Gareth Bale scored one of European football’s great goals to help Real Madrid overcome Liverpool and win their third successive Champions League title as goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a personal nightmare.
Bale made his mark on another Champions League final with a magnificent overhead kick to put Real 2-1 up after 64 minutes.
Liverpool had already suffered the devastating blow of losing top scorer Mohamed Salah midway through the first half – with a shoulder injury sustained in a challenge with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos – when calamity struck for Karius.
Six minutes after half-time, the German inexplicably threw the ball against Karim Benzema, who was not even challenging with urgency, and watched in horror as the ball rolled behind him into the net.
Liverpool recovered from the shock to equalise through Sadio Mane before Bale stepped off the bench to score his wonder goal.
There was to be no comeback from Liverpool this time and Karius’s misery was complete when he fumbled Bale’s hopeful 30-yard shot behind him to seal Real’s win.
It sealed Real’s record 13th win in this competition, and their fourth in five seasons to give coach Zinedine Zidane this third triumph in three years.
For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, it was disappointment again – he lost his third successive final since arriving at Anfield, having suffered defeats in the League Cup and Europa League finals of 2016.
- Relive the Champions League final as Real Madrid beat Liverpool
- Tearful Salah suffers suspected dislocated shoulder
- Bale to have talks about Real future
Calamity for hapless Karius
When the story of this Champions League final is told from a Liverpool perspective, it will be the tale of Karius’ nightmare alongside that of Salah’s injury.
The 24-year-old German has been shown huge faith by Klopp, who brought him in from Mainz and made him first choice ahead of Simon Mignolet.
He has never fully convinced and on this, the biggest night in Liverpool’s recent history, he had the sort of night to leave you wondering how he will rebuild his Anfield career.
Karius inexplicably threw a clearance against Benzema for Real Madrid’s opener before fumbling Bale’s speculative, long-range effort into the net to snuff out any hopes of a comeback.
The keeper lay flat on the turf at the final whistle, being consoled by Real Madrid’s players before apologising tearfully in front of Liverpool’s fans.
Klopp clearly rates Karius but there are too many holes in his technique. That, along with his temperament, must be questioned after a complete horror show here in Kiev.
Salah setback shifted the balance of power
The whole emphasis of the final shifted as Salah slumped to the turf for a second time after realising he could not carry on with the shoulder injury sustained in the tangle with Ramos.
Liverpool had started well and Real’s deep defending hinted at the apprehension they were felt faced with the attacking trio of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
As Salah left the pitch, inconsolable and in tears, even Liverpool’s fans were temporarily hushed and it was clear Real had suddenly been given fresh impetus.
Liverpool, with the magnificent Mane leading the fight, showed commendable heart but they had been robbed of their world-class talisman who, before his substitution, had scored 33% of their goals in all competitions.
It will be the great unknown as to what might have happened had Salah stayed on but there is no question his departure was a savage blow to Liverpool and a lift for Real Madrid.
Bale bounces back
Bale’s Real Madrid future has been under constant scrutiny this season – a quirk at a club that lives by its own rules.
The Welshman did not even make the starting line-up here and only emerged just after the hour – but within two minutes he scored one of the great Champions League goals, an overhead kick that was a triumph of athleticism and technique, and begged the question as to how Real could even contemplate life without him.
As for Bale’s second goal, make no mistake – when he took on that long-range shot, he would have been street-smart enough to know Karius was living on his nerves after his earlier error.
Bale delivered a reminder, if it were needed that he remains a world-class player.
It may just have been an expensive night for suitors such as Manchester United as his display here will have added millions to any potential transfer fee.
When asked about his future after the game, Bale told BT Sport: “I need to be playing week in, week out and that has not happened this season.
“I had an injury five, six weeks in but have been fit ever since. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”
Zidane the history man
Zinedine Zidane has joined Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and his Real Madrid predecessor Carlo Ancelotti in the elite ranks of managers to win this tournament three times – but added extra gloss by becoming the first to win it in three successive seasons.
Zidane has often been damned with faint praise about his abilities and record, despite his Champions League invincibility, by those who claim he simply keeps an outstanding team on track but he makes a nonsense of that with his tactical approach, handling of world-class players (and world-class egos) and a very happy knack of making decisive substitutions.
