KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Gareth Bale’s eye-catching scissor-kick helped Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over a Liverpool side thwarted by a pair of goalkeeping blunders and Mohamed Salah being forced off injured.
Making an explosive impact as a second-half substitute, Bale showcased athleticism and technique of the highest quality by sending Madrid in front with only his fourth touch of the final in the 64th minute.
“I need to be playing week in, week out and that hasn’t happened this season for one reason or another,” Bale said. “I need to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent.”
If these were Bale’s final moments in a Madrid jersey, they won’t be forgotten.
Confounding doubters, including coach Zinedine Zidane, Bale sealed Madrid’s record-extending 13th European title with his second goal — a long-range strike that owed much to Loris Karius’ second calamity of the game in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium. The Liverpool goalkeeper allowed Bale’s shot to squirm through his hands into the net in the 83rd.
Six minutes into the second half, Karius’ sloppy rollout had been seized on by Karim Benzema to put the Spanish side in front. Liverpool struck back through Sadio Mane but the five-time European champions were only fleetingly back in the game.
Having lost Salah — scorer of 44 goals this season — to a suspected shoulder or collarbone injury in the first half, Liverpool lacked the firepower to find a way past the aristocrats of European football. After leaving the pitch in tears and heading to the hospital, the Egypt forward will be fearing the worst for his hopes of going to a first World Cup next month.
For Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp this was a sixth successive loss in a final, including a 2013 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich while Borussia Dortmund coach.
For Zidane, victory in Ukraine puts the former France great in an elite field alongside Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as a three-time European Cup winner. But no one has achieved the feat faster, with each of his three seasons in charge ending by winning the game’s biggest club prize.
While Cristiano Ronaldo became the first five-time winner in the post-1993 Champions League era, this was a comparatively muted performance in a final for a player who has contributed decisive goals in the three finals Madrid had contested in the previous four seasons.
In the tunnel before kickoff there was a furtive glance across to Salah, but the showdown between the world player of the year and a contender for his throne never materialized.
Blame Sergio Ramos for that, although the foul that ended Salah’s final was not the Madrid defender at his most cynical. Salah landed heavily on his left shoulder in a twisting fall after 25 minutes. Ramos stepped away from the scene unpunished and Salah soon managed to step up after overcoming the initial pain.
Not for long. Salah’s final was over after 30 minutes.
Lying on his back, hands covering his face, Salah could not continue. Madrid opponents Marcelo and Dani Carvajal tendered to Salah as an anxious Klopp held his hand to his mouth. Salah rose, but only to leave the field to make way for Adam Lallana.
An incredible debut season at Liverpool came to a crying end.
Four minutes later, the tears were flowing down the face of Carvajal after the Madrid right back appeared to injure a hamstring while attempting a back-heel. Face-down on the field, Carvajal knew his final was over in the first half for the second successive season.
Only one side had appeared rattled by the early change. Liverpool, so assertive early on, made Madrid look edgy.
But the holders were back on top after Salah’s injury.
“Of course it was a little shock to the team,” Klopp said.
Liverpool was only spared by the crossbar at the start of the second half. Karius rashly came off his line and Isco put the ball over the goalkeeper.
Much worse was to come from the German.
After collecting a shot, Karius rolled the ball out too casually, neglecting the presence of Benzema who struck out his right foot and dispatched the ball into an empty net.
The immediate impact of Karius’ blunder was offset by Mane’s equalizer in the 55th. Dejan Lovren rose above Ramos and headed into the path of Mane, who prodded the ball over the line.
“We lose as a team,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “It’s not about one person it’s about everybody.”
For Madrid it was about one man proving Zidane wrong.
Within three minutes of replacing Isco, Bale made the perfect entrance by scoring one of the finest goals in a European final.
“I was very disappointed not to start the game,” he said. “I felt like I deserved it. The best I can do is to come on and make an impact.”
He made the most of it by finishing with a double. Karius let the ball slip through his hands, but Madrid isn’t letting go of this trophy, completing the first hat trick of wins since Bayern Munich in the 1970s.
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