YOU play out scenarios in your head. You don’t want to but you can’t help it. What if this happens? What if that happens? How will you feel? How will you react?
One thing this Liverpool team does better than anybody, though, is surprise you by coming up with a scenario neither you, nor anybody else, could have possibly thought of.
I couldn’t make it to Kyiv, so the next best thing was heading to Anfield. A six-hour plus drive through Bank Holiday traffic was nothing compared to the troubles experienced by those attempting to make it to Ukraine.
It was like a matchday in L4. There had only been 30,000 tickets sold for the screening, but way more than that were around the ground, soaking up the atmosphere, getting in the party mood and warming up their Allez, Allez, Allez muscles.
Inside the ground, things didn’t get off to the best of starts. The queuing for beer in the lower Kenny Dalglish stand was basically just a ball of people in no particular order, and before you could reach the front another rendition of something would start, bouncing followed and before you knew it another 30 people were in front of you. A bottle of shaken up Carlsberg for four quid wouldn’t have been particularly worth it anyway.
It’s weird watching the game on a TV while being in the ground. It might be that you can hear the commentary or that you spend the whole time looking in one direction. You’ll Never Walk Alone was played beforehand but was having to be sung over the loud adverts on the tellies. “You’ll Neeeever Walk Aloooone… Two for one on meerkat movies!”
Once the game started, though, everyone was transfixed. An awed hush after the initial roar as 30,000 of us realised Liverpool were perhaps just 90 minutes away from immortality.
Things started pretty well. Real Madrid knocked it about but Liverpool’s pressing game was working, stealing the ball and attacking on multiple occasions. Zinedine Zidane’s team were annoyingly excellent at blocking shots, or perhaps The Reds were just hypnotized by the bright white kit and unable to boot the ball at anything else. I was convinced when the ball fell to Trent Alexander-Arnold that it would be the 19-year-old’s moment. His solid strike was well held by Keylor Navas, but Liverpool were the ones on top.
Then the sliding doors moment. Sergio Ramos ensured that Mohamed Salah would forever have a chip on his shoulder about this game after trying to put a chip in his shoulder. I’ve seen the incident over and over again and it never doesn’t look deliberate. That the Spaniard then also physically assaults Loris Karius later on is further proof if it were needed that he went into the final with a gameplan. A despicable gameplan.
I’ve seen some trying to defend Ramos, mostly from people who wanted Liverpool to lose, but if it’s not down to deliberate naivety then it just shows a distinct lack of knowledge of Ramos and the kinds of things he has done throughout his career. Just ask Lionel Messi what kind of “competitor” he is.
Ramos is a born winner. Whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s fine and is an admirable trait in most who hold it. However, “whatever it takes” usually means at worst diving, getting in the ref’s ear and a sneaky pull of a shirt here or there. I didn’t even mind his dive to get Mane booked that much, but when it extends to deliberately trying to seriously injure your fellow pros, frankly you don’t belong in the game. One day he might just do it to the wrong player.
With the game finely balanced heading into the second half, I was a little concerned. Of all the scenarios I’d played out, the only realistic way I could see Liverpool winning was if they had the lead by half time. Jürgen Klopp’s men are notoriously good at blowing teams away in the first half (particularly in Europe) while Real are usually slow starters who grow into a game. It made what happened in the 51st minute all the more painful.
What was going through Karius’s head (after Ramos had tried to put his elbow through it) I’m not sure. He wants to roll it out rather than kick it so his team can keep possession and work their way up the pitch. Karim Benzema is right in front of him, but blocking the throw to Karius’s right. Andy Robertson was completely free to receive the ball to his left, but he decides to go right, with disastrous consequences. Damage done, but no time to dwell on it.
Four minutes later, Sadio Mane scores. Anfield erupts. I can honestly say I have never celebrated a goal that much in my life. Not even winning goals. With Salah’s injury and Benzema’s freak goal, it felt like an evening that was unravelling, but Mane’s equaliser went against all that. My throat still hasn’t recovered from the release of joy in that moment. All around me beer was being launched, pyro was being lit, and fans were going bananas.
Despite what happened next, that moment can never be erased. A moment that encapsulated why we do the mad things we do to follow football. Why it means so much to us. So we can experience unbridled joy that isn’t really available anywhere else. If it was a drug then we all would have tested positive for it several times over.
