Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool: Los Blancos win third consecutive Champions League title as Gareth Bale nets twice - including incredible bicycle kick - while Loris Karius produces two huge errors in final
By Rob Draper for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 16:38 EDT, 26 May 2018 | Updated: 19:24 EDT, 26 May 2018
In the end, hope alone wasn't enough to carry Liverpool to victory. The sheer joy of their football, those bursts of exhilarating attacking, which has overwhelmed excellent teams from all around the continent, seemed at one stage to be carrying them inexorably to a sixth Champions League trophy. Indeed, even in the opening exchanges here in Kiev it felt that way.
And yet, Real Madrid, don't indulge romantic whims. They win trophies. A thirteenth European Cup goes their way. From the moment Mohamed Salah was crushed by the weight of Sergio Ramos, whose strong arm gripped the Egyptian, forcing him to fall unnaturally on his shoulder, that seemed the most-likely conclusion. Salah, tearful, departed injured on 28 minutes. And though Liverpool did no such thing, fighting gamely with Sadio Mané in particular superb, even then you sensed a moment passing. The Establishment knows a thing or two about quelling youthful idealism.
Still, this was an astonishing finale and the twists and turns it would yet entertain were quite unfathomable when Salah left the field. The bear facts of the most-extraordinary game of football are these: Zinedine Zidane, with a third successive Champions League trophy, joins Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the most-successful coaches in the history of this competition. And Zidane has achieved that in the first 29 months of coaching in his first job. Meanwhile, Real Madrid join Ajax and Bayern from the 1970s in winning three successive trophies. Except, of course, they have done it all before, bigger and better, in the 1950s, with five successive wins.
Real Madrid won their third consecutive Champions League title on Saturday, beating Liverpool 3-1 in the final in Kiev
Madrid won their 13th European Cup title thanks to a double from Gareth Bale and an opener from Karim Benzema
Zinedine Zidane has led Madrid to yet another European triumph following their tough domestic season
The French manager kisses the Champions League trophy following the enthralling final in Kiev on Saturday night
Match-winner Bale holds the Champions League trophy aloft following his heroics in Ukraine against Liverpool
Bale walks down the tunnel proudly donning a Wales flag over his shoulders as supporters congratulate him
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez following the hard-fought victory
The Liverpool squad walk around the pitch showing their dejection following their final heartbreak against Madrid
Virgil van Dijk walks past the trophy without glancing at it as he tries to come to terms with the hard-to-take defeat
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp applauds the disappointed travelling supporters after the crushing defeat
Loris Karius sobs on the pitch as he apologises to the Liverpool fans following his two huge errors during the game
A visibly emotional Karius is consoled immediately after the final whistle as Liverpool fell at the final hurdle
Salah pictured leaving the stadium in a sling after sustaining a shoulder injury early on in the Kiev showdown
Bale sealed victory for Los Blancos in the 83rd minute after firing home from long-range past Karius
Karius produced a massive clanger, fumbling Bale's stinging shot into the net to ensure Madrid doubled their lead
The German goalkeeper fails to hold on to Bale's fierce left-footed strike, which sealed victory for the Spanish giants
The former Premier League winger strikes the ball at goal as Liverpool players give him space outside the penalty area
Bale was the hero in Kiev as he scored twice in the second half after coming off the bench to replace Isco
The 28-year-old celebrates his second with Casemiro and Toni Kroos as Madrid won their third straight Champions League
Karius reacts on the floor by putting his hands over his face following his second clanger of the night in Kiev
Bale scored an incredible bicycle kick from the edge of the penalty area to put Real Madrid 2-1 ahead against Liverpool
The Wales international pulled off the unthinkable in the 64th minute, leaving Karius with absolutely no chance
Bale lands on the floor while the ball flies into the top corner of Karius' net in the 64th minute on Saturday night
Bale celebrates in style after stunning the crowd at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Saturday night
Bale dives to the floor in celebration as an amazed Marcelo goes over to congratulate him for his memorable strike
Bale's Madrid team-mates bundle on top of the match-winner after netting one of the great goals in the Champions League
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Real Madrid (4-1-2-3): Navas 5, Carvajal 6 (Nacho 37 - 7), Varane 8, Ramos 8, Marcelo 7, Modric 7.5, Casemiro 7, Kroos 8, Isco 5 (Bale 61- 8.5), Benzema 8.5 (Asensio 88), Ronaldo 7
Subs: Casilla, Hernandez, Lucas, Kovacic
Manager: Zinedine Zidane 8
Scorers: Benzema 51, Bale 64, 83
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius 3, Alexander-Arnold 6, Lovren 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 7.5, Milner 6.5 (Can 82), Henderson 7, Wijnaldum 6, Salah 6 (Lallana 31 - 6), Firmino 6, Mane 8
Subs: Mignolet, Clyne, Klavan, Moreno, Solanke
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6
Scorers: Mane 55
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia) 7
Man of the Match: Gareth Bale
This is how Gareth Bale incredibly put Real Madrid 2-1 ahead in the 64th minute on Saturday night against Liverpool. CLICK HERE to take a look at our brilliant MATCH ZONE.
