In the end, hope alone wasn’t enough to carry Liverpool to this most unlikely of victories. The sheer joy of their football, those bursts of irrepressible attacking, which has overwhelmed so many teams from around this continent, seemed at one stage to be carrying them inexorably to a sixth Champions League trophy. Indeed, even in the opening exchanges here in Kiev it felt that way.
And yet, Real Madrid, don’t indulge romantic whims. They win trophies. A thirteenth European Cup goes their away. From the moment Mohamed Salah was crushed by the weight of Sergio Ramos, whose strong arm gripped the Egyptian, forcing him to fall unnaturally, and clutch his shoulder, that seemed most likely. Salah departed, sobbing and injured, on 28 minutes. And though Liverpool did so such thing, fighting gamely, you sensed a moment passing.
Astonishingly, this is a third successive Champions League trophy collected by their coach Zinedine Zidane, who joins the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the most-successful coaches in the competition’s history. Except that Zidane has done it in his first 29 months of coaching in his first job. And Real Madrid join Ajax and Bayern in achieving that treble. Except, of course, they did it before in the 1950s, with five successive wins.
Real Madrid won their third consecutive Champions League title on Saturday, beating Liverpool 3-1 in the final in Kiev
Madrid won their 13th European Cup title thanks to a double from Gareth Bale and an opener from Karim Benzema
Zinedine Zidane has led Madrid to yet another European triumph following their tough domestic season
The French manager kisses the Champions League trophy following the enthralling final in Kiev on Saturday night
Match-winner Bale holds the Champions League trophy aloft following his heroics in Ukraine against Liverpool
The Liverpool squad walk around the pitch showing their dejection following their final heartbreak against Madrid
Virgil van Dijk walks past the trophy without glancing at it as he comes to terms with the hard-to-take defeat
Loris Karius sobs on the pitch as he apologises to the Liverpool fans following his two huge errors during the game
A visibly emotional Karius is consoled immediately after the final whistle as Liverpool fell at the final hurdle
Gareth Bale sealed victory for Real Madrid in the 83rd minute after firing home from long-range past Loris Karius
Karius produced a massive clanger, fumbling Bale’s stinging shot into the net to ensure Madrid doubled their lead
The German goalkeeper fails to hold on to Bale’s fierce left-footed strike, which sealed victory for the Spanish giants
The former Premier League winner strikes the ball at goal as Liverpool players give him the space outside the penalty area
Bale was the hero in Kiev as he scored twice in the second half after coming off the bench to replace Isco
The 28-year-old celebrates his second with Casemiro and Toni Kroos as Madrid won their third straight Champions League
Karius reacts on the floor by putting his hands over his face following his second clanger of the night in Kiev
Bale scored an incredible bicycle kick from the edge of the penalty area to put Real Madrid 2-1 ahead against Liverpool
The Wales international pulled off the unthinkable in the 64th minute, leaving Loris Karius with absolutely no chance
Bale lands on the floor while the ball flies into the top corner of Karius’ net in the 64th minute on Saturday night
Bale celebrates in style after stunning the crowd at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Saturday night
Bale dives to the floor in celebration as Marcelo goes over to congratulate him for his memorable strike
Bale’s Madrid team-mates bundle on top of the match-winner after netting one of the great goals in the Champions League
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Real Madrid (4-1-2-3): Navas 5, Carvajal 6 (Nacho 37 – 7), Varane 8, Ramos 8, Marcelo 7, Modric 7.5, Casemiro 7, Kroos 8, Isco 5 (Bale 61- 8.5), Benzema 8.5 (Asensio 88), Ronaldo 7
Subs: Casilla, Hernandez, Lucas, Kovacic
Manager: Zinedine Zidane 8
Scorers: Benzema 51, Bale 64, 83
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius 3, Alexander-Arnold 6, Lovren 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 7.5, Milner 6.5 (Can 82), Henderson 7, Wijnaldum 6, Salah 6 (Lallana 31 – 6), Firmino 6, Mane 8
Subs: Mignolet, Clyne, Klavan, Moreno, Solanke
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6
Scorers: Mane 55
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia) 7
Man of the Match: Gareth Bale
On another night we would have been lauding the exceptional performance of Britain’s best player, Welshman Gareth Bale. Excluded from the started line-up, he came on to win the game with a goal so good it is unlikely to be matched for decades. Maybe it even surpassed that of the manager who had left him out, who scored a similarly magnificent goal in this final in 2002. He then added a second, which finished Liverpool. And perhaps Loris Karius.
