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Real Madrid win Champions League as brilliant Bale sinks Liverpool

It was an epic night, filled with so many different storylines, and unfortunately for Liverpool’s accident-prone goalkeeper, Loris Karius, he will have to live with the fact that his part will be remembered for just as long as, or possibly longer than, Gareth Bale’s spectacular bicycle kick or the tears from Mohamed Salah.

For Bale it was a personal triumph with two of Real Madrid’s goals and a man-of-the-match award from a final he did not enter until the 61st minute. His flying, acrobatic volley, only two minutes after coming on, will go straight into the list of the greatest all-time goals in a Champions League final and put Madrid, with their 13th triumph, on their way to emulating the great Ajax and Bayern Munich teams of the 1970s with a third successive win.

That, however, tells only part of the story from a night when Karius was a danger to his own team, responsible for Madrid’s two other goals and last seen wandering aimlessly around the pitch – alone, distraught and clearly traumatised – to ask forgiveness, hands clasped, from the thousands of Liverpool supporters. Karius looked broken. He chose a bad night to be so vulnerable and Liverpool will always wonder what might have happened if the German had not turned the night into his own personal ordeal. Or, indeed, if they had not lost Salah, half an hour in, with the shoulder injury that turned the match in Madrid’s favour.

Salah looked inconsolable as he was led from the pitch and Sergio Ramos had some nerve offering a sympathetic hug on the way off. Ramos had locked Salah’s right arm and turned him, judo-style, as they lost balance going for the same ball. Television replays hardened the suspicion it was a calculated move on Ramos’s part and, when Salah landed with a hell of a thud, the damage was considerable. That blow could conceivably put the Egyptian out of the World Cup, too.

His absence was a grievous setback for Liverpool, who had looked the more dangerous team until that point, and it would not be sour grapes for the losers to think that was the moment the game started to swing away from them. They had started so thrillingly but all their early momentum was lost once Salah went off. It never properly came back and the players in red took a long time – too long, probably – to adjust to being without the man who had scored 44 times over a record-breaking season. Without Salah, they never looked so threatening again.
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