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Real Madrid win Champions League as brilliant Bale sinks Liverpool

Real Madrid have become the first team to win the European Cup/Champions League in three successive seasons since Bayern Munich between 1974 and 1976.

Gareth Bale scored one of European football's great goals to help Real Madrid overcome Liverpool and win their third successive Champions League title as goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a personal nightmare.

Bale made his mark on another Champions League final with a magnificent overhead kick to put Real 2-1 up after 64 minutes.

Liverpool had already suffered the devastating blow of losing top scorer Mohamed Salah midway through the first half - with a shoulder injury sustained in a challenge with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos - when calamity struck for Karius.

Six minutes after half-time, the German inexplicably threw the ball against Karim Benzema, who was not even challenging with urgency, and watched in horror as the ball rolled behind him into the net.

Liverpool recovered from the shock to equalise through Sadio Mane before Bale stepped off the bench to score his wonder goal.

There was to be no comeback from Liverpool this time and Karius's misery was complete when he fumbled Bale's hopeful 30-yard shot behind him to seal Real's win.

It sealed Real's record 13th win in this competition, and their fourth in five seasons to give coach Zinedine Zidane this third triumph in three years.

For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, it was disappointment again - he lost his third successive final since arriving at Anfield, having suffered defeats in the League Cup and Europa League finals of 2016.

Calamity for hapless Karius

When the story of this Champions League final is told from a Liverpool perspective, it will be the tale of Karius' nightmare alongside that of Salah's injury.

The 24-year-old German has been shown huge faith by Klopp, who brought him in from Mainz and made him first choice ahead of Simon Mignolet.

He has never fully convinced and on this, the biggest night in Liverpool's recent history, he had the sort of night to leave you wondering how he will rebuild his Anfield career.
Loris Karius made more errors leading to goals in the final against Real Madrid (two) than he had in his previous 32 competitive appearances for Liverpool

Karius inexplicably threw a clearance against Benzema for Real Madrid's opener before fumbling Bale's speculative, long-range effort into the net to snuff out any hopes of a comeback.

The keeper lay flat on the turf at the final whistle, being consoled by Real Madrid's players before apologising tearfully in front of Liverpool's fans.

Klopp clearly rates Karius but there are too many holes in his technique. That, along with his temperament, must be questioned after a complete horror show here in Kiev.

Salah setback shifted the balance of power
Bale's Real Madrid future has been under constant scrutiny this season - a quirk at a club that lives by its own rules.

The Welshman did not even make the starting line-up here and only emerged just after the hour - but within two minutes he scored one of the great Champions League goals, an overhead kick that was a triumph of athleticism and technique, and begged the question as to how Real could even contemplate life without him.

As for Bale's second goal, make no mistake - when he took on that long-range shot, he would have been street-smart enough to know Karius was living on his nerves after his earlier error.

Bale delivered a reminder, if it were needed that he remains a world-class player.

It may just have been an expensive night for suitors such as Manchester United as his display here will have added millions to any potential transfer fee.

When asked about his future after the game, Bale told BT Sport: "I need to be playing week in, week out and that has not happened this season.

"I had an injury five, six weeks in but have been fit ever since. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it."

Man of the match - Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Bale is also only the second British player to score twice in a European Cup/Champions League final, after Bobby Charlton for Manchester United in 1968

Gareth Bale is the first player ever to come on as a substitute and score twice in a European Cup/Champions League final

Zidane the history man


Zinedine Zidane has joined Liverpool's Bob Paisley and his Real Madrid predecessor Carlo Ancelotti in the elite ranks of managers to win this tournament three times - but added extra gloss by becoming the first to win it in three successive seasons.

Zidane has often been damned with faint praise about his abilities and record, despite his Champions League invincibility, by those who claim he simply keeps an outstanding team on track but he makes a nonsense of that with his tactical approach, handling of world-class players (and world-class egos) and a very happy knack of making decisive substitutions.

Three Champions League wins in three seasons ends all argument about his greatness as a coach. He is in charge of a team who know how to get the job done.

A first in 42 years - the stats
  • English teams have suffered a defeat in their past seven UEFA club competition finals against Spanish opposition (four Champions League finals and three UEFA Cup/Europa League finals).
  • Jurgen Klopp has lost six of his seven major finals as manager, only winning the DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
  • Real Madrid started with the same XI as in the 2016-17 Champions League final; the first time a team has started with the same 11 players in different European Cup/Champions League finals (excluding replays).
  • Karim Benzema has scored four goals against Liverpool in the Champions League; no player has managed more (also four for Didier Drogba).
  • Liverpool became the first team in history to see three players score 10-plus goals in a single Champions League season (Salah 10, Firmino 10, Mane 10).
  • Sadio Mane is only the fourth African player to score in a European Cup/Champions League final and the first since Didier Drogba for Chelsea v Bayern Munich in 2012. The other two were by Samuel Eto'o for Barcelona in both 2009 and 2006, and Rabah Madjer for Porto in 1987.
  • Mane became the third Liverpool player to score 20-plus goals in all competitions this season (Salah 44 goals and Firmino 27 goals); the last time that three players hit the 20-goal mark for the club in a single campagn was 1981-82 (Dalglish, McDermott and Rush).
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