XtraTime Web Desk: Zidane’s incredi-BALE change to bring on the Welsh Wizard in place of Isco proved to be a deciding factor, as Real Madrid wins three UEFA Champions League titles on a row.
A sensational overhead strike from Real Madrid substitute Gareth Bale and two calamitous errors by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gave the Spanish side a third straight Champions League title with a 3-1 win in an incident-packed final on Saturday.
Welshman Bale came on just past the hour with the score at 1-1 and after three minutes produced an astonishing bicycle kick finish and then netted with a speculative long-range effort that somehow went through the hands of the unfortunate Karius.
The German keeper had earlier handed Real a 51st minute lead when he threw the ball straight at striker Karim Benzema and the ball rolled into the unguarded net off the Frenchman’s leg.
Liverpool, who crucially lost their leading scorer Mohamed Salah to a suspected dislocated shoulder in the 31st minute, had equalized in the 55th minute when Sadio Mane found the net from close range after Dejan Lovren headed the ball into the area.
In truth, though, despite their best efforts Liverpool never looked as much of a threat once Egyptian international Salah went down under a challenge from Real captain Sergio Ramos.
Real have become the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win Europe’s elite club trophy three years in a row. The Spaniards won five straight European Cup trophies in the 1950s.
France striker Benzema was to get compensation though when he was alert to Karius’s ill-advised attempt to throw the ball out quickly, although Real’s lead lasted just four minutes.
Liverpool’s Senegal forward Mane was sharp to react when Lovren rose to head the ball goalwards and their traveling fans sensed the Anfield side’s spirit could turn the game around.
But then came Bale, leaping to produce a jaw-dropping left-foot overhead volley from Marcelo’s cross before trying his luck with a speculative long-range shot that defied Karius’s ham-fisted attempt to keep it out and put the result beyond doubt.