impact," said Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur manager after the match played at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Liverpool's eventual 2-0 victory is the sixth time it has won the European title in the club's illustrious history. However, events on the pitch also pointed to the gulf in financial resources between the two teams.
Analysts, such as Stefan Szymanski, a sports industry academic at the University of Michigan, have found the best predictor of a team's league placing is how much it spends on players.
This has been evident in the Champions League over the past decade. Eight of the past ten titles have been won by either Spain's FC Barcelona and Real Madrid or Germany's Bayern Munich. The trio of clubs have been regularly among the world's richest five clubs over that period, using this wealth to invest heavily in their teams.
English clubs are not paupers. Premier League sides share in multiyear broadcasting deals worth more than £9bn, higher than any other domestic league on the planet.
This has ensured their revenues have kept pace with the biggest teams in Europe. Six English teams, including Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, are among the world's top ten highest earning clubs.
Still, by the standards of others, this year's Champions League finalists are frugal. FC Barcelona spent €562m in player wages last season, according to KMPG Football Benchmark, a research division within the consultancy. This compares to just €297m spent by Liverpool and a measly €167m by Tottenham Hotspur.
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After being comfortably defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final, Liverpool's owner, Fenway Sports Group, which is controlled by US billionaire John W Henry, decided it required more investment to reach the top of the sport.
In January last year, the team signed Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk, and at the start of this season, they added Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Both men were acquired for world record transfer fees for the respective playing positions. Liverpool reportedly spent around £150m combined in transfer fees for the pair.
The club was rewarded on Saturday. Tottenham Hotspur pushed hard for an equalising goal, particularly in the second half, with greater possession of the ball and producing more shots on goal than their opponents. But Van Dijk produced numerous vital interceptions that earned him the man-of-the-match award, while Alisson made a series of saves to keep Liverpool ahead.
"I will look stupid if I say that we dominated the game," said Tottenham's Pochettino. "I believe that the final is about winning. It's not about playing well. No one will remember that maybe we deserved a little bit more."
Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp said: "I don't want to explain how we won it. What is important is that we won it."
It was also a victory for Liverpool's data-driven approach to football's multibillion-pound transfer market. This philosophy has been pioneered by the likes of Mike Edwards and Ian Graham, Liverpool's sporting director and head of research, who were both hired from Tottenham Hotspur.
The club's analysts have successfully acquired cheap, undervalued players from pools of talent that are relatively untapped by their rivals. In recent seasons, Liverpool has signed players from bottom-half Premier League teams, such as Mané from Southampton and Andrew Robertson from Hull City.
Liverpool has also pried away the best players from smaller European sides unable to compete with its ability to pay higher wages. This includes Mohamed Salah from Italy's Roma, who scored from the penalty spot in the opening minute of the final.
Meanwhile, Pochettino has been masterful at getting the best from relatively meagre resources at Tottenham Hotspur. The club did not even make a significant player signing this season, spending nothing on transfer fees. In response to injuries throughout his squad, Pochettino has given at least 1,500 minutes of playing time to 14 different outfield players, the most among the Premier League's biggest six teams.
For Klopp, the result is the crowning achievement in his career. Already considered one of the best coaches of his generation, the German has described his preferred playing style as "heavy metal football," which combines hard "pressing" — or quickly chase down opponents around the pitch — with rapid, direct attacks.
The strategy has led to startling results. In the Premier League, the club finished a narrow second behind Manchester City this season, but still gathered a points total higher than 35 of the 38 previous winners of England's top division.
In a typical season, such spectacular performance would have resulted in winning the biggest prize in England. But after substitute Divock Origi fired in a second, decisive goal in the 87th minute of this year's Champions League final, Liverpool were left to settle for the most coveted silverware in Europe instead.
© 2019 The Financial Times.