Friday, June 14, 2024

REWIND: Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid lift the UEFA Champions League

Today, we’re throwing it back to 2018 and Kiev. Gareth Bale was the hero of the day, Loris Karius became the villain, and we witnessed one of the goals of the century. An all around classic night to remember in Kiev.

Real Madrid v Liverpool – The game

The opening exchanges were heated, while not exactly fruitful in terms of clear cut goal-scoring opportunities.

The first of those came in the 15th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo broke down the right wing at speed, drove into the box and fired an effort over the bar.

Ten minutes later, Liverpool star Mo Salah went down badly clutching his shoulder after a coming together with Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.

He was replaced by Adam Lallana as the whole of Liverpool and Egypt held their breath awaiting news of his condition. With the World Cup around the corner, fears were high he wouldn’t recover in time…

Late on in the first half, Madrid had the ball in the net for the first time in the game. Isco whipped a dangerous cross toward Ronaldo, the Portuguese rose highest and nodded it powerfully at Karius.

The Liverpool stopper managed to beat the effort away, but only as far as Karim Benzema who turned it home only to look to the sideline and see a raised flag.

Madrid didn’t have to wait too far into the second half to get their opening goal. Just six minutes in, Benzema had the ball in the net again, but this time it would count.

The ball was lofted over the top for Benzema to run onto. Karius gets there first and gathers comfortably, then looks to roll it out to a defender. Ever alert, Benzema sticks a toe out and diverts the attempted roll from Karius into the back of the net. Howler.

Liverpool hit back pretty soon as four minutes later, Sadio Mane notched from a corner to bring the scores level. Dejan Lovren won the first header, nodding it back across goal where Mane was waiting to turn it home.

Gareth Bale enters the field of play

Gareth Bale produced a moment of magic
Gareth Bale produced a moment of magic

Such was his impact on the game, Gareth Bale’s substitution deserves its own sub-heading. In the 61st minute, the Welshman replaced Isco in what must be the most inspired substitution Zinedine Zidane has ever made.

Three minutes later, Bale lit up the Olimpiyskiy Stadium with one of the most spectacular goals ever seen in a Champions League final.

Brazilian Marcelo delivered a right-footed cross into the area, about a yard behind Bale. The Welshman swiveled on the spot and pulled out the most incredible overhead bicycle kick I’ve ever seen, flying into the top corner. Madrid regain the lead.

After 20 minutes of Liverpool trying and failing to find a way through the Madrid back line, Gareth Bale took the stage once more.

He picked the ball up on the right side, brought it slightly infield and unleashed a venomous effort at goal. It moved a bit but was straight down the throat of Karius, the Liverpool keeper flapped at it and the ball bounced into the net.

Bale was off celebrating, Karius lay on the floor with his head in his hands, looking like the loneliest man on the planet in that moment. Bale had two, Madrid had three and Liverpool had nowhere near enough time to rectify it.

When all was said and done, Real Madrid lifted the Champions League trophy due to the impact of Gareth Bale, as well as two absolutely stonking errors from Loris Karius.

That was Madrid’s third consecutive Champions League title and fourth in the space of five years. The crowning moment in their period of dominance in the UEFA Champions League.

What came after?

The following year, Real Madrid’s Champions League dominance came to an end as they crashed out in the round of 16 to Ajax’s young team.

Meanwhile, Liverpool made it all the way to the final again where they would play fellow English team Tottenham Hotspur. This time, there would be no mistakes, only a clinical performance which saw them win their sixth Champions League crown.

The addition of goalkeeper Alisson, who had played for Roma against Liverpool in the competition the year before, proved to be inspired. The Brazilian added extra confidence and much more confidence to the Liverpool back line.

He even won the award for the goalkeeper of the tournament. Liverpool put the woes of 2018 very firmly in the past, and entered a new era – winning their first European trophy since 2005.

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