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Player ratings, UCL final: Bale the hero, Karius the zero

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Real Madrid were crowned champions of Europe (again, for the third straight season) on Saturday, spearheaded by an all-time great goal scored by Gareth Bale and an all-time shocking performance from Loris Karius.

[ MORE: Benzema’s opener | Mane’s equalizer | Bale’s winner ]

Liverpool

GK – Loris Karius – 0/10: A goalkeeper has never committed a worse, more egregious, more senseless error in the history of soccer. Just watch it (unless you’re a Liverpool fan). Then he did this, in the same game. He can’t go back to Liverpool.

RB – Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6/10

CB – Dejan Lovren – 6.5/10

CB – Virgil Van Dijk – 6.5/10

LB – Andrew Robertson – 6.5/10: Robertson’s heroic sliding block to snuff out Cristiano Ronaldo’s breakaway in the 75th minute kept Liverpool’s hopes and dreams alive.

CM – Jordan Henderson – 7/10

CM – James Milner (83′) – 6/10

CM – Georginio Wijnaldum – 6/10

RW – Mohamed Salah (31′) – 5/10: Injured by a highly questionable “challenge” from Sergio Ramos (WATCH HERE) inside the opening half-hour, the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner was unable to find his footing (through little fault of his own) during a cagey opening 25 minutes.

CF – Roberto Firmino – 5.5/10: A brilliant season for the Brazilian ends with one of his least impactful, quietest outings of the campaign. To Madrid’s credit, they put him on an island up top and denied any and all service to the frontman.

LW – Sadio Mane – 7/10: Scored Liverpool’s only goal (WATCH HERE), but was rendered largely ineffective following Salah’s departure, as Madrid were able to shift their defensive focus to the other side of the field.

Sub – Adam Lallana (31′) – 5.5/10

Sub – Emre Can (83′) – N/A

[ MORE: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool — Los Blancos make it three straight ]

Real Madrid

GK – Keylor Navas – 7.5/10: Navas made a pair of truly world-class saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless, at a time when the Reds were beginning to find their way and build up a head of steam.

RB – Dani Carvajal (37′) – 5/10

CB – Raphael Varane – 8/10: Kept Firmino in his hip pocket all game long.

CB – Sergio Ramos – 6/10: Responsible for the injury to Salah (no matter your feelings his about intent), but Ramos managed to avoid getting sent off over 90 minutes, which is a big win for him.

LB – Marcelo – 6.5/10:

CDM – Casemiro – 6.5/10

CM – Luka Modric – 7/10: Bossed the midfield and marshaled (par for the course) with four tackles and completed 94 percent of his 72 passes attempted. Madrid’s metronome, oftentimes their most important players lying in the shadows.

CM – Toni Kroos – 6/10

CAM – Isco – 7.5/10 (61′): Far and away Madrid’s best player for the entirety of the first half, and was inches from putting Los Blancos ahead in the 48th minute, when he lifted the ball over Karius and was denied by the crossbar.

FW – Karim Benzema (89′) – 7/10: Scored the game’s opening goal, could have scored a second goal late in the second half if not for a great save by Karius, and continues to (somehow) remain underrated when he so consistently shows up in the big games.

FW – Cristiano Ronaldo – 6/10: Little to no impact from minute 1 to 90. All that was missing was an 89th-minute goal to make it 4-1 and a wild shirt-off celebration like he’d scored the winner.

Sub – Nacho (37′) – 6/10

Sub – Gareth Bale (61′) – 10/10: When you score a goal like this, you got a 10/10 every time, no matter anything else you did while on the field (he scored again in the 83rd minute).

Sub – Marco Asensio (89′) – N/A

Benitez non-committal on Newcastle future, saying team needs to buy

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Rafa Benitez has earned some chatter as a Premier League Manager of the Year candidate after guiding Newcastle United to safety one years after leading them back from the Championship.

Many thought he wouldn’t follow the team down a division after rallying Newcastle but falling two points shy of safety in 2015-16, but the Magpies won the Championship and are now in position to fight for a top half finish in this season’s Premier League.

[ MORE: Mourinho rips forwards after loss ]

But owner Mike Ashley hasn’t inspired confidence in his club in some time, and struck a confusing figure when big Benitez fan Amanda Staveley tried to buy the club late last year with the aim of leading the Magpies back into the European conversation.

Now the toast of the town, Benitez holds a lot of the momentum when it comes to his position at St. James’ Park. He’s not sure what’s coming next, even with the two sides discussing a new deal, and here’s what he said when asked whether he wants to stay next season.

“That is a tricky question. I said in an interview the other day I decided to stay because of the potential, the fans and the city. Then we have to do what we have to do.”

“But if you want to go to another level, you need more quality.”

