UEFA Champions League Final 2018 – Real Madrid VS Liverpool Review
Gareth Bale scored one of the greatest goals in European football history as Real Madrid won the Champions League for the third consecutive year and 13th time overall in what was one of the most memorable European finals of recent times.
The Welsh forward was named on the bench by Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane but replaced Isco in the 61st minute. Less than three minutes later, Bale scored an audacious overhead kick that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius could do nothing about.
However, the German shot stopper can be blamed for Real’s two other goals. Six minutes after the interval, he rolled the ball out of his arms without seeing Karim Benzema stood very closely to him. The French striker instinctively stuck out his foot and watched in awe, like everybody else, the ball hit his foot and roll into the empty net.
Later, with just seven minutes of the 90 left to play, Karius fumbled a long-range, speculative effort from Bale and felt the ball drop from his grasp into the net.
Those errors would have been hard for the Liverpool fans to take, but in truth, their nightmare began much earlier than that.
That is because, with just half an hour played, the Reds’ star man Mohamed Salah had to be substituted after suffering what is reported to be a dislocated shoulder from a suspect looking challenge from Real Madrid Captain Sergio Ramos.
Hope was restored for Liverpool four minutes after going behind for the first time in the match, when Sadio Mane, who was impressive throughout, was quickest to react to Dejan Lovren’s knockdown from a corner.
The Senegalese international later hit the post when Liverpool were 2-1 down, but his side struggled to create many clear cut opportunities during the contest.
Whereas, the Spanish outfit had Karim Benzema’s tap-in ruled out for offside just before the break and Isco nearly broke the deadlock for them when he hit the crossbar, not long after the restart.
Despite this, many would argue that the final score line of 3-1 to Madrid, flattened the Galacticos a little, as Liverpool’s hard-work and endeavour more than made them a match for the Spanish giants.
Following the final whistle, Zidane proclaimed “To lift three Champions League trophies with this club, this team is magnificent. We don’t quite realise what we have achieved yet.”
Meanwhile his counterpart, Jürgen Klopp said “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.”
Speaking about his goalkeeper, Klopp uttered “The second mistake is because of the first. It’s really difficult to get rid of the bad thoughts in your mind.”
The Reds’ boss also commented on Mo Salah’s injury with the World Cup on the horizon by saying “It’s a really serious injury. He is in the hospital for an X-ray. It doesn’t look good.”
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a poor game by his amazing standards, still managed to make the headlines by putting his future at Real into question. The current World Player of the Year stated “It was beautiful to be at Real Madrid. The future of any Madrid player is not important; we have just made history. “In the next few days I’ll give an answer to the fans.”
Similarly, match-winner Gareth Bale raised doubts on his future at the club too. The Welshman said, “I need to be playing week in, week out, and that’s not happened this season. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it.”
GK: Keylor Navas 6 – Was a relatively quiet game for the Costa Rican. Still looked a bit shaky from crosses and set–pieces. A shadow of the man we all saw at the last World Cup and yet a three-time Champions League winner.
RB: Dani Carvajal 5 – Looked dangerous making runs down the right-hand side for Madrid before an unfortunate injury put an end to his final.
CB: Raphael Varane 7 – Made some crucial interceptions and tackles for his team. His pace came in handy against the Liverpool attackers.
CB: Sergio Ramos 7 – The leader of his team. Was a bit rash at times but marshalled his defence well and was solid throughout.
LB: Marcelo 6 – Another player that had a quiet game. Evergreen full-back who was more reserved last night. Still went on some marauding runs.
CM: Luka Modric 7 – Controlled the game with his excellent vision and decision-making. A crucial member of this Champions League winning machine.
CM: Casemiro 7 – More disciplined than usual. Broke up some Liverpool attacks allowing his team mates to take the ball forward.
CM: Toni Kroos: 6 – Fantastic range of passing but failed to excite. Needs a good World Cup like the one he had four years ago to re-ignite his career.
CAM: Isco 5 – Wasn’t able to create many opportunities in the way he usually is. Has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of seasons though and will look to have a successful World Cup with Spain.
ST: Karim Benzema 8 – Once again a very hard-working display. Perfect man to play up front with Ronaldo. Scored a lucky goal but credit to him for reading what Karius was planning to do. Baffling that a player of his quality won’t be playing in Russia.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo 6 – Wasn’t his night. Looked threatening at times but didn’t perform on the big stage as he has done so often before. Has now won the tournament a record-equalling five times.
RB: Nacho 6 – Played for nearly an hour but you wouldn’t know it. Did what he needed to do but not much more.
RW: Gareth Bale 9 – Man of the match 30 minute cameo. Scored a wonder goal that will challenge his manager’s in the 2002 Champions League final in terms of technique and importance. Menacing with the ball at his feet and his long-distance strike was too hot for Karius to handle for Madrid’s 3rd goal of the game. Many will say that he should have started the match but was on the bench for the 2nd Champions League final in a row. Came on with a point to prove and made a major impact. His performance will have alerted some of Europe’s biggest clubs and added an extra £20M to his price tag if he does leave. Needs assurance from Zidane that he will be given regular starts. Has proven that he deserves them.
CF: Marco Asensio 5 – Came on in the 89th minute for Benzema. Had little time to do much but looks like a great prospect and will be hoping to make waves at the World Cup.
