Real Madrid’s fourth Champions League final victory in five years was a story of two absurd goals. It was a story of ridiculous talent and ridiculously good fortune. And it was fitting – because that deadly combination has been the story of Real’s unprecedented threepeat.
Los Blancos ended Liverpool’s wonderful run one step short of glory with a 3-1 victory in Kiev on Saturday, in a game that had everything. It had the bizarre and the brilliant. It had the wonder and the heartbreak.
And it was decided by one of the best Champions League final goals in the history of the event. Gareth Bale, who won the first of Real’s four European titles in five years with an extra-time winner in 2014, won the fourth with a majestic bicycle kick:
It proved to be the final twist of a topsy-turvy, entrancing match.
Bale then punctuated his supersub performance with a swerving, stinging drive from 30 yards out. Loris Karius couldn’t handle it. Liverpool, in the end, couldn’t handle the biggest stage of all.
The match began with Liverpool pressure, and with the Reds the better of the two teams for the opening half-hour. But one of several pivotal moments arrived just before the 30-minute mark. Mohamed Salah was pulled down by Sergio Ramos, and forced to exit with a suspected shoulder injury.
And suddenly, Liverpool’s dominance evaporated.
The game exploded into life after halftime, but in bizarre fashion. Karim Benzema stuck out a hopeful right foot as Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius attempted to launch an attack with a throw toward the right sideline. Benzema blocked Karius’ throw, and the ball trickled directly into the Liverpool net. The defending champs, via an insane goal of a different kind, were ahead.
Justice was served. Liverpool was level. The game was back in the balance, just as the balance of play suggested it should have been.
But Bale was introduced on the hour mark, in place of Isco, and he changed the game. Just as he had back in 2014, he won Real Madrid the biggest prize of all. And he capped off a remarkable run of European dominance.
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