By Demola Ojo
Gareth Bale came off the bench to help Real Madrid win an historic third Champions League in a night full of drama in Kiev. Bale scored a magnificent overhead kick in the 64rd minute to put Madrid 2-1 up three minutes after coming on as a substitute, before blasting a ball through Liverpool goalkeeper Lorius Karius from outside the box for Madrid’s third and final goal in the 83rd.
In truth, the German keeper should have done much better with the shot instead of fumbling it into his net and it was his second costly error of the game after allowing Madrid’s French striker, Karim Benzema intercept his roll-out pass for the first goal of the game in the 51st minute.
Karius’ blunders were the culmination of an evening that started brightly for Liverpool but turned sour after start player Mohammed Salah came off injured after 30 minutes. In retrospect, Cristiano Ronaldo’s withering stare at Salah in the tunnel moments before kick-off was perhaps, a sign of things to come as the Egyptian came off worse in a tussle with Madrid captain, Sergio Ramos.
Salah seemed to suffer a serious shoulder injury that puts his World Cup participation in doubt, after Ramos landed awkwardly – if not cynically – on him, as they both fell to the turf. With Liverpool’s most potent attacking weapon out of the game, Madrid took control of proceedings and ramped up the pressure on their English opponents.
Despite being pegged back by a Sadio Mane equalizer from a corner kick in the 55th minute, Madrid’s exceptional quality and strength in depth came to the fore as Bale, who came to Madrid for a world record fee and also scored in the 2014 final win over Atletico Madrid – stunned Liverpool with what will surely go down as the best goal in Champions League history.
French forward Karim Benzema had put Madrid ahead in the 51st minute by sticking out a leg as Liverpool’s German keeper Karius attempted to throw the ball to a team mate, sending it trickling over the line, but Sadio Mane levelled from close range for Juergen Klopp’s side.
Bale then sealed Madrid’s record-extending 13th European Cup win and piled more misery on Karius with a long-range strike in the 83rd minute which went straight through the hands of the hapless goalkeeper.
It was a night which confirmed Real’s ability to superbly manage the biggest of games and highlighted Liverpool’s continued problems with the goalkeeping position as well as an overreliance on Salah.
Real become the first side since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win the trophy three years in a row and Zinedine Zidane is the first coach to win three back-to-back titles. For Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp this was a sixth successive loss in a final, including a 2013 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich while Borussia Dortmund coach.