Real Madrid is the king of Europe again, and it cemented its three-peat in sensational fashion.
Gareth Bale scored two goals off the bench, including a sensational, go-ahead bicycle kick, to lift Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine. Bale's goals came after Karim Benzema's bizarre opener–off the first of two Loris Karius blunders–and Sadio Mane's answer in a riveting second half. The first half was marred by injuries to Mohamed Salah and Dani Carvajal, with both starters forced off hurt in developments that could have massive World Cup implications.
Salah, whose 10 Champions League goals helped lead Liverpool to the final, was hurt just before the half-hour mark after being taken down by Sergio Ramos, suffering a left shoulder injury before walking off the field in tears. Moments later, Carvajal, who had just returned recently from a hamstring injury, looked to have suffered a recurrence as he, too, exited in tears. With the World Cup around the corner, the Egypt and Spain stars will surely hope for a positive prognosis.
On the field, Real Madrid became the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win three straight European titles.
Both sides came out looking to apply pressure early, with Liverpool's high press forcing Real Madrid into an early turnover that nearly gifted Salah and Mane an opportunity in the first minute. A minute later, an Isco service forward forced Karius to race off his line for a punch, though the play would have been negated due to an offside attacker.
Salah and Roberto Firmino then combined for another near chance, with the latter having a chested-down ball deflected into the path of right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who couldn't quite beat onrushing Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas to the ball in the eighth minute.
Real Madrid survived a wild 14th-minute sequence, in which Salah, Mane and Firmino all head goalward attempts blocked before a flying Navas punched away a cross from Alexander-Arnold from the right.
Ronaldo made his first contribution in the 15th minute, with Real Madrid breaking forward on the right. The superstar let a right-footed blast fly from medium range, but it whizzed over Karius's crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Navas made another crucial play in the 23rd minute, and it came off another ball from Alexander-Arnold. The sequence started with James Milner playing a cross just behind Roberto Firmino, who settled and sprayed a pass wide. The young right back fired a low drive through traffic, but Navas got down to make the clean save without yielding a rebound.
Liverpool suffered a massive setback a couple of minutes later when Salah and Sergio Ramos got tangled, with the latter yanking the Egyptian down. He tried to return but was in obvious pain holding his left shoulder area. He was reduced to tears as he went back to the ground and was forced off at the half-hour mark.
Real Madrid suffered an injury setback of its own five minutes later, with Carvajal forced off in obvious pain.
With the focus back on those on the field, Real Madrid nearly went ahead just before halftime. Ronaldo had a powerful header from close range saved by Karius, and Karim Benzema scored on the rebound, but the Frenchman was in an offside position, thus negating the score.
Real Madrid came out of the halftime locker room on fire and nearly capitalized on a poor backwards touch in the back. Isco wound up with a clear look from inside the box, but he fired his chance off the crossbar, letting Liverpool off easy.
Real Madrid went ahead in bizarre fashion in the 51st minute, though. Karius was attempting an innocuous throw from his own area, when Benzema stuck out his leg and blocked it. It trickled into the vacant goal, giving Real Madrid a 1-0 lead.
Liverpool pulled even minutes later. Mane extended his leg and touched home on the doorstep after Dejan Lovren headed a corner kick toward the goal, bringing Liverpool even at 1-1.
Real Madrid thought it had the lead at the hour mark, when Nacho found Isco in the center of the box, where he turned and fired on frame, but Karius made up for his earlier gaffe with an instinctual diving save.
The lead for Real Madrid came a few minutes later, and it came in unbelievable fashion. Bale, moments after coming on, scored on a sensational bicycle kick, one reminiscent of Ronaldo's bicycle kick vs. Juventus earlier in the competition. The Welshman's acrobatic finish gave Real Madrid a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute.
Mane nearly provided another answer in the 70th minute, firing a left-footed blast low but off the post.
Bale provided an insurance strike for Real Madrid in the 84th minute, with help from Karius. The substitute star took a speculative blast from 30 yards, and Karius parried it into his own goal, giving Real Madrid a 3-1 lead. In doing so, Bale became the first substitute to score two goals in a European cup final, according to FOX Sports.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Real Madrid will go on to face Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup–the annual meeting between Champions League and Europa League winner–in Estonia on August 15.