Real and Liverpool face changes after Kiev joy and despair

Question marks over the futures of Ronaldo and Bale take some of the shine off Real Madrid's triumph in winning a third straight Champions League title on a painful night in Kiev for Liverpool.

Real Madrid face uncertainty over the futures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale after adding another chapter to their glorious European history as the sublime and the ridiculous combined to make Liverpool suffer the most devastating of defeats.
While Real celebrated a third successive Champions League title and a fourth in five years, the Liverpool players cut sorry figures on the NSC Olympiyskiy Stadium pitch.
The most forlorn of all was Loris Karius, who graced the biggest occasion of his career with two goalkeeping mistakes which will haunt him for some time to come.
His blunders and the first-half injury loss of striker Mohammed Salah were mortal blows which had disbelief etched on the faces of manager Juergen Klopp and all those in red on and off the pitch in Kiev.
Karius could do nothing about Gareth Bale's overhead kick for Real's second goal just a couple of minutes after the Wales international came off the bench.
But as brilliant as the strike was, it appeared a moment of unnecessary cruelty inflicted on a suffering Liverpool side which had come back from Karim Benzema's gifted opener to level through Sadio Mane.
Any hopes of another equalizer to take the game to extra-time were then dashed when Karius went from farce to tragedy by letting Bale's speculative long-distance shot through his hands for Real's third goal.
In truth, Real were superior, but Zinedine Zidane's side were undoubtedly helped by the sad exit of Egypt star Salah just after the half hour after he had been wrenched to the ground by Sergio Ramos.
After unsettling Real up to that point, Klopp's team could not readjust, and from then on the now-13-times European champions had the upper hand.
It was a game, said Klopp, where you end up thinking, "Wow, how did all that happen tonight?"
The Liverpool players were clearly shocked by Salah's injury and barely survived until half-time.
After regrouping during the interval Liverpool had settled again, but ultimately they were sunk by three goals which were astonishing in their own ways.
There was little to be said after the game to Karius, who apologized for his errors. Klopp will face growing pressure to replace the 24-year-old German keeper signed from Mainz in May 2016.
"Now he has to deal with it, we have to deal with it and we will do that," Klopp said. "We will be with him, no doubt about that. It was not his night, obviously."
Karius said: "If I could go back in time, I would. I feel sorry for my team. I know I let them down today. It’s very hard right now but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. You have to get your head up again."
The defeat was yet another at a European final for Klopp after losing with Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2013 and with Liverpool against Sevilla in the Europa League in 2016. That season he also lost the League Cup final with Liverpool against Manchester City.
The German manager will undoubtedly be looking at areas that need improving. Salah, who had scored 44 goals this season, looks even more irreplaceable amid talk Real themselves would like to sign the player.
The arrival of Naby Keita from Leipzig will help strengthen midfield, which had been short-staffed following injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emre Can and Adam Lallana, the latter two on the bench in Kiev but lacking match practice.
Real coach Zidane, who has now won an unprecedented third Champions League or European Cup title in successive seasons with the same club, may also have to ring some changes, whether he wants to or not.
His moment of triumph was overshadowed somewhat by a Ronaldo interview which suggested the Portugal star would be leaving the club, while two-goal Bale is frustrated with recent lack of starts and said he would also be considering his future.
It all added to the many talking points of an evening of joy and despair in Kiev few are likely to forget.

Sunday, May 27th 2018
By Barry Whelan

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