In the stunning Olimpiyskiy arena, Real Madrid further asserted their supremacy by winning a third straight Champions League trophy, their fourth in five years. Gareth Bale came off the bench to score the goal of the season, which will now be remembered as the best Champions League goal ever.
In the first half, the game was well-balanced. Both teams were playing with intent and had their chances but the half time score was 0-0. Karim Benzema did find the net after Ronaldo forced a save from Karius but the goal was ruled offside. Liverpool were very unfortunate to see Mohamed Salah subbed off because of injury, after a short wrestling bout with the notorious Sergio Ramos. Madrid were also impacted by injuries as Carvajal was forced to come off for Nacho.
Stay Strong, Karius
As soon as the second half started, Loris Karius made a mistake he will regret all his life. While trying to release the ball quickly to one of his defenders, he failed to notice Karim Benzema who blocked the ball, which, to Liverpool fans’ horror, slowly made its way in the net. This would not be his first fumble. Karius alone cost his team two goals in a Champions League final. Whether he also cost his team the final is debatable. We can imagine the plight he is in right now. High level football comes with immense pressure on players and we must not forget Karius is only 24. We can only hope he is not traumatized by the events that unfolded today and comes back stronger.
Take a bow, Bale
With Liverpool pulling one back via Senegalese winger Sadio Mane, Zinedine Zidane turned to Gareth Bale to break the deadlock and he delivered in great fashion. In the 63rd minute, Marcelo crossed the ball with his right foot behind all the Madrid forwards. It looked like a ball lost for one second. Enter Gareth Bale. The welsh wonder reacted within a split second and produced an exquisite overhead kick which prompted even Zinedine Zidane to react with contented disbelief. 19 minutes later, Bale fired a swerving shot at Loris Karius, who could only deflect it into the net. Madrid were 3-1 up and Liverpool did not look like they were coming back from this.
Lack of depth costs Liverpool
As we pointed in our Champions League preview, Liverpool’s lack of depth was very worrying. When Mohamed Salah left the pitch clutching his shoulder, Liverpool fans saw their worst dreams come to life. In came Adam Lallana. The english left winger is a decent enough player but he is not as good as a Firmino, Salah or Mane. Jurgen Klopp trusts his starting 11 but does not seem enthusiastic bringing people off the bench and we can see why. Ignoring the 2 injuries, Zidane brought on quality players like Bale and eventually Asensio while Klopp only replaced Milner with Emre Can when the former had run himself to exhaustion. The german tactician lacked options to change the game.
You need top players on and off the pitch to win the Champions League and Liverpool’s dependence on a few brilliant players eventually cost them.
Congratulations Real Madrid!
Real now have 13 Champions League crowns, a world record. Zinedine Zidane has now won one Champions League as a player, one as an assistant manager and has won three consecutive finals since he took over the reins as Madrid manager. Cristiano Ronaldo has won five Champions League and is now only one behind Paco Gento who won six of them with Real Madrid. As Luka Modric put it at the end of the game, Zidane and Co. can now say they have created their own dynasty at Real Madrid.
The exploits of this team will be engraved in history forever.