The better team lost, but Real Madrid won’t care - this defeat will take a long time to get over
Yet the 1-0 defeat confirms that all the quality in Liverpool’s ranks and their superiority over their rivals counted for nothing.
ON the night when it mattered most, Liverpool finally ran out of ideas.
There is no doubt that they were the better team in last night’s Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris.
Yet the 1-0 defeat confirms that all the quality in Liverpool’s ranks and their superiority over their rivals counted for nothing on a night when they missed too many chances.
You have to hand it to Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois, who pulled off a series of sensational saves to give his club a 14th Champions League title.
But Liverpool had the chances they needed to get the job done and for once, they didn’t have the finishing power when the pressure was applied.
This was very similar to the game against Chelsea and Manchester City, with Real Madrid soaking up pressure and riding their luck to stay in the game.
Liverpool created plenty of chances in the first half and there is no doubt they were the better team, but the goal they needed didn’t come.
Mo Salah should have done better with a couple of half chances, especially the header he had when he was free in the box.
Courtois pulled off a sensational save to turn Sadio Mane’s shot onto the post and it could have easily rolled into Salah’s path for a tap-in on the rebound, but the luck went their way.
Liverpool’s energy levels were too much for Real Madrid during the first half, but this team have proved time and again this season that they can ride their luck and turn it all around.
That’s what they so nearly did on the stroke of half-time, as Karim Benzema thought he had given his side the lead.
From my seat in the commentary box at the Stade de France, I thought Benzema was off-side in the build-up and then he looked off-side again before he put the ball in the net.
The TV replays suggested the final touch came off a Liverpool player before the ball found its way to Benzema, but the long wait before the decision was made suggested to me that a goal would be given.
I let out a cheer when the confirmation came that the goal had been ruled out and when Real Madrid would not have deserved the lead, that is irrelevant in a game like this.
People only remember the winners after the Champions League final is played and however you get the job done, winning is all that matters.
Having missed so many chances, I was concerned that Liverpool might run out of ideas at the start of the second half.
You could sense that there was a slight dip in their intensity at the start of the second half and then they got caught for the opening goal just before the hour mark.
Real Madrid were set up to try and hit Liverpool on the break and it worked a treat for them as they got in behind Andy Robertson and the VAR off-side decision went in their favour this time as Vinicius Jr scored.
You can’t say it was coming because Liverpool were still the better side in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
Yet in games of this magnitude, you need to make the most of your chances, even if they are only half chances.
Salah and Mane went close in the first half and maybe they should have done better with a couple of those opportunities and when those chances slip by, it gives a side like Real Madrid belief.
Their run to this Champions League final was hard to believe, as they came back from the dead to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City in unlikely circumstances.
They probably felt destiny was on their side in this run to the final in Paris and going 1-0 ahead against a Liverpool side that had pinned them back for much of the game would only have enhanced that belief.
With the lead in their pocket, Real Madrid had their dream scenario in this game.
They started rolling around, time-wasting, throwing extra ball onto the field and pulling every trick in the book to try and break the game up. And they did.
Real Madrid also knew that Liverpool would have to press forward in search of an equaliser and they were set-up to pick them off with quick counter-attacks.
Klopp made a big call to take off Luis Diaz for Diogo Jota as he went looking for the goal and that was a big decision after the game the Colombian was having.
Diaz was fantastic again last night and Real Madrid looked terrified every time he got on the ball, but Klopp must have felt he had run himself into the ground.
I was surprised when Klopp then threw Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita on for Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara with 13 minutes to go.
While he had to go for it to an extent, those substitutions were a real roll of the dice and he knew Real Madrid could kill them on the break as the midfield had been taken apart.
I guess he had to go for it and the chances continued to come for Liverpool, even if they were not clear cut openings.
Courtois pulled off one last amazing save to deny Salah after 82 minutes and in that moment, we knew it was not going to be Liverpool’s night.
The better team lost, but they won’t care and this defeat will take a long time to get over.
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