Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League title for the third successive season as they beat Liverpool 3-1 at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium on Saturday.
The first half was a grim affair as Mohamed Salah and Dani Carvajal departed in tears after sustaining a shoulder and Achilles injury respectively. As expected though, the game was end-to-end as both chances created plenty of goalscoring chances only to go into half-time goalless.
However, the game finally burst into life in the second half after a costly mistake by Loris Karius as he tried to roll the ball back into play only for Karim Benzema to thwart him and rebound the ball into the net off his calf. Five minutes later though, the scores were level once again as Sadio Mane scored a very opportunistic goal.
Gareth Bale was introduced post the hour mark and he would go on to score the “best goal of his career” in his own words – an overhead kick to savour. The game was then put to bed with seven minutes left in regulation time as Bale took aim at goal from distance before Karius made a meal of a simple save.
— #CHAMP13NS 🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) May 26, 2018
But, Sergio Ramos & co. would go on to lift the Champions League trophy for the third season running, and their 13th overall, as Zinedine Zidane’s golden run in Europe continued. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over the Real Madrid players who featured on the night.
Keylor Navas: 7/10
Navas had to stay alert with Real Madrid under the cosh in the initial stages of the match. The Costa Rican produced a fine save to deny Trent Alexander-Arnold early on and kept things organised at the back. Couldn’t have done anything for Mane’s goal. All in all, a solid display by the Real Madrid number one.
Dani Carvajal: 6/10
Like Salah, Carvajal’s night ended his tears as he went off injured after just 37 minutes. Up until that point, the Spaniard had his hands full with Sadio Mane, who was giving him a tough old time. Spanish fans would be waiting with bated breath on an update over his availability for the World Cup.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
Varane gave a good account of himself on the night, holding his own during the early onslaught by the Reds and making several important interceptions. Produced one of the best defensive moments on the night when he headed James Milner’s cross out of Roberto Firmino’s reach, although Liverpool would go on to score from the resulting corner.
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Became the ultimate villain in the eyes of the Liverpool fans when a tangle with Mohamed Salah ended with the Egyptian going off the field clutching his shoulder and in dejection.
Ramos though, did a fine job marshalling his troops on the night, keeping his side organised and disciplined while distributing the ball well. Was culpable in Mane’s goal, but that was one of the few errors he made on a solid night.
Marcelo had a tough going in the initial stages of the match, with Salah looking to continue his fine run of form. But, following the Egyptian’s substitution before the half-hour mark, the Brazilian got the freedom to advance forward and make an impact in the final third.
Up ahead in attack, Marcelo linked up well with Isco and Ronaldo, and delivered the cross for Bale’s first goal. But, he was at fault for Mane’s goal as he left the Senegalese unmarked to score the equaliser and give Liverpool some hope.
Luka Modric: 7/10
Luka Modrić’s Champions League final by numbers:
100% tackles won
94% pass accuracy
0 fouls committed
Oozes class. pic.twitter.com/dUrKwhsO5c
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 26, 2018
Modric had a lot more defensive work to do than usual, especially when Liverpool were harrying Real Madrid in the first half. But, whenever he got hold of the ball, the Croat exuded his typical calmness, controlling the game ever so well.
The unsung hero for Real Madrid on the night. Casemiro had to have eyes on the back of his head too on Saturday to keep a certain Roberto Firmino in check, and he did so diligently, while also keeping things tight in the midfield. The Brazilian did nothing of note with the ball at his feet, but he did what was required of him.
Toni Kroos: 6/10
Kroos has not enjoyed the best of seasons and his indifferent run of form continued on Saturday. The German was pretty solid in the first half, completing 50 of his 51 passes, although he couldn’t provide the cutting edge. In the second half, he was a peripheral figure, unable to pull the strings from midfield.
Isco blew hot and cold throughout the match, displaying impeccable close control but failing to create any openings. He had a fantastic opportunity coming his way, but the Spaniard’s volley clattered against the crossbar. Taken off for Bale, which proved to be an inspired substitution as a change in system bore fruit.
Karim Benzema: 8/10
Benzema ended a troubled season on the strongest possible note, scoring his first ever goal in a Champions League final, and he took it ever so well. While it is rightly being chalked down as an error by Karius, the Frenchman showed tremendous awareness to block the goalkeeper’s attempted roll-back. Could have had a second, but Karius did well this time to deny him.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 6/10
Almost always the difference maker for Real Madrid in Europe, Ronaldo just never got going on the night. Had one chance in the first half, but he blasted his shot over the bar. A header was saved well by Karius, but he was later pulled up for an offside.
Seemed to have a final chance in the dying minutes, when play had to be stopped when a pitch invader had to be intercepted, although Ronaldo hilariously kept going even as the action unfolded beside him.
Nacho was called into action in the first half when Carvajal pulled up with an injury, and he proved to be more than an able deputy. The Spaniard had Adam Lallana to deal with, but the Englishman didn’t give him a single moment to worry about. Blocked a couple of crosses by Milner as well, and looked to move forward at every given opportunity.
Gareth Bale: 10/10
Gareth Bale’s game by numbers vs. Liverpool:
22 passes completed
1 take-on completed
1 tackle won
1 chance created
The first substitute to score twice in a Champions League final. 👏 pic.twitter.com/ntpmscM5mz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 26, 2018
The game changer on the night for Real Madrid. Bale has now scored two match winning goals for Los Blancos, and this one will go down as one of the best ever in the history of the competition.
Showed incredible athleticism to power home the bicycle kick into the top corner, and then took aim from distance to add the cherry on top of the cake, with little help from the error-stricken Karius. Has now put his Real Madrid future in doubt, but what a way to depart if it indeed is a parting gift.
Marco Asensio: N/A
On for the final few minutes, Asensio barely had time to have a touch on the ball, let alone make an impact.