The greatest competition in club football – The UEFA Champions League Final is here at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. The most successful side of the competition Real Madrid lined up against the English Giants of the competition – Liverpool. Let’s see how things turned out.
The Build Up:
Real Madrid wasn’t getting any closer to their bitter rivals in La Liga. The defending league champions were very poor in the league (having lost to Barcelona 3-0 at home) and eliminated out of Copa Del Rey. It was Zidane’s career at stake when he faced Neymar driven PSG in the Round of 16. Having overcome that, they faced Juventus in the Quarter Finals and Bayern Munich in the Semi-Finals. Certainly, it wasn’t a very easy path to the finals.
Liverpool, again having lost their hopes for the Premier League title and knocked out of FA Cup, wanted to end the season with a silverware. Liverpool met Porto in the Round of 16. The had their revenge against Manchester City in Quarter Finals and sneaked a win against Roma in Semi Final.
Liverpool started with the much-expected 4-3-3 having the deadly trio of Mane, Firminho and Salah in the attack. James Milner who didn’t enjoy much time on the field was given a chance.
Real Madrid had a full squad to choose from. They started with 4-3-1-2 with Isco instead of Bale to support the attack comprising of Ronaldo and Benzema. This was the same 11 that started against Juventus in the last final.
The Intriguing First Half:
Real Madrid struggled in the first half as against the high pressing done by Liverpool. Madrid was relatively easy on the ball while The Reds were charging on to take advantage of any space created. The not-so-appreciated defence of Liverpool never seemed to be exploited by the likes of Ronaldo.
A big blow for Liverpool fans came in when Salah was substituted by Lallana after a strong tackle by Ramos. Not much after, Carvajal was also substituted by Nacho when he stretched himself a lot while making up the attack.
Liverpool saw their performance drop after losing Salah but was enough to contain Madrid. Benzema was rightly flagged offside when he netted the ball once. Liverpool had 9 shots before Salah was subbed and none after that.
1st Half Score: 0 – 0
The Entertaining Second Half:
The game set back in full flow with Real Madrid trying to control the game and Liverpool setting on to absorb the pressure with occasional pressing by Reds. The first real chance for Madrid to score came off when Lallana’s failed attempt to clear the ball came to Isco. Unfortunately, he hit the Cross Bar this time.
- The Ridiculous Goal: Karius collected the ball and quickly tried to pass it to the player when Benzema rolled out his foot and started celebrating as the ball rolled down to the goal. Benzema became the 1st French Player to score in Champions League final since Zidane in 2002. It was Madrid leading with a goal.
- The Leveller: Not much since the first goal, Mane again lit up the hopes of Liverpool fans when he netted following a wonderful assist from Lovren. The match wasn’t over just yet. The scores were level 1 – 1.
- The Unbelievable Goal: With Liverpool getting hold of the game once again, it seemed for a nail-biting match until Gareth Bale came off the bench for Isco. Just 2 minutes on the pitch, Bale acrobatically volleyed the pass from Marcelo over his head. Karius was left with no chance for that. This will surely be counted as one of the best goals of Champions League finals. Madrid was up again 2 – 1.
- The Final Hope: Liverpool fought back and had seemingly upped their game but were unable to pierce through the Madrid defence. The great skills of Modric and Kroos were there along the likes of Ramos saving the day for Madrid. Emre Can came on as the last hope in the place of Milner amid his transfer speculations.
- The Super-Sub: It wasn’t long when Bale struck again. It was a real long range shot which was right on the target but Karius fumbled to put the ball into the net. Alas, it was indeed a bad day for Karius. It sealed the game in favour of Madrid 3 – 1.
All the hopes shattered for the Liverpool fans but they were still standing up for their team. The final substitution for Benzema against Asensio was just to consume some time. Blowing of the final whistle, it was cheers for Madrid and Liverpool will set their hopes for yet another season.
All in all, it wasn’t Liverpool’s day today as they saw Real Madrid march on to their record 13th Champions League title and the 1st team in the history of the tournament to make it 3 times in a row. With Zidane and Bale set to continue their career with Real Madrid, it’ll be a tough decision for Klopp to look into Karius’s future with Liverpool.
Until next time.