Champions League Final Review: Gutted. That is the only words I really have for the match. And it is for so many reasons. I am gutted for the fans, the organization, and mostly the players. This squad has utterly poured their hearts on the pitch for us this season. Every single one of them. Don’t look at just this match but at the season as a whole. All of our players have improved and left it all out on that field in Kiev. The part that makes me feel gutted is that we really played quite well throughout the match. We exposed Madrid’s porous defense in the first fifteen minutes of the game with some terrific through passes and runs down the wings. After that, Madrid definitely started to control the midfield with the skill of Kroos and Modric, however, Liverpool remained calm and maintained a consistent amount of chances throughout the fixture. Obviously, the saddest part of the match was Mo Salah coming off. Seeing the tears in his eyes as he knew he would have to leave for the game was absolutely heartbreaking for me and all Liverpool supporters really. Mo was simply an artist at work this season, Anfield was his canvas, and we were his critics. I can ramble on and on about his brilliance or memorable moments from his thrilling Messi-like goal against Spurs or his head shaking celebration to go up 4 to 1 on Man City in the league, he has been superb. This was the biggest match of his life, in front of millions watching and he could not complete it, and he was devastated. Mo Salah loves this football team, and he loves just football. Mo was the last person that deserved to be taken off that pitch in this game, on this stage. Now people are saying he might be questionable for the World Cup as well, and for someone who does this much for football, race and religion on and off the pitch, it really just makes you cringe and want to cry with him.
After Mo was off, the game could have gone very badly for us. Mo most of the time is our spirit and heart, so for him to come off that early in a game that significant was never good. But we are Liverpool Football Club, we are European Royalty. I knew with the talent and players we have that we would not give up, and we didn’t. We stood up to the challenge and sure enough we laid it out there.
Of course, people will point fingers at Loris Karius, he is the obvious man to blame here. But this is where we are a different football club. We do not point fingers, threaten, or talk about selling someone because they had a poor performance, instead, we lift them up and carry them on our shoulders. Why do you think our song is “You’ll Never Walk Alone”? It is a motto often forgotten, but that’s what it means to be a Liverpool player, it means that no matter what we are all family and we will always support each other win or lose, success or failure, and he does not deserve all the blame here whatsoever. We will always win and lose together, and alike players such as Salah, Firmino, and Mane, Karius was there the entire journey and really helped us get to this stage.
The Benzema goal was so flukey it felt so underwhelming that was a goal that helped Real Madrid go past us. Of course, Karius should not have thrown the ball, but it just makes all of us sigh in frustration that that was the breakthrough. Luckily, our Senegalese sensation, pulled through on what seemed to be a brilliant set piece on a corner where Lovren hopped over Ramos for the header into Mane’s foot for the goal. Brilliant tactics here from Klopp on the set piece design. The goal was gritty and showed our determination around goal, also Mane deserved that credit for the season he had in red. However, this celebration was short lived after a wonder goal from Gareth Bale. What a hit. I am not sure if I have ever witnessed a better goal in my entire life. Simply brilliant, nothing our defense could do to stop that from happening whatsoever.
In between we were still getting some decent chances and were really trying to push up the field, it was just so hard against this Madrid side and their tight midfield play. Shortly after, when Mane hit the post I thought to myself that we were back in it, game on, but it was really our last big chance of the night. Madrid kept on pushing down the field and we could not stop it, Karius made a couple of decent saves until he was beaten once again by Bale on a deep shot he simply dropped. Once again, remember he is human. This does not change the fact we need a keeper, because we are world class and deserve one of that talent, but he walks with us and deserves that respect.
That is why this game hurts so much. It felt like we as a group really did not do that much totally wrong. We defended well, remained organized, attacked and took our chances when need be. Between Salah, Karius, and Bale, tonight just was not ours to take. This is hard to swallow because you never know when you will get back onto that stage. It could be next year. Or it could be a decade. But this should not be a peak for Liverpool, this should be a valley. A bump in the road. We are climbing back to the top of European football. We are adding Naby Keita, hopefully a world class goalie, and more midfield players, and our current players are only growing stronger. Mo Salah, Firmino, and Mane are only going to get better. Our offense is only going to get more dominant. We are Liverpool Football Club. We are on the rise to regain our crown, and although tonight did not go in our favor, do not try and step in our way in the coming years, because we are a family not just a football club. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Loris Karius: 3 out of 10, Simply a poor performance put in by our young German. Sadly, it will haunt his entire career and this season. I did not want to rate him that low, but his mistakes in net were too glaring and important to not take major points off.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8.5 out of 10, Once again TAA put in a great shift against some of the best attacking players in world football. Furthermore, on offense he pushed up and was getting some good crosses and attempts in himself, and had one chance that really jumped Navas.
Dejan Lovren: 8 out of 10, very solid in the back from Lovren here, won most of the balls in the air and even set up Mane’s goal to level it. Not sure if Lovren wil be in the starting XI next year so hats off to him for his season, and how much criticism he has gone through.
Virgil van Dijk: 8 out of 10, Much like Lovren, had a very solid game, not much went wrong for the Dutchman.
Andy Robertson: 9 out of 10, Great game for Andy Robertson. What a tackle on Ronaldo at the end of the game. Constantly pushing and fighting the opposition all over the field. He is very close to being my man of the match yesterday, a player we must keep going forward.
Gini Wijnaldum: 7.5 out of 10, Really good build up play from Gini in the final, even got some good shots off in the first half.
Jordan Henderson: 6 out of 10, Not a great performance from our captain. He did try and whip the ball around the midfield, he just did not have the killer passing and movement today that he has on most.
James Milner: 8.5 out of 10. The work rate from “boring” James Milner was sublime yesterday. Did not get many chances but gave it his all, and that is all he ever does.
Sadio Mane: 10 out of 10 (MOTM): What a game of class from Sadio, and it was one to be proud of, only if he could look back on it in a better light. He hit the post as well which could have changed the game.
Roberto Firmino: 9 out of 10. Brilliant off the ball movement and passing from the Brazilian once again. His build up play in the beginning of the game was furious and made it look like Liverpool had the edge in the early stages.
Mohammed Salah: 8 out of 10 (30 minutes): Played well in the time he was in, so sad for his injury on that stage.
Adam Lallana: 5 out of 10. No impact.
Emre Can: No grade.