At times, Karius was superb. Yet this was always be the final he lost. The first goal he conceded was comically awful, bowling the ball out directly into Benzema’s out-stretched leg. The second was as bad, allowing Bale’s speculative shot from thirty yards, aimed directly at him, to slide through his hands and into the net. You could not feel anything except enormous sympathy for him. It was the kind of night from which only the strongest recover.
Zinedine Zidane left out Gareth Bale, opting for the more subtle creativity of Isco, a bitter blow for the Welshman after his recent run of fine form. However, initially, it would make little difference to the balance of the game for Real Madrid were subject to as sustained assault of harrying and hustling from an eager Liverpool side as you are likely to see.
We knew Liverpool would apply a high-octane approach from the start. Call it ‘big balls football’ or ‘heavy metal’ but Jurgen Klopp is all or nothing. As such, you imagined Real Madrid would be prepared. Yet they looked aghast. It was like watching footballing aristocracy being asked to mix with the hoi polloi, classic musical concert goers being confronted by Iron Maiden. Here was Sadio Mané robbing Cristiano Ronaldo; there was James Milner tearing into Casemiro, targeted by Liverpool at every turn. It was quite something to see a team as accomplished as Real Madrid quite so firmly on the back foot.
Sadio Mane levelled the scoring at 1-1 in the 55th minute after tapping home following a header from Dejan Lovren
Mane got the decisive touch on the ball ahead of Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was left stranded on the ground
Mane gets up to celebrate in front of the delighted Liverpool fans just four minutes after Liverpool went behind
The speedy winger is mobbed by his Liverpool colleagues after pegging Los Blancos back in the second half
Karim Benzema opened the scoring in bizarre fashion after Loris Karius threw the ball directly onto his foot
The Frenchman read the Liverpool goalkeeper’s throw out and got a lucky touch on the ball that rolled into the corner
Benzema wheels off to celebrate the opening goal as his Madrid team-mates sprint from behind to celebrate with him
Benzema is the first French goalscorer in a Champions League final since Zinedine Zidane against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002
The striker, who has endured a tough season with Madrid, is mobbed by his jubilant team-mates on Saturday
The question was whether such an approach could be sustained. And whether its idealistic enthusiasm would catch Liverpool out. When Roberto Firmino under-hit a pass to Andy Robertson, the Scot gamely attempted to make it anyway. He didn’t and in doing so left his post unguarded. Into that gap advanced Cristiano Ronaldo, spirting elegantly, ball at his feet. He shot just over. But it was a warning. The establishment knows a thing or two quelling youthful revolts.
Still, Liverpool had by far the better of the game’s opening. On 11 minutes, a Salah flick and cushioned header by Roberto Firmino allowed Terence Alexander-Arnold to sprint through on goal which required Keylor Navas to race from his line to smother.
When Dani Carvajal sent an attempted cross field pass straight out for a corner on 17 minutes, it seemed to represent the minor panic induced in Real Madrid by Liverpool’s sheer ferocity. From the corner, Virgil van Dijk headed just over. Better would follow on 22 minutes, when Firmino’s shot was deflected into the path of Alexander-Arnold. His strike, firm and low, forced a fine save from Navas.
However, on 28 minutes came the most grievous of blows for Liverpool. Two minutes, in a tussle with Sergio Ramos, Salah had been crushed and emerged clutching his shoulder. He winced but played on and the Liverpool fans felt reprieved. Yet two minutes later he simply dropped to his knees, seemingly in tears and holding that injured shoulder. It was clear what it meant. He walked off, sobbing, distraught and straight into the arms of a Klopp bear hug, as Adam Lallana came on.
Real Madrid would suffer their own setback, though hardly as significant. Carvajal had received treatment on an ankle in the warm up. Now, 37 minutes into the half, it gave up on him, collapsing as he ran. Again, he held his head, tears flowed and his final finished as Nacho took his place.
Isco missed a golden opportunity to put Madrid ahead immediately in the second half, seeing his effort hit the crossbar
Isco and both sets of players watch on as they wait to find out whether his effort will nestle into the net
Isco and Sergio Ramos react after the former hits the crossbar after seeing his effort fly over Karius in the Liverpool goal
Karim Benzema thought he had opened the scoring for the La Liga giants but his effort was ruled out for offside
The French striker pounced after Loris Karius did brilliantly to save Ronaldo’s bullet header late on in the first half
The 30-year-old was marginally offside as he pounced on the ball following Ronaldo’s saved header in the 44th minute
Benzema reacts after finding out that the linesman had ruled out his strike at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev
It wasn’t that Liverpool purposely changed their approach without their talisman. Lallana went left side and Mané filled in on the right. Yet you sensed, all around the Olympic Stadium, a little of their belief ebbed away.
