By James Anthony, The Sight News
Gareth Bale came off the bench and scored a spectacular bicycle kick on the biggest stage as Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 to win their third successive Champions League title.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, who lost Mohamed Salah in the first half with a suspected dislocated shoulder and then saw Loris Karius gift Karim Benzema the opener (51) had swiftly rallied in Kiev through Sadio Mane (55).
Bale came off the bench and scored one of the great Champions League goals
But after agony and ignominy, Bale delivered a moment befitting of the showpiece, his 64th-minute overhead kick sealing a 13th European Cup for the Spanish giants and their fourth in five seasons.
Karius suffered further embarrassment when he let Bale’s late strike (83) from range slip through his gloves but though the Reds competed gamely in adversity, crucial momentum was lost with Salah’s untimely exit and Klopp’s wait for a European trophy goes on.
Real Madrid: Navas (7), Carvajal (6), Varane (7), Sergio Ramos (7), Marcelo (8), Modric (7), Casemiro (7), Kroos (7), Isco (6), Benzema (8), Ronaldo (6).
Subs: Nacho (6), Bale (9), Asensio (6).
Liverpool: Karius (3), Alexander-Arnold (6), Lovren (7), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (7), Milner (6), Henderson (6), Wijnaldum (6), Salah (6), Firmino (7), Mane (8).
Subs: Lallana (5), Can (5).
Man of the match: Gareth Bale
There had been cancelled flights, stranded fans and ticket refunds but the Liverpool fans who made it saw their side make an uninhibited start amid the din, Rafael Varane made to work when Roberto Firmino threaded a fine ball through for Mane.
Bale: Best goal I’ve scored.
Gareth Bale says his overhead kick in the Champions League Final is the best goal he has scored on such a big occasion.
Bale says his overhead kick in the Champions League final is the best goal he has scored on such a big occasion
Mane and Salah were thwarted in quick succession during a scrambled passage of play before a loose pass sent Cristiano Ronaldo driving goalwards down the right flank, only for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to lash over from a tight angle.
Mo Salah was forced off in tears after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, striking cleanly with the laces, drilled straight at Keylor Navas as the chances continued to fall Liverpool’s way but then came the blow, Salah’s arm tangled in a tussle with Sergio Ramos and the Egyptian forced off in tears.
Dejan Lovren battles with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Dani Carvajal saw his own night ended prematurely after being caught by Andrew Robertson – Nacho on in his place – but Real seized on the mood shift as their opponents mourned their leading goalscorer’s departure.
Karius beat away Ronaldo’s header, before Benzema was denied on the rebound by an offside flag, and the French striker soon delivered a glorious diagonal ball that Nacho met but could only volley into the side-netting.
Karius had collected a Toni Kroos ball meant for Benzema with minimum fuss but the ‘keeper too casually rolled it back into play, the wily forward diverting it back into the net. Klopp looked bemused as Jordan Henderson protested in vain but the German was lunging towards the crowd, pumping his fist just minutes later when Dejan Lovren rose to meet a James Milner corner and Mane gambled, prodding over the line.
Bale celebrates after his stunning over-head kick
Zinedine Zidane called for Bale with Liverpool buoyed and just two minutes passed before his decisive moment. Marcelo cut inside to curl in and Bale, impossibly athletic, shifted his body to find the top corner with left boot.
It was a goal for the ages but Mane, Liverpool’s chief threat, could have restored parity again in the 71st minute, only to hammer against the post. Instead, Real stretched their lead when Bale picked up a ball in space and took aim, Karius left wanting again when the task seemed simple.
Sadio Mane had equalised for Liverpool
The man whose Bernabeu future has repeatedly been questioned might have had a hat-trick, Lovren stretching to deny him, but his moment to savour had already come and while Real could celebrate yet more success, Karius was left in tears.
Real Madrid have become the first team to win the European Cup/Champions League in three successive seasons since Bayern Munich between 1974 and 1976.Zinedine Zidane is just the third manager to win the European Cup/Champions League three times (after Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti), but the first to win it in three consecutive seasons.
Jurgen Klopp has now lost six of his seven major finals as manager (2 x DFB-Pokal, 2 x Champions League, 1 x League Cup, 1 x UEFA Europa League), only winning the DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.Gareth Bale scored just two minutes and two seconds after coming off the bench. It was the second-fastest ever by a substitute in a Champions League final, after Lars Ricken for Borussia Dortmund against Juventus in 1997.
Bale is also only the second British player to score a brace in a European Cup/Champions League final after Bobby Charlton for Manchester United in 1968.
Man of the match – Gareth Bale
Bale began the day a brooding figure having been left out of the starting XI in favour of Benzema and was seemingly absent for much of the warm-up.
But how he took his chance. His jaw-dropping strike was one of the all-time great goals and he had the bravado to chance his luck from distance, cashing in on Karius’ fragile confidence.
Where will he be next season? “I need to be playing week-in, week-in out,” he intriguingly said after the final whistle.