However, as with most drugs (so I’m told), there is an inevitable comedown. As Gareth Bale came onto the field you could sort of sense it. Another reason why I was fearful of Liverpool not being ahead by that point was the chasm of difference in quality between the two benches. When someone like Bale is your first sub, anything less than winning the European Cup is frankly a massive failure.
That goal though. Woof. It was like being stabbed through the heart, but by a really beautiful sword. You’re in absolute agony, but can’t help but take a moment to admire the remarkable craftsmanship of the blade, the jewels in the handle and the swift elegance with which the blow was delivered. After the initial dropped jaws had been closed again, there was a smattering of applause from some at Anfield.
There is no getting away from how unlucky it all is from a Liverpool perspective though. If Zidane makes that sub a few minutes later, if Marcelo’s cross doesn’t take a slight deflection, and if Bale’s ridiculous hair affects his centre of gravity just a little bit more, that goal doesn’t happen. Liverpool had to respond again.
As the second half progressed, a difference in class became slightly more apparent. Even with the lead, it was Real who were passing the ball about and controlling the tempo. Liverpool’s pressing had forced quite a few mistakes from Los Blancos early on, but by now the Spanish side were managing the game better.
It’s not something they actually get all that much credit for, given it is a trait more synonymous with their great rivals Barcelona, but Real’s passing both in terms of accuracy and pace can be quite phenomenal. It was always likely but the midfield duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were comfortably moving the ball around their counterparts.
By the time Bale unleashed a powerful shot that went straight through Karius to make it 3-1, I wasn’t sure it made all that much difference. Liverpool hadn’t looked like equalising again up to that point. Real’s game management had been excellent, as it usually is. The German goalkeeper’s second glaring error did extinguish any hopes of a fightback, though.
I would tend to agree with the general consensus on Karius since Saturday. His errors played a large part in costing Liverpool the game, but he didn’t do it on purpose, so it doesn’t make any sense for people to be angry with him. If you think you feel bad about what happened, imagine how it must be for him.
Short of putting in a world-class performance to single-handedly win a European Cup for Liverpool in future, that night will haunt him forever. He’s still a young man, by all accounts a lovely bloke, and showed after the game how sorry he was and more to the point, had the guts to face up to it in the immediate aftermath.
That said, his position as a Liverpool player is sadly probably now untenable. I like Karius, and think he’s a good goalkeeper with the potential to be an excellent one. However, there will never be any getting away from this. As long as he’s a Liverpool player, he will be reminded of Kyiv. Every goal he concedes will get people talking about it again. The buildup to every big game will be met with “what if he does it again?” He could keep 30 clean sheets in a row, but then let a soft one in in the 31st game and all the doubts will return.
He actually made some very good saves in the game as well, but they will be forgotten by history. Also, it must be said that while Karius hasn’t made errors that bad before, the second mistake had sort of been coming. He showed the same bizarrely soft wrists against Roma in the first leg from an Alexander Kolarov shot, but was lucky that night that it deflected onto the crossbar. His teammates have admirably rallied round him since Saturday, but there will surely be a lack of trust going forward, and that is never healthy.
If he does end up leaving this summer, there won’t be any other player at any other club who I will want to see succeed more (as long as he doesn’t move to a rival, of course), but I also really don’t want to see the shadow of Kyiv hanging over this team next season any more than it already will.
I do want to mention those players who excelled on the night, some of which deserved to be on the winning side.
Every single one of the back four. Alexander-Arnold was more than a match for any of the other full backs on the field. The supposed “weak link” was again anything but, and caused Marcelo as many problems as the world-class Brazilian did for him. He and Dejan Lovren also managed to keep the great Cristiano Ronaldo as quiet as a dormouse. Lovren was epic. Winning tackles, headers and even setting up Liverpool’s equaliser. His tackle on Bale near the end summed up his evening. Virgil van Dijk was his usual cool self, intercepting a couple of crosses that stopped certain goals, and also largely dominating in the air.
Robertson was arguably the team’s best player. Getting forward, dribbling past people and making the tackle of the season to stop Ronaldo. A man who has gone from being unemployed, to playing for Queen’s Park, getting relegated with Hull City and being a fairly unpopular signing last summer, to being outstanding in a Champions League final. Let it be a lesson to us all this summer. If The Reds are being linked to someone and we think “Why? He’s shit”, we’re probably wrong.
