Liverpool came into Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid on a wave of confidence but Zinedine Zidane’s side showed exactly why they are the masters of Europe’s top club competition in their 3-1 win.
Real have now won three Champions League titles in a row, something no team has achieved since the switch from the European Cup knockout format, and while they may not be remembered as the most attractive or transformative of teams there is no doubt they know how to win on the biggest stage.
Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool produced exhilarating football on their way to the final, ripping apart Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma with some thrilling attacking displays.
But this Real side, who finished third in La Liga, 17 points behind champions Barcelona, have a habit of taking the wind out of their opponent’s sails and finding a way to win.
This time it was not the genius or deadly finishing of five-times World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo that proved to be the decisive factor.
Two goals were simply handed to Real by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, whose hapless performance will be remembered as one of the worst by a keeper at this level.
But both those mistakes had to be capitalised upon, and Real rarely turn down such gifts.
Karim Benzema reacted sharply and with alertness to take advantage of Karius’s rushed throw in his direction, to open the scoring.
Karius was also at fault for Real’s third when Gareth Bale fired a hopeful, long range effort through the wafting hands of the German keeper to wrap up the win.
Good fortune, without a doubt, but Bale had the nous to realise the keeper was vulnerable and the ability to expose him.
The Welshman’s confidence came from his earlier goal, a brilliant bicycle kick that put Real 2-1 up.