26 May 2018

Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid

Benzema 51'
Mané 58'
Bale 64' 83'

Welp, the three-peat really was cosmically ordained. Liverpool's magic in this competition just could not overcome Real Madrid's even more powerful voodoo.

Everything's humming along nicely. Liverpool are doing exactly what Liverpool need to: pressing Madrid out of any fluency, creating chances, denied by some last ditch blocks and one good Navas save. It's a really good start! Everyone's really loud! We have hope!

And then Mohamed Salah has to go off injured, with what could well be a dislocated shoulder. After the season he's had, with the World Cup imminent. Or, put another way, Sergio Ramos injures Mohamed Salah, as he's purposefully and unnecessarily holding Salah's arm and angles his shoulder directly into the ground.

Life is not fair. This is a cruel, uncaring universe. Evil often defeats good, because good is dumb.

You can't say it's a different result, because cosmically-ordained-three-peat, but it's sure as hell a different game.

It ain't over after the injury. But Liverpool are already the underdog, and it just got a hell of a lot harder. It's not Adam Lallana's fault, but Adam Lallana is not Mohamed Salah, especially when he's missed 95% of the season. Liverpool's strategy necessarily changes, Liverpool's attack unfortunately changes. It's far less threatening. Pressing comes more from the midfield rather than the front three. It's harder to get Firmino and Mané involved. Lallana wasn't very good in the front three even when at peak form last season.

Liverpool trod a fine line with squad depth all season long. You can't plan for Ramos' evil or the angle of a fall, but the bill still came due today.

So, unsurprisingly, Liverpool are pushed deeper. Real Madrid push forward. Read Madrid find angles and paths through the lessened pressure and lessened threat. But, by hook and crook, Liverpool held out as Real built momentum. A wonderful save from Karius on Ronaldo's point-blank header, Benzema with the ball in the net on the rebound but offside. Ronaldo probably was too. Isco hits the crossbar after Lallana's attempted interception fell straight to him with the goal open. We are hanging on by fingernails but we are hanging on.

Then, calamity. Unbelievable calamity. I-don't-even-want-to-think-about-it calamity. I'm-going-to-think-about-it-forever calamity. Karius, ball in hand from Real's chip over the top to Benzema, with Benzema offside anyway. Karius, looking to start the attack quickly. Karius, throwing the ball at Benzema, who sticks a leg out and directs it into the net.

It is the dumbest thing I have ever seen a goalkeeper do. I have seen a lot of goalkeepers do dumb things, especially thanks to following Liverpool. I did a lot of dumb things as a goalkeeper, at an admittedly low level.

That. That right there was the winner. In the Champions League final. To open the scoring. When you're already missing your best player but holding on.

I cannot even.

But I couldn't even seven minutes later, as Liverpool equalized. Corner, Lovren dominates Ramos, Mané's on the doorstep. Game on.

Six minutes later, game off again. Gareth Bale, the player I actually feared most, off the bench less than two minutes before. With an unstoppable overhead kick from Marcelo's cross. Literally unstoppable. Perfect technique. Lucky technique. Probably the best goal in a Champions League final, and I very much remember what his manager's done.

And try as they might, Liverpool just could not get back into this. Mané hit the post in the 70th minute, doing his best to single-handedly fire anything into Liverpool's attack, but we just got more pain. We got the perfect combination of Real Madrid's first two goals in Real Madrid's third. Bale, from nowhere, with a wickedly swerving shot, fiercely hit about as well as he could from 30-something yards out. But it's still a shot that literally goes straight through Karius. I want to feel bad for Karius. No one feels worse than Karius right now, wishing the world would swallow him up. It is very hard to feel empathy right now.

Sigh. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with banter.

It is infinitely depressing to lose a final in this manner. Salah's injury to completely wreck all the momentum and all the good, right around the point of the match where Liverpool usually find another gear. Liverpool hold on adequately, with Karius saves and an offside flag and the crossbar, but then concede an opener in the absolute worst way possible. Get back into the game, but then concede that damned Bale insanity. Keep fighting, not out of it, but again give away another eminently preventable goal from an eminently unthreatening position.

Real Madrid probably are and were the better team, but we're not relishing or respecting their victory. We're regretful. Left wondering what could have been. What could have been had Salah not gotten injured. What could have been had Karius not thrown the ball into his own net twice, despite the half-season he's had, despite making three excellent saves in the match.

I hate regret. I hate regret after how well Liverpool played otherwise – honestly! – especially Mané, Lovren, Robertson, and Henderson, especially considering circumstances. I hate that I regret after all the fun we've had this season.

I can't wait until I reminiscence rather than regret. It will happen, because this season gave us so much more than we deserved or expected, but it's gonna take a while.


Mercycide said...

Second comment I am leaving as the first didn’t seem to post. Corageous effort by the boys. No confusion, Karius had a ‘mare. Simply not good enough. Shit his pants in the UEFA final. TAA showing how it should be done. Can’t account for loss of Mo Salah, and Ramos is a dirty player to be sure. Keeper needs to be top priority for this team in the summer. Has been a weak point for quite some time and can’t see them progressing without a major change. Lallana was a non-entity. Basically played 10 v 11 after Salah injury. Depth in midfield needed. Keep up the good work, love the reviews.

Gabe said...

Can't wait to never have to watch Mignolet or Karius ever again.

Julian said...

Thanks for always being here with the reasonable takes, Nate. My overwhelming reaction is just sadness. For Mo to have that year and be forced off by an unnecessary and dirty challenge. For Karius, who was probably never good enough for the clubs ambitions but is better than that horror show. For Mane who fucking played his heart out. For the midfield who battled through injuries and too many fixtures. Sure, it sucks for us as fans, but those guys are suffering far more, and deserved far better than to end the season on that sour note.

Anonymous said...

It is in the past now.

Looking ahead, the team is still intact and should only grow stronger and more confident next season. I believe the team will get to another CL final soon. YNWA.