The midfield didn’t quite click. Jordan Henderson struggled to see much of the ball other than in very deep areas, James Milner looked like it was a game too much for his legs, and Gini Wijnaldum, while he put in a good shift and saw lots of the ball, rarely did enough with it. There were numerous occasions where he picked it up with space and could have carried it forward, in a way that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Naby Keita would have surely done, but Gini took a few too many touches and by the time he’d decided what to do with it, Real were back in shape.
Adam Lallana did some nice bits but essentially looked a few games short of match sharpness, understandably, but Mane rose to the challenge. He gets his goal, is unfortunate not to get another with a left-foot strike that whacks the post, and was a general nuisance all night for Madrid.
Roberto Firmino had a mixed game. His pressing was excellent, as it usually is. He won possession time and again, but unfortunately didn’t seem to have decided what he was going to do with the ball and often ended up giving it straight back to the opposition. There were also numerous times where Liverpool had the ball in crossing positions, but Firmino was nowhere to be found in the penalty area.
It was perhaps telling of the next big step the club has to take that, other than the forced sub of Lallana for Salah, the only other change Klopp made was to bring on a man who hasn’t played in two months and is about to leave for another team. Other subs such as Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke weren’t trusted to come on and change things, so heading into next season the manager needs to be armed with players he does trust. A full squad who can ensure that quality doesn’t dip dramatically whenever a change is required.
When the final whistle went, after watching the medals be presented and applauding the efforts of the men in red, we headed into town. I wasn’t sure I was in the mood, but also knew I couldn’t go back and stew on it. Taxis were nowhere to be seen so we hopped on a bus. It was packed with disappointed Reds, but was soon rocking with defiant singing. Lord knows what it would have been like if we’d actually won.
Into town and into the first bar. It was initially quite quiet, but more and more red-shirted folk came in, and before you knew it practically the entire place was belting out “We’ve conquered all of Europe, we’re never gonna stop…”
Back out into the streets and “… from Paris down the Turkey, we’ve won the fucking lot…”
Jamie Webster and a few young backing singers perform in the centre of Kyiv in the build up to the Champions League final 🔥🔴💥#lfc #kiev #ChampionsLeagueFinal #Kyiv pic.twitter.com/9RGYLNOUdF
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 26 May 2018
Into the next bar and before I could even get a drink “… Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly, the fields of Anfield Road…”
Stumbling drunkenly down a random street hours later, not entirely sure where I am, I decide to get back on track by following the noise “… we are loyal supporters, and we come from Liverpool…”
Ah, now I know where I am. “Allez, allez, allez…”
Losing a final hurts. Losing a Champions League final really hurts. However, experiencing it with like-minded folk who were equally defiant in not letting it wash over all the good that the campaign has brought — all of the joy, the experiences and the uniting of the fan base — is what it’s all about. Even in agonising defeat, there are no fans quite like Liverpool fans (no jokes about us having plenty of experience, please).
The players will hurt too. However, like some of them used the pain of losing to Sevilla in Basel two years ago, they can use this experience to push them on further. It will give them that extra impetus not to feel this pain again. The squad will get stronger, the current players will get better, and soon they will remember that the reason we’re all so upset about Kyiv is because it meant we’re only the second best team in Europe. “Only”.
It will be a long summer, thankfully with a World Cup to distract us, but come August when the new season kicks off, Liverpool will get back to exciting us, bringing us joy and hopefully, righting some wrongs.
To Jürgen, Jordan, Loris and every single one of the boys who has played a part in this campaign. Thank you. Thank you for giving us the moments. Thank you for giving us a more enjoyable season than almost every other team in Europe.
Up the everything to be proud of Reds.
For more reaction to the Champions League final, The Anfield Wrap’s trip to Kiev, regular transfer specials throughout the summer, and interviews with special guests, SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player…
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 26 May 2018
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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1. “Let it be a lesson to us all this summer. If The Reds are being linked to someone and we think “Why? He’s shit”, we’re probably wrong.”
After the Spurs away game, most fans claimed that was the end of Lovren’s Liverpool career. And now here he was giving a superb performance in a CL final.
The same can happen with Karius. He can come back stronger from this if Klopp still backs him as no1.
Fans dont understand the mentality of athletes. Karius will get over it and get on with it. It wont matter to him if people bring up Kyiv in the future. Especially when he performs well and conssitent. Every goalkeeper in the world makes mistakes. Alisson and Oblak are mistake-free.