On another night we might have been lauding an exceptional performance from Britain's best player, Welshman Gareth Bale. Excluded from the starting line-up, he came on to win the game with a goal so good it is unlikely to be matched for decades. Maybe it even surpassed that of the manager who had left him out, who scored a similarly magnificent goal in this final in 2002. He then added a second, which finished Liverpool. And perhaps Loris Karius.
At the end Karius wept uncontrollably. It is hard to recall a night which has gone so spectacularly wrong for a team player at such a high-profile event. At times he was superb, his saves spectacular. Yet this will always be the final he lost. The first goal he conceded was comically awful, bowling the ball out directly into Karim Benzema's out-stretched leg. The second was just as bad, allowing Bale's speculative shot from thirty yards, aimed directly at him, to slide through his hands. You could not but feel enormous sympathy for him. It was the kind of night from which only the strongest recover.
Jurgen Klopp too will have to endure familiar barbs. 'We wanted everything and got nothing,' he lamented. 'Or minus something, with the injury of Mo. Probably Egypt lost him for the World Cup. I hope not.' This was a sixth consecutive defeat in Cup finals, Liverpool's third under his tenure. And, of course, there are improvements to be made. But to deny the impact of his leadership would be to carp. He has elevated Liverpool, who are steadily regaining their place at the top table domestically and internationally. Trophies may – or may not – follow. But his quality is undeniable.
As promised, Liverpool started with what Klopp had described as 'big balls football' and Rea; Madrid seemed aghast. It was like watching footballing aristocracy being asked to mix with the hoi polloi. It was quite something to see a team as accomplished as Real Madrid quite so firmly on the back foot.
Sadio Mane levelled the scoring at 1-1 in the 55th minute after tapping home following a header from Dejan Lovren
Mane got the decisive touch on the ball ahead of Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was left stranded on the ground
Mane gets up to celebrate in front of the delighted Liverpool fans just four minutes after the Reds went behind
The speedy winger is mobbed by his Liverpool colleagues after pegging Los Blancos back in the second half
Karim Benzema opened the scoring in bizarre fashion after Karius threw the ball directly onto his foot
The Frenchman read the Liverpool goalkeeper's throw out and got a lucky touch on the ball that rolled into the corner
Benzema wheels off to celebrate the opening goal as his Madrid team-mates sprint from behind to celebrate with him
Benzema is the first French goalscorer in a Champions League final since Zinedine Zidane against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002
The striker, who has endured a tough season with Madrid, is mobbed by his jubilant team-mates on Saturday
The question was whether its idealistic enthusiasm would catch Liverpool out. Cristiano Ronaldo shooting just over on 14 minutes when Andy Robertson had left his position to retrieve a mis-hit Roberto Firmino pass was a chilling warning.
Yet when Dani Carvajal sent an attempted cross-field pass straight out for a corner on 17 minutes, it seemed to represent the minor panic induced in Real Madrid by Liverpool's sheer ferocity. From the corner, Virgil van Dijk headed just over. On 22 minutes, Firmino's shot was deflected into the path of Alexander-Arnold. His strike, firm and low, forced a fine save from Keylor Navas.
However, on 28 minutes came the most grievous of blows, the defining moment of the match. Two minutes earlier, in a tussle with Ramos, Salah had been held and crushed to the ground and emerged clutching his shoulder. He winced but played on. Yet two minutes later he simply dropped to his knees, seemingly in tears and holding that injured shoulder. It was clear what it meant. He walked off, sobbing, distraught and straight into the arms of a Klopp bear hug, as Adam Lallana came on. Ramos wasn't seen to smirk. But presumably this was peak schadenfreude.
'Of course it was a big moment in the game,' said Klopp. 'I know if you say something like this, it's like you're bad loser. But it was a harsh challenge and the arm is there, like wrestling. It's a bit unlucky that Mo falls on his shoulder, but it's a serious injury. Really serious. Then the shock of the boys obvious and we dropped a bit too deep. And Real tried to use it as positive momentum. I don't know what would have happened if Mo had played on we will never know that. But everyone saw the first half hour and we were the opponent that everyone expected.'
