Champions League final, Olimpiyskyi – Real Madrid 3 (Benzema 51′, Bale 63′, 83′) Liverpool 1 (Mane 55′).
Gareth Bale’s stunning overhead kick gave Real Madrid their third successive Champions League title, their fourth in five years, as Liverpool and Mohamed Salah’s night ended in tears.
The match pivoted on the shoulder injury suffered by the Egyptian winger in the first half, with Sergio Ramos landing on Salah after a clumsy tackle. From then, Real Madrid were handed the initiative, with goals from Karim Benzema and Bale, and a couple of blunders from Loris Karius, ultimately settling the contest.
Liverpool started the better of the two teams only to be hit by the injury to Salah. However, the Reds only had themselves to blame for falling behind five minutes into the second half when Karius threw the ball straight into the leg of Benzema, with the ball dribbling past him and over the line.
Against the run of play, Sadio Mane flicked home an equaliser not long after, but parity lasted less than 10 minutes as Bale netted an astonishing overhead kick, looping a finish over the head of Karius. And the Welshman put the finishing touches on the win, although he had more than a helping hand from Karius, who allowed a long-range strike to slip through his fingers.
Would a fit Mohamed Salah have changed the outcome of this final? Everything was going so well for Liverpool. They were on top, they were dominating the possession, creating the better chances. And then Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury and the whole match seemed to change. The Egyptian embodies so much of Liverpool’s run to the final and with his injury the Reds lost their character as a side. So would this match have ended differently if that fateful injury had been avoided? There will be some Liverpool fans pondering this tonight.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) Bale has every right to be frustrated with how much he’s been playing this season, a point he made after the game, but he reacted to his benching in the perfect way. His overhead kick was sublime, simply sublime and he changed the direction of the match. Of course there was some luck in his third but he brought something to the game that Isco couldn’t. Whoever he lines up for next season is going to be very lucky…
Real Madrid – Navas 5, Carvajal 5, Ramos 7, Varane 7, Marcelo 8, Casemiro 6, Kroos 8, Modric 7, Isco 5, Benzema 8, Ronaldo 7. Subs – Nacho 6, Bale 9, Asensio.
Liverpool – Karius 2, Alexander-Arnold 5, Lovren 6, Van Dijk 6, Robertson 6, Henderson 5, Wijnaldum 5, Milner 5, Salah 5, Firmino 6, Mane 9. Subs – Lallana 5, Can.
27’ SALAH DOWN! This is a concern for Liverpool. Ramos landed on Salah after a tackle and the Egyptian is holding his shoulder. This could be a game-changing moment right here.
29’ SALAH COMING OFF! The Egyptian has hit the ground again and is now in tears. Salah is going to have to come off here. Liverpool’s main man has suffered a shoulder injury and will be withdrawn.
35’ NOW CARVAJAL IS DOWN! The Real Madrid right back also looks to be in real trouble here. Carvajal is in tears, so has he suffered a game-ending injury as well? Worry for Real. Indeed, he’s coming off.
43’ REAL MADRID GOAL CHALKED OFF! Benzema has the ball in the back of the net, but it’s ruled out for offside! Ronaldo’s header draws a huge save from Karius, but the rebound is chalked off.
50’ GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool: What has just happened?! Real Madrid have the lead and it’s a blunder from Karius! He appeared to roll it into the feet of Benzema, who knew nothing about it! What a MASSIVE mistake!
55’ GOAL! Real Madrid 1-1 Liverpool: Liverpool have equalised! Just as it looked like this game was getting away from them, Mane gets on the end of a Lovren knock-down from a corner kick to flick a finish over Navas in the Real Madrid goal.
64’ GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool: INCREDIBLE! What a sensational goal from Bale! Remember Ronaldo’s overhead kick against Juventus? Bale has just repeated it! He finds the top corner of the net with a stunning effort! Wow.
70’ MANE OFF THE POST! The Liverpool winger is inches away from restoring parity for the second time! He takes aim with his left foot from the edge of the box, but it smashes off the base of the post.
74’ BIG RONALDO CHANCE! That could, and perhaps should, have been the game. Ronaldo was through, he took down the pass, he had time, but Robertson makes a crucial sliding challenge to deny him.
83’ GOAL! Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool: Another howler from Karius! There are no excuses for the Liverpool goalkeeper. Bale takes aim from distance, there was some movement on it, but Karius allows it to slip through his fingers.
Real Madrid started the same team that started last season’s Champions League final, the first time the same team has started two Champions League finals.
Karim Benzema became the first French player to score in a Champions League final since Zinedine Zidane’s strike in 2002.
It took Gareth Bale 122 seconds after coming off the bench to find the net against Liverpool.