Three Champions League wins in three seasons ends all argument about his greatness as a coach. He is in charge of a team who know how to get the job done.
Man of the match – Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
‘This team is magnificent’ – what they said
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, speaking to BT Sport: “Great emotions. To lift three Champions League trophies with this club, this team is magnificent. We don’t quite realise what we have achieved yet.
“We are going to enjoy the moment. We had a complicated season but to finish with this makes us really happy.
“I have had a little bit of time to think about what this means. This is the status of this club. It is a legendary club, one that has won 13 Champions Leagues and I am happy to be a part of its history too.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “The plan is only to play to win, nothing else, not a lot to say. We started well and played exactly like we wanted to.
“The situation with Sergio Ramos [and Mohamed Salah] looked really bad and it was a shock for the team, we lost the positive momentum and they immediately came up.
“We dropped deep and we could not get to Luka Modric or Toni Kroos. We had to run and work, we did that and half-time came. What can I say about the goals? We scored one, they scored three.”
A first in 42 years – the stats
- English teams have suffered a defeat in their past seven UEFA club competition finals against Spanish opposition (four Champions League finals and three UEFA Cup/Europa League finals).
- Jurgen Klopp has lost six of his seven major finals as manager, only winning the DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
- Real Madrid started with the same XI as in the 2016-17 Champions League final; the first time a team has started with the same 11 players in different European Cup/Champions League finals (excluding replays).
- Karim Benzema has scored four goals against Liverpool in the Champions League; no player has managed more (also four for Didier Drogba).
- Liverpool became the first team in history to see three players score 10-plus goals in a single Champions League season (Salah 10, Firmino 10, Mane 10).
- Sadio Mane is only the fourth African player to score in a European Cup/Champions League final and the first since Didier Drogba for Chelsea v Bayern Munich in 2012. The other two were by Samuel Eto’o for Barcelona in both 2009 and 2006, and Rabah Madjer for Porto in 1987.
- Mane became the third Liverpool player to score 20-plus goals in all competitions this season (Salah 44 goals and Firmino 27 goals); the last time that three players hit the 20-goal mark for the club in a single campagn was 1981-82 (Dalglish, McDermott and Rush).
- 2CarvajalSubstituted forNachoat 37'minutes
- 22IscoSubstituted forBaleat 61'minutes
- 9BenzemaSubstituted forAsensioat 89'minutes
- 4van Dijk
- 7MilnerSubstituted forCanat 83'minutes
- 11SalahSubstituted forLallanaat 30'minutes
- 19ManéBooked at 82mins
- Milorad Mazic
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Real Madrid 3, Liverpool 1.
Second Half ends, Real Madrid 3, Liverpool 1.
Foul by Marco Asensio (Real Madrid).
Sadio Mané (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Virgil van Dijk.
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool).
Attempt blocked. Adam Lallana (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Nacho (Real Madrid).
Sadio Mané (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Real Madrid. Marco Asensio replaces Karim Benzema.
Nacho (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).
Foul by Marcelo (Real Madrid).
Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Sadio Mané.
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Sadio Mané.
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Dejan Lovren.
Goal! Real Madrid 3, Liverpool 1. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marcelo.
Substitution, Liverpool. Emre Can replaces James Milner.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sadio Mané (Liverpool).
Attempt saved. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Gareth Bale.
Hand ball by Adam Lallana (Liverpool).
Offside, Real Madrid. Toni Kroos tries a through ball, but Gareth Bale is caught offside.
Nacho (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool).
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Andrew Robertson.
Attempt blocked. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Offside, Liverpool. Roberto Firmino tries a through ball, but Adam Lallana is caught offside.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Gareth Bale.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool) hits the left post with a left footed shot from outside the box. Assisted by Georginio Wijnaldum.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Sergio Ramos.
Offside, Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold tries a through ball, but Adam Lallana is caught offside.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James Milner (Liverpool).
Goal! Real Madrid 2, Liverpool 1. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Marcelo with a cross.
Substitution, Real Madrid. Gareth Bale replaces Isco.
Offside, Real Madrid. Nacho tries a through ball, but Toni Kroos is caught offside.