Isco missed a golden opportunity to put Madrid ahead immediately in the second half, seeing his effort hit the crossbar
Isco and both sets of players watch on as they wait to find out whether his effort will nestle into the net
Isco and Sergio Ramos react as the former hits the crossbar after seeing his effort fly over Karius in the Liverpool goal
Benzema thought he had opened the scoring for the La Liga giants in the first half but his effort was ruled out for offside
The French striker pounced after Karius did brilliantly to save Cristiano Ronaldo's bullet header late on in the first half
The 30-year-old was marginally offside as he pounced on the ball following Ronaldo's saved header in the 44th minute
Benzema reacts after finding out that the linesman had ruled out his strike at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev
Real Madrid would lose Dani Carvajal on 37 minutes and again tears flowed. Yet Liverpool had lost their totemic presence, Real Madrid their right back. And now, where the champions had stuttered, now they strutted.
The threat never more apparent when Isco crossed on 42 minutes to find a rising Ronaldo, who headed goal-wards in his imperious fashion. It took a fine save from Karius to push the ball away, only into the path of Benzema, who volleyed in. A flag though was raised and Liverpool were spared.
After the re-start, Ronaldo played in Marcelo and Lallana attempted to cut out his pass on 47 minutes. Yet unfortunately he only helped the ball onto Isco. Karius's despairing lunge meant he pretty much had the whole goal to aim at. Somehow he hit the bar.
The reprieve wasn't to last long. An over-hit Toni Kroos pass on 50 minutes was collected by Karius. In his eagerness to restart play, he attempted to bowl the ball out to his centre halves, but in too casual a fashion. Benzema was lurking close by and he simply lifted a foot and the ball lamely lolloped into the net.
Just moments after seeing Mohamed Salah come off with an injury, Dani Carvajal was the next to be forced off
The Madrid right back cries as he walks around the pitch before heading to the tunnel with an injury
Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury in the 31st minute after Sergio Ramos hauled him down to the ground
Salah lies on the floor in agony on his own after awkwardly falling down following Ramos' clumsy challenge
The Egyptian, who will be desperate to be fit for the World Cup, was visibly emotional as he realised his final was over
Ronaldo and Mane console the very emotional winger, who was replaced by Adam Lallana after 31 minutes
A Liverpool supporter reacts in disappointment after seeing his team's star player sustain the painful shoulder injury
Karius raged, Jordan Henderson protested to the referee. But really there was nothing to be said. Benzema's foot wasn't especially high and he wasn't even that close. Karius had thrown the ball out; he hadn't been interrupted mid kick. It was an awful mistake. A groan of sympathy echoed around the ground as the replay was shown.
Liverpool looked lost. When Mané, in sheer frustration, raised a hand at Ramos, the Spaniard reacted predictably. Mané was lucky, he escaped with a lecture. Yet hope rekindled of 55 minutes. James Milner's corner found Dejan Lovren, who rose above all and sundry headed goal-wards. And Mané now reacted quicker than anyone, stealing a yard, sticking out a leg and deflecting the ball home.
The stadium, vast swathes of it occupied by Liverpool fans, echoed again to the sounds of The Kop. Yet soon a fresh blow would arrive and this time as extraordinary as the first goal was ridiculous. Gareth Bale had only be on the pitch three minutes, coming on for Isco on 61 minutes.
Youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold goes close to opening the scoring with a stinging effort, which is saved by Keylor Navas
Virgil van Dijk, signed from Southampton for £75million, gets to the ball in the air before Navas but heads over the crossbar
Andy Robertson challenges for the ball with Spain international Isco with both teams battling to break the deadlock
Deadly Liverpool forward Salah goes down following pressure from Madrid defenders Marcelo and Ramos
Lovren makes himself known to five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo during the opening minutes in Ukraine
There seemed little danger when Marcelo dinked in a cross from the left. Yet, back to goal Bale rose, if a little ungainly, with scarcely-believable athleticism to meet it with his foot, a good metre and a half off the ground. It was the most spectacular of overhead kicks and simply soared into the net. It may not be bettered for decades so spectacular was it.
Even then, Liverpool didn't retreat. And Mané was to the fore. Ramos needed to stretch out a desperate left foot to prevent him racing through on goal on 69 minutes. A minute later, his strike from outside the box produced a fine save from Navas, tipping the ball on to the post.
The denouement though was the unkindest cut of all. On 83 minutes, with the contest still alive, Bale took aim from 30 yards out. The shot had power and spun a little. But it headed directly at Karius. There appeared no danger. And yet it slipped through his hands. He seemed even to turn it into the net. And the hope which has sustained this extraordinary campaign finally died in that moment.
Star men Salah and Ronaldo shake hands as the two teams go through their usual pre-match routine
Liverpool supporters proudly hold up their club scarves during the early stages of the Champions League final
Liverpool fans were in full voice before and throughout the match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on Saturday
Popular pop artist Dua Lipa performs on the pitch before kick-off in the eagerly-anticipated showdown
Dua Lipa performs on stage just minutes before kick-off between Liverpool and Madrid on Saturday night