Gk: Loris Karius 4 – Two unforgettable errors. Will be hard for him to be forgiven by the fans although they applauded him once the match was over. Was a shame because he made a couple of good saves earlier on in the game. Will be surprising if he is still first-choice goalkeeper at the start of next season. Career may be tarnished by this match. Has no World Cup campaign to try and re-focus his mind. Going to be a long summer for him.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold 8– Brilliant display from the 19 year-old. Didn’t dive in when he could have done at times and was very composed in such a big game. Was up and down the pitch for most of the match and offered a goal threat in the 1st half. Fabulous season that could well end with a fairy tale starting berth in defence for England at the World Cup. Would be well deserved.
CB: Dejan Lovren 7 – Often heavily criticised but was impressive in the final. Dealt with Ronaldo effectively for the majority of the match. Looked a threat from corners and won the header that led to Mane’s equaliser.
CB: Virgil Van Dijk 8 – Has it all. Strong in the tackle, great in the air and sniffs out danger well. Would have been very difficult for Liverpool to keep Madrid’s forwards quiet without him. Has a large presence and has made such a difference to Liverpool’s defence. Shame that he won’t be seen in Russia. The biggest stage of all needs its best defenders but that won’t be the case this year with Van Dijk not being there.
LB: Andy Robertson 7 – An absolute warrior on the pitch. Doesn’t give up. Was relentless defensively for the Reds. Wasn’t able to get forward as much as he would have liked but made some crucial tackles at the back. Stopped Ronaldo from scoring a certain goal with a stunning last-ditch recovery challenge. Meteoric rise and like Van Dijk, it’s a shame that he won’t be in Russia. Even more of a shame that he’s not English.
CM: Georginio Wijnaldum 6 – Commendable energy but didn’t influence the game much. Needs to add another dimension to his game if he wants to move to the next level. Will struggle to find regular starts when Keita arrives and Oxlade-Chamberlain returns to the first team. May need to move on to pastures new but still a great squad player for Klopp to have at his disposal.
CM: Jordan Henderson 6 – Worked hard all game but to little effect. Went backwards or sideways with his passes to often when Liverpool were trailing and needing to be brave on the ball. Likely to start for England at the World Cup regardless of his recent performances, as a result of captaining an English club to the Champions League Final. Nevertheless, his best season at Liverpool.
RW: Mohamed Salah 5 – Started well and looked like he would go on to have a say in the result of the final. Cruel luck to get injured in the way that he did and sad to see such a great player leave the field in tears in what was the biggest match of his career. The game changed when he left the pitch. Liverpool went into their shell without their best player and they missed Salah’s blistering pace on the counter-attack. Record-breaking, incredible season. Likely not to be repeated by him or any other Premier League player for a long time. Doesn’t deserve to have his season end in this way. Football fans around the world, especially Egyptians, will be hoping that he can end it with a successful campaign in Russia. The World Cup needs him.
ST: Roberto Firmino 6 – Ran his socks off as he always does. Didn’t get many chances to add to his impressive goal tally for this season. Struggled to get into the game or link up with Mane in the way we know he can do. Needed to offer a bit more for his side when Salah went off. Perhaps overwhelmed by the occasion. But has had the best season of his career and will head to the World Cup with a very strong Brazil team. Will look to establish himself over Gabriel Jesus as Brazil’s central attacking option.
LW: Sadio Mane 8 – Livewire. Put in an electric performance for his team when they really needed him. Well taken goal and hit the post later in the match. Everything Liverpool did well came through him and he was their most dangerous threat going forward. Another good season for the Senegalese man who will look to make an impact at the World Cup.
RW: Adam Lallana 5 – Was a difficult gig for him. Played for an hour but hard to fill Salah’s shoes. Didn’t create many opportunities. Was quiet throughout but understandable given the circumstances. Will look to next season after being left out of Gareth Southgate’s squad. Needs to stay fit and become more consistent on the pitch.
CM: Emre Can 5 – Came on for Milner with little over five minutes remaining to add some energy to the Liverpool midfield. Didn’t really make an impact but maybe should have come on earlier in what could have been his last appearance for the Reds.
Real Madrid – What they have achieved in modern times is unprecedented. They are still the side to beat in Europe’s premier competition. As a team though, I wouldn’t say they are one of the greatest we’ve seen or anything like that. They’ve been very lucky in Europe in the last few years and were nearly knocked out of the tournament twice this season.
Zidane has some rotation issues to sort out with his forward players and needs to make sure that Ronaldo and Bale stay. Also, Madrid need to drastically improve in La Liga and at least mount a serious title challenge to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid next season. They finished third, 17 points behind champions Barca, this season and that is just unacceptable for a club of Real’s standards.
Liverpool – A Champions League final appearance was beyond Liverpool’s wildest dreams. At the start of 2017/18, nobody expected them to achieve what they have done so that is a credit to the players and to Klopp, but they need to have another successful campaign next year too. The goalkeeper position and perhaps one of the centre-back positions are areas where Klopp may look to strengthen in the summer. Most importantly, they need to keep hold of Salah at all costs.
On the pitch, it will be extremely difficult for Liverpool to reach another Champions League final next year but another run deep into the competition will please most fans. But, the difficulty will be to try and do that whilst challenging for the title. This season, Liverpool finished in fourth but ended up a huge 25 points behind Manchester City, who won the title. So, the Reds will look to cut that gap significantly and try to win their first Premier League title.
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