Gareth Bale reigns supreme as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Champions League final

Gareth Bale came off the bench to score twice as Real Madrid won the Champions League after a 3-1 win over Liverpool.

Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Real two goals, throwing the ball against Karim Benzema before dropping Bale’s long-range effort in the closing stages.

Sadio Mane had earlier cancelled out Benzema’s opener before Bale unleashed a superb bicycle kick to give Madrid the lead.

Mohamed Salah exited the match in the 31st minute with a suspected dislocated shoulder which may rule him out of this summer’s World Cup.

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Liverpool nearly took the lead in the eighth minute when Roberto Firmino played a ball in behind but Keylor Navas was alert to clear the ball under pressure from Salah.

Their promising start continued as Firmino headed wide from an Andrew Robertson cross before Marcelo fired wide from long range at the other end.

James Milner, Mane and Salah saw successive shots blocked with Madrid experiencing heavy pressure in the opening stages.

Cristiano Ronaldo had his first chance in the 16th minute but his shot went just over the bar after cutting in from the right wing.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold should have given Liverpool the lead in the 24th minute but his low effort was well saved by Navas after Firmino’s shot was blocked.

A collision with Ramos brought an end to Salah’s night, and a suspected dislocated shoulder could keep the Egyptian out of the World Cup too. Ramos appeared to fall on Salah’s arm after pulling him down and Adam Lallana came on to replace him.

The change saw Liverpool sit deeper until halftime. Luka Modric’s shot was blocked by Robertson and Benzema nearly went through on goal before the defence cleared.

Real Madrid had a goal disallowed just before halftime. Ronaldo’s header was saved excellently by Karius before Benzema powered home the rebound, but the flag was up with Ronaldo offside.

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The Spanish side came close to an opener again four minutes after the restart when Isco floated the ball onto the crossbar but it would not be too long until Real Madrid took the lead.

Karius was the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons in the 51st minute. After coming out to claim a long ball, the goalkeeper threw the ball straight into the foot of Benzema, three yards in front of him, and the ball rolled into the bottom corner of the net.

Liverpool struck back within minutes though, and it was Mane who levelled the score. Milner’s corner was headed on by Dejan Lovren and Mane was quickest to react to send the ball in from five yards.

Bale started on the substitute’s bench but made an immediate impact after replacing Isco on the hour-mark. It took just two minutes for the Welshman to score one of the greatest goals in Champions League history after he sent a bicycle kick flying past Karius from 12 yards.

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Mane nearly scored his second of the night but his 20-yarder was denied by the post. Liverpool then had a penalty appeal turned down after Firmino’s shot hit Casemiro’s elbow.

Karius’ night got even worse with seven minutes remaining. He gifted Bale another goal, in turn wrapping up Real’s victory. Bale’s 30-yard shot was straight into Karius arms but somehow the keeper lost control and the ball bounced into the net.

Lallana’s shot was blocked and Virgil van Dijk headed over before the final whistle confirmed Real Madrid’s third successive Champions League title.

Cover Photo: By Антон Зайцев (https://www.soccer.ru/galery/1050902/photo/728404) [CC BY-SA 3.0GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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