Karim Benzema’s opener and Gareth Bale’s brace handed Real Madrid their 13th European title in the defeat of Liverpool. Sadio Mane stabbed home from close range to pull Liverpool level after Loris Karius’ howler but an acrobatic finish and another error from Karius ensured Real Madrid lifted the Champions League for a third consecutive time. Here are five things we learned from the final in Kiev.
Real Madrid have the Champions League in their DNA
How does a team best the entirety of the world three times consecutively in the most competitive competition club football has to offer? Real Madrid have done what was deemed impossible, the mere suggestion of a club winning the UEFA Champions League back to back was preposterous, not to consider performing a three peat. Winning four of the last five Champions League titles just goes to show that the Spanish side have mastered the art of delivering on the biggest stage; it seems a repeat of their World football dominance of the 50’s.
Mo Salah’s injury altered the cause of the game
As the entire Liverpool — and Egypt— supporters cringed as Salah held his shoulder, one thing was certain, there was going to be a shift in the balance of the game. Twitter shook and momentarily crashed due to the droves of reactions on Salah’s injury. Liverpool’s reliance was even more evident after the Egyptian star’s unfortunate injury. Real Madrid grew in the game, having more control of the ball while Liverpool wilted and looked lacking in ideas. Before Salah left the field Liverpool had 56 touches in the attacking third compared to Real Madrid’s 21 touches but after he left, Liverpool touched the ball just once in the attacking third before half time while Madrid had a whopping 65 touches. Perhaps, if Salah stayed on it’d have been Liverpool celebrating a sixth crown.
Bale won the night
Bale’s career has drifted for a bit, the Welshman has not had the best of times at the Spanish capital. That he started from the bench is an indication of how Madrid’s record signing has had it tough. Injuries and loss of form has plagued the former Tottenham winger but his brace in the final showed that Bale still has much to offer Madrid—or any other club. It took only two minutes for Bale to put his team ahead with a sensational finish. Bale leapt gloriously into the air with his back towards goal, perfectly timed Marcelo’s right footed cross to hit an astounding overhead kick that handed Madrid the advantage. His second goal sealed victory and hence the title for his team, a 25 yard shot that Loris Karius should have saved.
Zidane seals his legend
For all talk of Zinedine Zidane’s lack of tactical nous, there’s a glaring fact already established, the Real Madrid manager ranks as one of the greatest managers in the history of the Champions League. He stands in the same gild as Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the managers to have won the Champions League three times, and Zidane did his in a three peat for good measure. His ability to make clear headed decisions in selection, as well as have the players buy into his ideas has been his most impressive ability.
Blundering Karius cost Liverpool dearly
On the biggest stage, some errors are unforgivable. Karius’ mistakes for Real Madrid’s opener and final goal showed the need to have a top-quality goalkeeper between the sticks. Karius’ throw into the feet of Karim Benzema for the first goal was depressing. The German goalkeeper tried to roll the ball out to Trent Alexander-Arnold but Benzema was lurking, quickly pressured to get a touch of the ball which he did to score the first goal of the game.
Karius’ further piled misery onto his night he couldn’t get a strong enough hand to Bale’s speculative effort. It should have been an easy save but goalkeeper made a hash of it. Karius’ poor showing simply shows Liverpool’s need to invest in a top goalkeeper in the transfer window.
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