When the scorer of the stunning and decisive second goal rose from the turf, it was instinctive to look for the number seven on his back. It was, after all, a Cristiano Ronaldo kind of goal.
But on this occasion, it was somebody else’s turn to win the Champions League for Real Madrid. Gareth Bale stole the story away all for himself and the much-talked about face-off between Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah never got off the ground.
For Ronaldo, now a winner of the competition for the fifth time, this was a night when he existed on the periphery. It can happen. Even to him.
Mohamed Salah’s injury meant a face-off with Cristiano Ronaldo in Kiev never quite happened
It was two-goal Gareth Bale who stole the limelight in Saturday’s Champions League final
Salah, meanwhile, flew back to Liverpool in the early hours of the morning with two dreams in tatters. Having suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder in a 28th-minute tussle with Sergio Ramos, the little Egyptian was out of the Champions League final and, in all likelihood, the World Cup.
What rotten luck for the player of the year in the English game and what rotten luck for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s team had been the better side until he departed but not from thereon in. Real Madrid managed to prosper without a decisive influence from their best player but Liverpool could not cope as well with the loss of theirs.
Salah’s departure was a shame not only for Liverpool but for the game as a spectacle. The Egyptian had been integral to Liverpool’s fast start and it was fascinating, for almost half an hour at least, to watch how Real struggled to contain the front three players in red.
Salah suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder during a first-half clash with Sergio Ramos
The in-form Egyptian could now miss the World Cup in Russia after leaving the pitch in tears
It was defender Virgil van Dijk who said in the preamble to the game that the Spanish team had not faced a side like Liverpool. It seemed an ambitious comment at the time but as Real struggled to deal with the ferocity and intensity of Liverpool’s early press it became clear exactly what the Dutchman had meant.
Before the game there had been a sly look from Ronaldo across to Salah in the players’ tunnel. If it was noticed, it was not returned.
The Portuguese is always more than aware of the presence of rivals in his rear view mirror and he certainly would have heard the talk suggesting that he and Lionel Messi now have a genuine contender to their World Player of the Year hegemony.
As it was, that was as close as the two men came until the moment Ronaldo marked the moment of Salah’s exit with a consolation pat to the cheek.
So a great contest, a great comparison between two players, was gone and that really was disappointing. In the very first minute of the game, Salah had almost played Sadio Mane in on goal before, four minutes later, he was brought to the ground by a deliberate foul by Marcelo.
Salah had hit the ground running as he so often does and, supported ably by Roberto Firmino and both full-backs, he was integral to a period of Liverpool dominance that they would have hoped would have brought them a goal.
Unusually, Ronaldo was something of a peripheral figure for Real at the Olympic Stadium
The Portuguese star was not at his sparkling best for long periods, but it did not matter
In the last two rounds, against Roma and Manchester City, Liverpool had struck their opponents with quick bursts of goals. Here it didn’t happen and they lived to regret it. Firmino shot against a defenders’ body before Trent Alexander-Arnold, having recovered from an early mistake, brought a low save from Keylor Navas.
Real were uncertain of how to deal with the threat, that is for sure. Ronaldo drifted across the top of the field trying to find space and trying to isolate individual defenders and draw them into positions were they were left to feel vulnerable.
But for long periods he wasn’t at his best. He did draw Dejan Lovren out wide on one occasion but then played a poor pass. On another occasion, meanwhile, he failed to support the breaking Dani Carvajal down the right.
With Salah gone, though, the momentum did shift and despite the fact Liverpool did recover from Loris Karius’ catastrophic error to equalise, they never managed to get it back.
Real enjoyed far too much of the ball once Salah was no longer on the field and his importance to Liverpool, if we didn’t know it already, became clear.
The Spanish team scored a memorable goal in this final and it will be talked about for a long time. The fact is, though, that they didn’t have to be that good to defend their title. Liverpool, and Salah, will think on that for many weeks to come.