AFTER a 63-match marathon and a night of chaos and heartache in Paris, Liverpool’s incredible season ended in gruesome defeat.
For the second weekend in a row, the men were agonizingly denied a trophy by Jurgen Klopp – a sucker punch from Vinicius Junior in the second half and a miracle show from Real keeper Thibaut Courtois that robbed them of the win.
Liverpool fans were pepper sprayed and tear gas sprayed when kick-off was delayed by more than half an hour by a chaotic organization outside the Stade de France.
And just six days after Manchester City’s comeback against Aston Villa robbed them of the Premier League title, Liverpool were beaten again.
After chasing an unprecedented quadruple for so long, Liverpool have ended up with ‘only’ two domestic trophies – and both won on penalties after goalless draws.
But here, too, they never ran out of gas and, out of conviction, they never ran out of breath.
Carlo Ancelotti has now overtaken Liverpool’s Bob Paisley to become the first manager to have won the European Cup four times.
And Real now have twice as many successes in this competition with 14 triumphs than any other club.
It can be argued that they didn’t deserve to beat Chelsea in the quarters or Manchester City in the semis and they certainly were second best here.
But with their experience, their cunning and the sheer weight of their history, Real almost always seem to find a way.
Most read in the Premier League
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP OFFERS – THE BEST OFFERS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
These Liverpool fans had traveled in their legions by trains, planes and ferries and had conquered large parts of the French capital with their “ole, ole, oles”.
Some have witnessed Liverpool’s triumph in the same city against the same opponents in 1981, others in Rome and London and Istanbul and Madrid, but the European Cup finals always feel as exciting as the first time.
But hours before kick-off, organizational chaos became apparent.
The Liverpool team bus was held up in heavy traffic and there were chaotic scenes near the entrances to the Stade de France.
With fans complaining about the chaotic organization and the risk of being crushed outside, it was not surprising when UEFA announced a kick-off delay
With a relocated pitch also causing controversy, it felt like this game had been switched from St. Petersburg just days rather than months ago.
Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, then half an hour, then to 36 minutes.
And the “opening ceremony” began with thousands still desperately trying to get in – the dancers booed and jeered while doing their unnecessary thing.
At this point, some fans with tickets were pepper-sprayed by riot police.
Klopp’s men were the favorites but after such an epic season and even with a nice use of squad rotation, they had struggled in recent games.
Real, meanwhile, were fresher after sewing up their domestic title ahead of their semi-final win over Manchester City.
Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho were both passed for the start, giving Klopp his first pick – remarkable after such a busy season.
After the delays, the opening 15 minutes were understandably sluggish but Liverpool had plenty of possession.
And from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low center, Salah swung around and forced a decent save from Thibaut Courtois.
After a patient passing game, Alexander-Arnold shot one over the bar.
Mane then weaved through a crowd of defenders and potted a shot that Courtois pinned to the post.
Real sat extremely deep and even with breaks, the experienced midfield duo Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro rarely got involved.
However, three minutes before the break, Real thought they had the lead – only to be thwarted by an agonizing VAR check.
Ferland Mendy released Benzema with a sweeping through ball, but after the striker was pushed wide Alisson and Ibrahima Konate got into a terrible tangle – and Federico Valverde sent Benzema through, who netted but was narrowly ruled offside.
Valverde’s pass ricocheted through Fabinho – and Real felt the goal would stand.
Liverpool, despite dominating the first half, had certainly gotten away with a call that could have gone the other way.
As a result, it felt restrained and tense at the start of the second section. Alexander-Arnold was relentless up and down the right flank and David Alaba survived a penalty call for handball when Salah deflected a shot straight at him.
But suddenly Real were ahead and broke through the Liverpool press, then Valverde angled a center down the right which caught the Reds defending, Vinicius shot in from behind Alexander-Arnold and poked past Alisson at the far post.
Less than a minute earlier, Brazilian goalscorer Klopp had high-fived the Liverpool manager’s technical section.
The Bonhomme air didn’t last long.
Salah then sliced in from the right and unleashed a curling shot destined for the far corner until Courtois, fully extended, smashed it away.
With Real out of form again, Courtois scrambled to block Belgium goalkeeper Salah with a belt play.
Courtois made another great save from Salah who should have squared for Sadio Mane.
Mane will then probably switch to Bayern Munich. He didn’t deserve to go out with such a crushing low – and none of Klopp’s marathon men deserved it.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5444047/liverpool-real-madrid-vinicius-jr-courtois/ Heartbreak for the Reds as Vinicius Jr wins the Champions League final and Thibaut Courtois is the hero