Champions League: Final Thoughts

The Champions League Final was played this past weekend in Kyiv, Ukraine as Real Madrid took on Liverpool in a match that had plenty of interest as Ronaldo was looking to guide his team to a 3-peat, while Mo Salah looked to continue his incredible goal scoring season with a European title for an English club. This won’t be my typical match recap, more a commentary and opinion piece on a wild game with many noteworthy moments. Let’s get to it.

Real Madrid 🇪🇸 v Liverpool 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

It was an intriguing start to the game with Real looking a little shaky as Liverpool had the upper hand in the early going, but that all changed with one play around the half hour mark. Ever the villain, Sergio Ramos made the tackle on Salah but in the process of going to the ground he locked arms and unfortunately Liverpool’s talisman was knocked from the game with a shoulder injury, the first of many tears in this match. So let’s talk briefly about this flashpoint as it really had a huge impact on the game.

The Ramos Factor:

Ramos has a history of being a player that his teammates love to have of their side but everyone else despise playing against, constantly playing on the dirty edge and then attempting to lure referees into calls with his play acting. And in this case I do not believe he was intending on knocking Salah from the game, but at the same time it was a situation where once again he took things too far and his team benefited. He simply could have left well enough alone once he made the play on the ball. He will go down in history as a winner, but there will always be questions about the manner in which he accomplished it.

And so Liverpool had to make the switch, and Real seemed to sense blood in the water as now they were on the front foot for the the remainder of the half, pinning Liverpool back and while it stood 0-0 at the halftime break, Madrid looked the likelier to break the deadlock. But Liverpool began the second half brightly until a rarely seen mistake, especially at this level, gave Real the lead.

Karius Part I:

The fact that this is called Part I tells the tale that the Liverpool keeper did not have the best night…an understatement to say the least. The first error gifted Benzema an admittedly lucky goal as he threw out a leg to block Karius’ low throw out. There were so many things wrong with this play, it was just flat out a terrible goalkeeping decision, really anything but that would have done. Run to create more space, throw it higher, etc. It was a rash play, and everyone including Karius knows so we won’t kick him when he is down.

Fortunately for Karius, he was bailed out only minutes later as Lovren’s header from a corner was put in by Mané and Liverpool had responded in quick fashion. But just after the hour mark Gareth Bale was introduced as a sub and what he did next was simply breathtaking.

The Overhead:

Marcelo cut inside and put a cross into the box, not the best cross actually as it was behind his intended targets but Bale improvised and after an audacious overhead kick Real were in the lead once again. The technique was crazy, the location impossible for Karius to save, it was so good I assumed Ronaldo had done it until I saw Bale racing away to celebrate. The words that came out of my mouth at the exact moment were, “What has he done!”. It happened to turn out to be the winning goal which made it all that much better.

But there was more to talk about in this before all was said and done. First Mané hit the post with a low shot and Ronaldo had a great chance to end it, but Robertson made a last ditch tackle to keep Liverpool alive. But then another agonizing moment for the Liverpool faithful in attendance, and that man Karius again.

Karius Part II

With under 10 minutes remaining and Liverpool still within striking distance Bale unleashed a speculative long range effort which Karius batted into the net to effectively end any hopes of a comeback. Sure, it was a powerful drive with some swerve but there is no reason why he could not get two hands on it to at least push it away to safety. It looked like he was intent on catching it but misjudged the pace and movement and did not react fast enough. Once again it was a mistake rarely seen at this level and cemented this as the worst goalkeeping performance in a long time, potentially ever?

The game was essentially over at this point as Real saw out the remainder to once again be crowned champions of Europe, an impressive feat, especially given the road they had to navigate this season. I was going to put a team celebration pic here but it has Ramos front and center and something doesn’t sit right with me. There was still some interesting stuff after the final whistle and in the aftermath so here’s some of the best that set social media afire.

Karius Part III:

When that final whistle went Karius was left inconsolable on the ground in the Liverpool area…not that anyone came to console him! In my opinion way too much time passed by before eventually Real players (Bale first actually, bet Karius loved that) had to come over, where were his ‘teammates’? Even at the lowest of recreational levels of football I have played, if my keeper or a player made a mistake that cost us the game I was on hand at the end to help try to ease the pain, it’s the human thing to do despite feeling your own pain from the loss. Their motto is You’ll Never Walk Alone for goodness sake. That was poor. It was also hard to see Karius in tears and apologizing to the Liverpool traveling supporters, this will be with him forever, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Bale Interview:

Naturally the star of the show got his time in the limelight afterwards but it was his comments on his future that must have pricked up some ears from the big clubs in England as he made it clear that he needs first team football next season so a move elsewhere could be in the cards. A long rumored move to Manchester United? Or could Spurs pull a coup and bring him back? Time will tell.

Ronaldo Interview:

Or could Bale stay? Not to be outdone Ronaldo in typical style had to steal the show as he came out with this statement, “It’s been very nice playing for Real”. An announcement has been promised soon so could this mean he is calling time on his stay at Madrid? He has a soft spot for Manchester Utd of course, but could PSG be a destination with Neymar coming the other way? It’s lining up to be a big summer of player movement.

Prediction:

One last thing to look at, and that is how my prediction fared, here is how I had it happening in my Preview article.

Pick: Real Madrid 3-2 Liverpool, and for some fun here are the scorer picks, for Real (Ronaldo, Benzema and Ramos…he may get a Red too!) and for Liverpool (Salah, Mané).

Not too shabby, 3-1 was the final in favor of Real, got the Benzema and Mané goals, had Ramos being involved, missed the Bale goals though, but was smart enough to pick him in my Draft Fantasy pool which I won so I had a little hunch.

All in all it was a great competition from beginning to end this season, culminating in a noteworthy final, it will be interesting to see what next year can do to top it, but first we have a World Cup to deal with!

Simon

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