Bale stunners and Karius blunders see Real Madrid win UCL final over Liverpool
Real Madrid won their third straight Champions League thanks to a moment of sublime brilliance from Gareth Bale and Loris Karius’ errors.
Gareth Bale came off the bench to score one of the great goals in Champions League history and add to Loris Karius’ personal ordeal by sealing Real Madrid’s third consecutive European title with a 3-1 win over Liverpool.
Much of the pre-match build-up centred on the anticipated battle between star forwards Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo in Kiev, but the duel was cut short before the half hour when Liverpool’s talisman suffered an apparent shoulder injury.
The 25-year-old landed awkwardly on his left shoulder after grappling with Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo remained on the periphery throughout.
Step forward Bale.
With the game locked at 1-1 in the 64th minute and 122 seconds after replacing Isco – who earlier hit the crossbar – Bale scored and overhead kick of rare brilliance.
The opening goal six minutes into the second half was as farcical as the winner was fabulous – Karim Benzema the beneficiary of goalkeeping incompetence from Karius, much like he was against Bayern Munich and Sven Ulreich in the semi-finals.
Sadio Mane found a swift response for Liverpool but Bale, benched frequently on the big occasions this term, had other ideas.
Karius had no chance on that occasion but seven minutes from time he pushed the Welshman’s speculative drive tamely into his net, confirming Madrid as European champions for the 13th time in their illustrious history.
The nature of the setback made Liverpool’s response four minutes later all the more impressive.
Dejan Lovren rose highest to meet James Milner’s corner and Mane was on the move, reacting sharply to divert the ball past Navas.
Karius partially atoned for his error by touching an Isco shot around the post – the Spain playmaker’s last contribution before making way for Bale, whose was utterly sublime.
Twisting into position as Marcelo’s chipped cross floated behind him, Bale leapt skywards and met the ball with the outside of his left boot.
His precise contact sent it dipping under the bar and into the top left corner.
In Salah’s absence, Mane was leading the Liverpool charge and fizzed a left-footed drive against the base of the post in the 70th minute.
A last-ditch challenge from Andrew Robertson prevented an unusually hesitant Ronaldo and Karius acrobatically denied Benzema, but the other two members of the BBC need not have worried. This was to go down as Bale’s night.
Unfortunately for Liverpool’s German goalkeeper, it will also be one forever associated with Karius after he limply made a hash of the match-winner’s 30-yard strike seven minutes from time, with Klopp falling to defeat for his sixth final in a row.
‘Bale’s goal out of this world’
Former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard speaking on BT Sport…
“You’ve got to feel for the Liverpool players in general. They’ve been done by two individual mistakes.
“Obviously the Mo Salah moment was pivotal because Liverpool were dominating the opening stages of the game. Zinedine Zidane again gets the big decisions right, he brings Bale on and he scores two goals.
“The goal he scores is phenomenal. It is out of this world but the talking point will be the keepers mistake.”
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale on BT Sport:
“Obviously I was very disappointed not to start the game, I felt I deserved it but the manager makes the decisions. The best I have been doing is to come on and make an impact, I certainly did.
“It has to be the best goal in a Champions League final, there is no bigger stage. I am just happy to get the win
“It is a team game but when you are a substitute, it is a game of more than 11 players. I made an impact.
“We know what we have achieved and how good we have been. The league was disappointing but we won the Champions League. It turns out to be a great season.
“We let everyone else speak. We know how hungry we are in the changing room, how prepared and motivated we are.”
Asked about his future: “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 fit ever since. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”
Congratulations team Real Madrid.