Ashley has sold many of Newcastle’s best assets dating back to James Milner and including Yohan Cabaye, Andy Carroll, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Benitez arguably would’ve had Newcastle competing for seventh if Ashley had sanctioned a striker purchase greater than the $6 million Joselu buy in August, then Islam Slimani on loan in January.

He’s coaxed career seasons out of Mohamed Diame, DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Dummett, and Kenedy (the last name on loan from Chelsea). It would be interesting to see what he’d be able to do with a nice transfer kitty.

Liverpool players to face Real “with confidence”

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Jordan Henderson says Liverpool will head to the UEFA Champions League Final in Ukraine as a team brimming with fight.

[ MORE: Roma 4-2 (6-7 agg.) Liverpool ]

Liverpool held off Roma 7-6 over two legs following Wednesday’s 4-2 loss in Italy, and will now meet holders Real Madrid on May 26 in Kiev.

The Reds scored early through Sadio Mane and led 2-1 before conceding thrice late at the Stadio Olimpico.

“We knew it was important to score and get one early on,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. “We were unlucky with their first goal but overall we have to be happy with what we have done over the two legs. We could have done better in this game but we’ve made it through to the final.

“We have another important game on the weekend against Chelsea and then we have Real Madrid in the final. We will go there with confidence.”

Real has won its last six UCL finals, though its last loss came to the Reds in 1981. Georginio Wijnaldum scored in Rome and is hopeful of earning Liverpool its first UCL crown since 2005.

“It will be a nice game,” Wijnaldum said. “If you want to win the Champions League you have to beat any team. They have lots of good players but so do we. So it will be a good match.”

Then there’s Andy Robertson, who could’ve been sent off for a dangerous late shove but has been a revelation since arriving from Hull City following the Tigers relegation campaign.

“What a thing to be involved in,” Robertson said. “Credit to all the lads, we’ve come through every challenge we’ve been set. We’ll have a great day in Kiev whatever the result. … Last season we were fighting for our lives at Hull, now I feel like I’m at home. I’ll certainly enjoy Kiev.”

Liverpool advances to Champions League Final

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  • Liverpool qualifies for 8th UCL Final
  • First since losing to AC Milan in 2007
  • Will face Real Madrid on May 26 in Kiev
  • WATCH: Goals from Mane, Wijnaldum

Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane scored in Wednesday’s 4-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg loss as Liverpool advanced past Roma 7-6 on aggregate to clinch a berth opposite Real Madrid in the final.

Radja Nainngolan scored twice to go with an Edin Dzeko marker and a James Milner own goal but i Lupi was sloppy with the final ball for most of the match.

Liverpool’s eighth UCL Final berth ties Barcelona for the fifth-most all-time, behind Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Nainngolan’s mistake on the left of midfielder allowed Liverpool a 3v2 break on i Lupi.

Roberto Firmino led the rush, and his pass was in tune with Sadio Mane’s run. The Senegalese forward buried his chance beyond the reach of Alisson.

The lead didn’t last, as Roma got a goal back when Patrik Schick’s pressure forced Dejan Lovren into a clearance that bounded off James Milner’s face and past Loris Karius. Roma would again need three more goals, and had 75 minutes.

Alisson dragged his back leg to make a great save on Mane, but Wijnaldum restored the four-goal cushion in the 26th minute with a header off a corner kick.

Stephan El Shaarawy saw a deflected effort bound off the post in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

El Shaarway’s 52nd minute shot rebounded to Dzeko, who scored for the fifth-straight UCL game to pull Roma within three.

Cenzig Under flicked an over-the-top pass toward goal, but it bounded to Karius as it remained 2-2 at the hour mark.

Trent Alexander-Arnold could’ve given away a penalty when he blocked an in-tight shot with his hand, but there was no call.

Nainngolan smashed a 23-yard shot across goal and off both goal posts to make it 3-2 in the 87th minute.

Ragnar Klavan handled a ball in the second of three minutes of stoppage time, and Nainngolan scored that one, too.

AT HALF: Liverpool bags two away goals, on doorstep of UCL Final

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Roma had control of the first nine minutes of its UEFA Champions League comeback bid.

Then the Italian hosts gave Liverpool one chance, and the Reds punished them. Liverpool is taking a 2-1 second leg lead, 7-3 on aggregate, into halftime in Rome on Wednesday.

Radja Nainngolan’s mistake on the left of midfielder allowed Liverpool a 3v2 break on i Lupi.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roberto Firmino led the rush, and his pass was in tune with Sadio Mane‘s run. The Senegalese forward buried his chance beyond the reach of Alisson.

Roma got a goal back when Patrik Schick’s pressure forced Dejan Lovren into a clearance that bounded off James Milner‘s face and past Loris Karius.

But Georginio Wijnaldum took the second ball off a Liverpool corner and nodded beyond the reach of Alisson to make it 7-3 on aggregate.