Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev on Saturday, with Zinedine Zidane’s side winning a third-straight European cup.
[ MORE: Mohamed Salah injured ]
A game packed full of drama saw Mohamed Salah leave the pitch in tears early on after picking up a shoulder injury, while Real took the lead via Karim Benzema’s quick thinking after a horror moment for Loris Karius.
[ MORE: Ronaldo, Bale hint at Real Madrid exits ]
Liverpool reacted well to those blows as Sadio Mane equalized but then Gareth Bale jumped off the bench to score a stunning overhead kick goal, then Karius made another howler to allow Bale to score another and seal a record 13th European title for Real.
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Below is a look at what we learned from an encapsulating game as the curtain came down on the European season in style.
BALE’S BRILLIANCE WORTHY OF WINNING ANY FINAL
This is the stuff of dreams for Gareth Bale.
The Welshman was left out of the starting lineup in Zidane’s only big decision of the game as Isco and Karim Benzema were favored to partner Cristiano Ronaldo in attack ahead of him.
Bale made Zidane question his call after jumping off the bench to change the game.
He not only scored that stunning goal but he also sent in a fabulous cross with the outside of his foot to pick out Benzema who nearly scored another late on. He then scored another from distance as his dipping shot caught out Karius who had a nightmare to spoon it into his net. Bale than raced clear late on but a fine tackle from Dejan Lovren denied him a hat trick with Ronaldo wide open.
Bale has scored in one previous Champions League final (2013/14) and last season he came off the bench late on after recovering from injury to play a bit-part. On Saturday he stole the show.
And now all of the talk this summer will be about Bale and if he will remain at the Santiago Bernabeu or head to the Premier League.
If he does end his five-year stay in Madrid, Bale went out in style as he’s collected four Champions League winners medals and this will be the sweetest of the bunch.
Now, the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and even his old club Tottenham (they reportedly have first refusal if he returns to England) will start making calls to Bale’s agent.
SALAH’S INJURY, KARIUS HOWLERS HIT LIVERPOOL HARD
Mohamed Salah left the field in Kiev in tears in the first half and most of the soccer world was crying with him.
Salah (Liverpool’s leading goalscorer this season with 44 goals in all competitions) tangled with Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid’s captain locked his right arm in to the Egyptian forward who slammed into the pitch.
Take a look at the incident below as Salah’s World Cup dream with Egypt is in serious doubt.
Liverpool’s main man tried to carry on but as his adoring fans sung his chant which dominated the Premier League this season, the magician couldn’t carry on.
Salah’s absence made a huge difference and helped swing the game in Real Madrid’s favor with the Reds having just seven touches in Real’s half in the 14 first half minutes after Salah went off compared to 111 before that.
Obviously you cannot legislate for the kind of mistakes Karius made and Jurgen Klopp will have to answer questions about losing his sixth major final on the spin.
Karius may never get over the two huge mistakes he made but Liverpool did have chances as Mane hit the post as well as scoring, but losing Salah so early obviously had a huge impact on their chances.
Liverpool have had a stunning season in the Champions League and nobody thought they could get to the final. They’ve come up short but they can hold their head high and start to build for next season with a fully-fit Salah leading the way.
ZIDANE AND REAL ARE TRUE LEGENDS
Zidane looked like he had just popped down the shop for a newspaper and a pint of milk at the final whistle.
The legendary player is now a legendary manager as he led his star-studded team to a third-straight European title and got the big calls correct. He started Benzema ahead of Bale and unleashed the angry Welshman to pummel Liverpool’s defense in the latter stages. It worked a treat and this Real team will go down in history.
Zidane watched on with a smile on his face in the closing stages as his team turned on the style and in truth they could’ve won by five or six. Even though they struggled in La Liga this season, Real turned it on when it mattered time and time again in the Champions League.
Let’s take a look at the records Real have now extended as they are truly the Kings of Europe
- Real Madrid have won a record 13 European titles
- Real made their 16th appearance in a European Cup final, more than any other team in history
- They are the first team since Bayern Munich (1974-1976) to win three-straight European titles
- Zinedine Zidane is just the third manager to win the European Cup/Champions League three times (after Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti), but the first to win it in three consecutive seasons