Watch: Gareth Bale scores wonder goal as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Champions League final
Real Madrid 3 Liverpool 1
Gareth Bale came off the bench to shatter Liverpool’s European dream as Real Madrid claimed a third straight Champions League triumph.
The Wales star scored twice - including one of the all-time great final goals - to leave Jurgen Klopp’s side heartbroken.
The Reds were rocked by the loss of talisman Mohamed Salah to injury in the first half.
And a horrible blunder by goalkeeper Loris Karius handed Karim Benzema the opening goal in the 48th minute.
Sadio Mane levelled to give Liverpool brief hope, but a stunning overhead kick from Bale, two minutes after his introduction, saw the Spaniards retake the lead.
A second error from Karius late on - when he let Bale’s shot from distance slip through his gloves - ended Liverpool’s hopes.
This was Madrid’s third Champions League triumph in a row - their 13th European crown overall.
But for the thousands of Liverpool fans who travelled to Kiev, it was bitter disappointment.
The Reds’ run to the final had been built on the attacking drive of Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah, but the latter’s night ended after just 30 minutes.
The Egyptian, who had scored 44 of the Reds’ 134 goals this season, departed in tears after suffering a shoulder injury following a tussle with Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.
The loss of their greatest threat was a devastating blow to the English side and knocked their confidence and rhythm after what had been a brilliant start.
They really came at Madrid in the early stages, playing at a high tempo, snapping into tackles, not allowing their opponents a moment to settle.
Their first chance came inside five minutes when Salah won a free-kick around the corner of the box. James Milner played it short but Madrid had read the danger, with Luca Modric racing out to close down Salah’s powerful effort.
Madrid’s first chance came after 10 minutes, Marcelo turning well and hitting a left-foot shot across goal but wide.
In the 15th minute a lapse in the Reds’ back line saw Cristiano Ronaldo sprint into space down the right wing. Fortunately for Liverpool, his final shot flashed just over the target.
Real still looked rattled though, and a wayward pass gave Liverpool a cheap corner. Salah’s delivery was met by Virgil Van Dijk, but under pressure from the goalkeeper, the defender headed over.
Liverpool’s best chance of the half came in the 24th minute. Firmino took a pass from Milner, turned and shot, but saw his effort blocked by a defender. It fell to Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose low strike was well saved by Keylor Navas.
However, Liverpool’s enterprising start was checked by the loss of Salah. Visibly distraught, he was consoled by Ronaldo - who had similar woe for Portugal in the Euro 2016 final - as he departed the pitch.
Madrid suffered a blow of their own when Dani Carvajal pulled up with an injury after an attempted back-heel, which also ended his night six minutes later.
The Spaniards thought they had edged in front two minutes before the break. Karius reacted brilliantly to keep out Ronaldo’s header and Benzema slammed home the rebound - but the assistant’s flag was up and neither effort would have counted.
Then in stoppage time before the break Benzema showed his threat again, drifting inside and blasting a shot from distance just wide.
Yet a final which had promised so much had still to find another level.
The second half almost produced a goal inside three minutes.
A series of errors in the Reds’ defence led to the ball landing at the feet of Isco, who slammed his shot against the crossbar.
It was a major let-off for Liverpool - but their luck did not last as they fell behind a minute later in farcical circumstances.
Karius intercepted a pass forward and looked to restart the attack for Liverpool by rolling the ball out. But Benzema, who had made a half-hearted run towards goal, stuck out his foot, diverting the ball into the net.
It was a shocking error, perhaps the most bizarre goal a Champions League final has seen.
Liverpool were rocking, but their response was superb.
Four minutes after falling behind they forced a corner and Milner’s delivery was headed into the danger zone by Dejan Lovren, who towered above Ramos. There Mane was waiting to prod the ball past the goalkeeper from close range.
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 26, 2018
What a moment for Liverpool
What a moment for Sadio Mane
(What a moment for Loris Karius)
Liverpool are level thanks to Sadio Mane's 11th Champions League goal of the season! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WxGRPHHWlO
The banks of Reds fans massed behind the end Liverpool were attacking found their voice again - but were soon silenced again as Real retook the lead.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, this time there was nothing Karius could have done about Bale’s 64th minute strike.
The Welsh star, who started the night on the bench, scored within two minutes of his introduction.
He went for the spectacular as Marcelo crossed, attempting an overhead kick and catching the ball perfectly to arrow home and restore Madrid’s lead. On the touchline Zidane applauded in appreciation.
The game swung from one end to the other.
Mane’s low drive struck the post, then a last-ditch tackle from Andrew Robertson thwarted Ronaldo as he closed in on goal.
Bale almost laid on the third for Benzema, before wrapping up the win in the 84th minute.
Again it was a moment to forget for Liverpool’s goalkeeper as he spilled Bale’s effort - hit from distance more in hope than expectation - into his net.
REAL MADRID: Navas, Carvajal (Nacho, 37), Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Isco (Bale, 61), Ronaldo, Benzema (Asensio, 89)
Subs not used: Casilla, Hernandez, Lucas, Kovacic
LIVERPOOL: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Salah (Lallana, 31), Mane, Firmino
Subs not used: Mignolet, Clyne, Klavan, Moreno, Can, Solanke
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)
Belfast Telegraph Digital