For all the nuance of the first half of the UEFA Champions League final, the second half was a can of firecrackers. Real Madrid’s three hard-to-believe goals pushed the Spanish club to a 3-1 victory over Liverpool and made it Europe’s top team three years running.
The deciding goal was a bicycle kick in the 64th minute from Real’s Gareth Bale, who entered as a substitute only minutes prior.
He scored again in the 83rd minute on a ball Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius would certainly like to have back.
Bale fired a shot from maybe 35 yards away that somehow slipped through Karius’s hands and into the net.
Liverpool had tied the match at 1 on a well-executed corner kick in the 55th minutes.
Four minutes before that score, Real’s Karim Benzema blocked a clearing attempt from Karius that trickled into the net to open the scoring.
The flurry of goals all came without two of the match’s brightest stars on the pitch.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who scored a world-best 44 goals this season, left the match in the 30th minute with a shoulder injury after a rough tackle from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.
Salah’s productive season has made the Egyptian a hero among Arab and African soccer fans and led Liverpool loyalists to literally sing his praises as he bowed in prayer after goals.
“If he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim, too!” goes one popular refrain.
“Running down the wing! Egyptian king!” goes another.
Salah’s departure from the pitch in tears rattled the rest of the Liverpool side, which was on the attack with their star forward in the match. But in the 37th minute, Real Madrid defenseman Dani Carvajal left the match with a leg injury after an ill-fated back-heel pass.
The injuries are even more concerning because they come just weeks before the World Cup is set to begin.
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