Real Madrid has completed a trifecta of Champions League successes after a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the final at the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Kiev, Ukraine. All four goals came in the second half after an unexpectedly cagey first 45 minutes, as two usually free-flowing attacking sides took their time to feel each other out.

Reds' goalkeeper Loris Karius was responsible for the Spanish side's first and last goals, as the German made two calamitous errors allowing Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to score. Those mistakes occurred either side of a stunning overhead-kick from the latter, while Sadio Mané grabbed the only goal for the Premier League outfit.

The tie had been billed as a clash between two of the deadliest forwards in football this season in Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah, but neither was able to have a telling impact upon the game.

The Portuguese was anonymous for most of the affair, with young full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson admirably keeping the five-time Ballon d'Or winner quiet. Liverpool's 'Egyptian King' was bright in the opening exchanges and looked to be growing into the game, but he was tragically forced-off with a shoulder injury after a rugged but fair challenge from Madrid captain Sergio Ramos during the first half.

It was all very even for the first hour

Not much happened in the first half of a game from which everyone expected drama and fireworks, but the Reds were arguably the better side for most of the first period.

The momentum switched, however, when Ramos challenged Salah for the ball, sending the Egyptian tumbling to the ground and landing hard on his shoulder.

He attempted to continue after being patched-up by medical staff, but the pain was just too much and Salah left the pitch visibly distraught with tears streaming down his face, to be replaced by Adam Lallana.

Minutes later Dani Carvajal of Real Madrid felt the same emotional and physical agony when a suspected pulled hamstring forced him off for a second successive Champions League final. He too was in floods of tears when the realisation that he would miss the game dawned upon him.

These were the only two noteworthy events from the first period, but they were a catalyst for what would come in the second half.

Zinedine Zidane's side was in the ascendancy, and it seemed only a matter of time until the breakthrough would come - it did in the 51st minute.

After catching the ball easily from an over-hit ball forward, Karius rushed to roll the ball out to a defender, but French forward Benzema read his intentions and stuck a boot out, directing the seemingly harmless roll into the Liverpool net. It was a cruel way for Jurgen Klopp's side to go behind given their solid performance up to that point.

Just four minutes later, Mané levelled the scoring against the run of play when a lofted corner was met in the air by Dejan Lovren and the Senegalese was the quickest to react, sticking out his right boot and poking the ball beyond Keylor Navas.

The equaliser gave travelling Liverpool fans, whose journey had been blighted by travelling difficulties and cancelled flights in the build-up, the hope of a comeback, but...

The introduction of Bale put an end to those fantasies

After replacing the ineffectual Isco just after the hour mark, it took the former-Spurs man just 122 seconds to put Los Blancos back ahead with an outrageous overhead-kick from a seemingly-poor cross from Marcelo. The ball appeared to have gone past Bale, but the Welshman showed excellent technique and agility to hook the ball with his favoured left-foot to stun everyone in the Olimpiyskiy Stadium and the millions watching at home. The Telegraph reported that Bale described the effort as "the best goal (he has) ever scored.


Substitute Bale then had a decisive say in the game seven minutes from time, when he hit a speculative effort from 30 yards which caught-out Karius. The 'keeper tried to catch the shot but didn't account for the mid-air movement on the ball and ended-up flapping the ball into his own net. The two mistakes were harsh on Karius, who has played well in recent months after a rocky start to life at Anfield, but ultimately he has to take the blame for a difficult-to-swallow defeat.

To his credit, that's exactly what he did. He was inconsolable at the final whistle, as he knew just how costly his errors had been, but he picked himself up to applaud the travelling Anfield faithful and apologise for his mistakes, all while sobbing uncontrollably.

He then, somewhat admirably, gave a post-match interview to TalkSPORT, during which he said: “I just feel sorry for my team. I know I let them down today. It is very hard right now, but that is the life of a goalkeeper. You have got to get your head up again. For now, I’m just really sorry for everyone that those goals cost us the title basically.”

All this may just seem like something that a footballer is obliged to do these days, and to an extent it is, but after making such catastrophic mistakes in the biggest game of his career, and being visibly heartbroken, it took tremendous character to do these things. A less brave man would have made a beeline for the tunnel and not reappeared - Karius deserves respect for this.

For Real Madrid, it is delirium after achieving an unprecedented 13th European Cup title and a third Champions League triumph in a row, while for Liverpool it is a difficult end to a season that has promised so much and gives hope for what this team can do. For all their promise and aesthetically pleasing football, the fact remains that Jurgen Klopp's tenure on Merseyside remains trophy-less.