Real Madrid began to hit their stride, the threat never more apparent when Isco crossed on 42 minutes to find a rising Ronaldo, who headed goal-wards in his imperious fashion. It took a fine save from Karius to push the ball away, only into the path of Karim Benzema, who volleyed in. A flag though was raised and Liverpool were spared. It appeared to be for Benzema but Ronaldo had actually been offside as he made his initial run.
Then there was a cross-field ball from Benzema on 45 minutes which substitute Nacho volleyed into the side netting. Liverpool, having unsettled the might of Madrid, were happy to head to the refuge of the dressing room and a fresh injection of hope from Klopp.
Where Real Madrid had stuttered, now they strutted. They came out as confidently as they had finished the first half. Ronaldo played in Marcelo and Lallana attempted to cut out his pass on 47 minutes. Yet unfortunately he only helped the ball onto Isco. Karius’ despairing lunge meant he pretty much had the whole goal to aim at. Somehow he hit the bar.
Just moments after seeing Mohamed Salah come off with an injury, Dani Carvajal was the next to be forced off
The Madrid right back cries as he walks around the pitch before heading to the tunnel with an injury
Mohamed Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury in the 31st minute after Sergio Ramos hauled him down to the ground
Salah lies on the floor in agony on his own after awkwardly falling to the floor following Ramos’ clumsy challenge
The Egyptian, who will be desperate to be fit for the World Cup, was visibly emotional as was forced off on the weekend
Ronaldo and Sadio Mane console the very emotional winger, who was replaced by Adam Lallana after 31 minutes
A Liverpool supporter reacts in disappointment after seeing his team’s star player sustain the painful shoulder injury
The reprieve wasn’t to last long, however. And when the incision came, it really was the unkindest cut of all. An over-hit Toni Kroos pass on 50 minutes was collected by Karius. In his eagerness to restart play, he attempted to bowl the ball out to his centre halves, but in too casual a fashion. For Benzema was lurking close by and he simply lifted a foot and the ball lamely lolloped into the net. There was nothing spectacular, nor enthralling. But the damage was enormous.
Karius raged, Jordan Henderson protested to the referee. But really there was nothing to be said. Benzema’s foot wasn’t especially high and he wasn’t even that close. It was an awful mistake, plain and simple, made in front of the world. A groan of sympathy echoed around the ground as the replay was shown.
Liverpool looked lost for a second. When Mané, in sheer frustration, raised a hand at Ramos – rightly or wrongly perceived as the author of their lost hope – the Spaniard reacted predictably. Mané was lucky, he escaped with a lecture.
Youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold goes close to opening the scoring with a stinging effort, which is saved by Keylor Navas
Virgil van Dijk, signed from Southampton for £75million, gets to the ball in the air before Navas but heads over the crossbar
Andy Robertson challenges for the ball with Spain international Isco with both teams battling to break the deadlock
Deadly Liverpool forward Salah goes down following pressure from Madrid defenders Marcelo and Sergio Ramos
Dejan Lovren makes himself known to five-time Ballon d’Or winner during the opening minutes in Ukraine
But keeping their heads was as important. There was a glimmer of light when Varane’s headed intervention was just enough to stop Firmino meeting a cross and heading in on 55 minutes. Chances were coming. And then, from the corner, hope rekindled. Milner found Lovren, who rose brilliantly and headed goal-wards. And Mané just reacted quicker than anyone, stealing a yard, sticking out a leg and deflecting the ball home.
Belief returned. The stadium, vast swathes of it echoed again echoed to the sounds of The Kop. Yet soon another blow would arrive, this time as extraordinary as the first goal was ridiculous. Gareth Bale had only be on the pitch three minutes, coming on for Isco. There seemed little danger when Marcelo dinked in a cross from the left. Yet, back to goal Bale rose, if a little ungainly, with scarcely-believable athleticism to meet it with his foot, a good metre and a half off the ground. It was the most spectacular of overhead kicks and simply soared into the net, a goal to match his manager’s supreme effort at this final in 2002.
Yet Liverpool didn’t retreat. They rebooted and came back at Real Madrid. And Mané was to the fore. Ramos needed to stretch out a desperate left to prevent him racing through on goal on 69 minutes. A minute later, his strike from outside the box produced a fine save from Navas, tipping the ball on to the post.
Star men: Salah and Ronaldo shake hands as the two teams go through their usual pre-match routine
Liverpool supporters proudly hold up their club scarves during the early stages of the Champions League final
Liverpool fans were in full voice before and throughout the match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on Saturday
Popular pop artist Dua Lipa performs on the pitch before kick-off in the eagerly-anticipated showdown
Dua Lipa performs on stage just minutes before kick-off between Liverpool and Madrid on Saturday night