What happened in the 2018 Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid?
From Gareth Bale’s stunner, to Mo Salah’s untimely departure, it was an intense affair that will long be remembered in the annals of Champions League history.
When Liverpool and Real Madrid met in 2018, it was actually the scousers who were favored to lift the European Cup, but on a night to remember it was the Spaniards who clinched their 13th European title. Join us for a look back at just what happened that night and why we’re likely to enjoy a clash of titans once again, when the final arrives this Saturday.
Gareth Bale silenced critics with a MOTM performance
It was one of those moments which will have those who were fortunate enough to be in the stadium reminiscing for years to come. With the score tied at 1-1, Gareth Bale found himself in a bit of space inside Liverpool’s area as Marcelo prepared to cross the ball from the left side into the box. What happened next is the stuff of fantasy and will probably be compared to the likes of Zinédine Zidane’s famous goal against Bayer Leverkusen or at the very least Mario Mandžukić's last gasp effort: either way it was magic. As Marcelo’s seemingly aimless inswinger made it’s way into the box the Welshman, who at this point was just inside the penalty area swiveled and somehow managed to contort his body in acrobatic perfection. The result? An overhead kick that flew past the hapless Loris Karius, sending the Madrid faithful into a frenzy.
The goal was in stark contrast to Madrid’s opener which came as a result of what has to be called a lapse in concentration on the part of the Reds’ goalkeeper. It was the 51st minute and having collected the ball, Karius attempted to roll the ball out to a team-mate, only to find the lurking Karim Benzema who casually stuck out his leg in hope. Karius could only watch in horror as the ball was deflected by the Frenchman into his unguarded net. Unfortunately for the Scousers’ keeper it wouldn’t be the last costly error that he would commit on the night.
Things could have been different with Mo Salah on the field
If there was one turning point on the night, it’s got to be the controversial moment during the first half, in which veteran defender Sergio Ramos appeared to haul Liverpool’s talismanic Mo Salah to the ground. The Egyptian was visibly in pain as he took his time getting to his feet while he held his shoulder. Ramos for his part seemed indifferent about what he had done. The Liverpool players and fans alike seemed less than impressed, but in the end it was deemed to be nothing more than a 50/50 tussle between two players vying for the ball. Things would soon go from bad to worse minutes later, when a tearful Salah asked for a substitution. There would have been some degree of hope when Liverpool leveled just four minutes later, courtesy of an impressive header from Dejan Lovren, which allowed Sadio Mane to sneak in at the back post for a tap in, but as we now know, it was not meant to be.
Bale was the best, but Karius the worst
The Welshman, having put Madrid ahead in sensational fashion with his first, was clearly on the hunt for a second and his search didn’t take long. With seven minutes remaining the much-maligned Bale struck a thunderous shot towards Liverpool’s goal. To those present and those watching at home or in bars around the globe, what happened next was nothing short of incredible. Though Bale’s shot was a scorcher, it was aimed directly at the waiting Karius who somehow managed to let the ball slip through his palms. With that it was 3-1 Madrid and there was no turning back. Zidane and his charges claimed Madrid’s 13th European Cup title and the club’s third in a row, while the Reds were left wondering how it had all gone so wrong.
Real Madrid are kings of Europe for a reason
There is a common saying in Spain when speaking about Real Madrid that goes, “El Madrid es el Madrid.” The age-old refrain simply means that Real Madrid gets things done, or if you prefer a more accurate way of putting it, they know exactly how to win no matter what or who is in front of them. On that night back in 2018 they were the better team, not because they necessarily played better throughout the match, or because Liverpool didn’t turn up, they were the better team because they took advantage of their opportunities, full stop. Given the kind of opposition they have faced on this year’s path to the final, and the ability to adapt and then win which they have consistently displayed, it would be no surprise if they are able to win a 14th Champions League title. On the other hand, this is a more mature Liverpool side and one that has played some exceptional football this year so the only question left is, are you all set for a football fiesta this weekend?