It’s Klopp’s call. He has beeen quite loyal to his players and it paid off quite well. Let’s see what happens.
2. We had squad depth this season. But unfortunately we got numerous injuries to key players almost at the same time. And the transfer window was shut at that time. You cant account for that. We will get in new players and will a strong and deep sqaud come August. But we can still end up with a lack of a bench if these injuries happen again. it is just bad luck.
Mate, one mistake we can probably get over, two is a lot to forgive, and it was on the biggest stage in club football. It’s like having a wank in the living room and your whole family come home early from a family meal that you said you couldn’t go to. No one is forgetting that, it’s an indelible memory scorched in the mind that no one will speak of in the family, but your sister will tell her mate and then every fker knows. I agree with give people a chance, coach people to their full potential – but some things are not recoverable from, sadly. At least he has the summer to get his head right and we see where we land – but for me, another keeper, ala like what pep did at city – is probably the way to go.
That was a weird analogy mate, but nonetheless appreciated.
We can both agree, Karius is a good young GK with bags of potential. But we can also agree that he can be upgraded on like almost everyone else in the squad. The problem is, top class GKs with big international experience are very rare to get these days. Most are settled in big clubs.
Oblak and Alisson. Ok, but both havent played in the Premier League and we dont know if they keep their level or even elevate it in a Liverpool shirt. And also if they are that good, bigger clubs with more financial power will be after them. Would an Alisson want to come here, if Real Madrid is calling for him?
Oblak wins titles at Atletico and competes at the top. Would he consider Liverpool a step down from his current employer?
Us fans, we sometimes live in a bubble with our beloved club and forget that Liverpool is not on a level like your Citys, Madrids, Barcelonas. In terms of success and financial strength.
In short, I think it is dead hard to get a world class keeper in. Karius has been very good sometimes even tremendous this year. As you say, it is all about he bounces back from this. This could be either his downfall or the making of a great keeper.
I’ve only seen Allison play 3 times – he conceded 11 goals in those games and really didn’t see what the fuss was about.
Small subset but these were big games, exactly the ones you’d want a 70m quid keeper to rise to.
So Rioja Red… when did this all happen to you mate? And do you think you will ever recover from this? :)
* Alisson and Oblak are NOT mistake-free.
Brilliant piece Dave, agreed with virtually everything written especially on Ramos(reading Rob’s Twitter not sure he does but all a matter of opinion)
For all his appalling behaviour would you or anyone want him in our team as our captain?
It’s possibley an unfair question as it would never happen but at times he really reminds me of Souness, two of the most intelligent players ever to play the game, two of the best captains,two brilliant players, two balls out winners.
Souness would see the threat in the opposition and nullify it through fair or foul mean’s , exactly what Ramos does but in his case more foul than fair .
At the time watching it I was furious by his antics but at the start watching the toss there is the same Ora about him that Souness had, just can’t see him loosing.
Anyway we go again next year, big big window ahead, if we have the same success as last years don’t think we will be far of.
Thanks again for the piece .
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if Klopp decided to back Karius and refuse to hang him out to dry. In in age where acknowledging mental health is less taboo amongst men, why not rally around another human being clearly experiencing a low point. YNWA
What a powerful statement!
Seriously wouldn’t surprise me.
I think that’s Klopp’s downfall though unfortunately. Moreno, Mignolet, Karius, Lovren to an extent. All made mistakes which is normal, but making so many BIG errors constantly which is down to ability and mentality in my eyes and in crucial, crucial games. I’m a Designer and in my job it wouldn’t matter how good I was at generating an idea if I kept making glaring typos in the artwork every time it went out. I’d be out on my arse.
If the general consensus is Klopp and co have got transfers working well so that we are ok to let them buy who they want – an odd online concept seeing as we have no part to play here – then surely it works with lads they decide to keep.
It really can’t be a one way street here.
Klopp’s backed Karius before making him his number one after having enough of Ming and he did well and seemed to gain confidence and some good performances.
The games against Roma showed that he did still have the ability to lose concentration, the shot from Kolarov that luckily went through him onto the bar and bringing down Dzeko that was called back for offside.
He’ll need a lot of mental strength to come back from what happened in the final and needs to show he has the stones to get stronger, especially for the big games. I’d like an upgrade on Achterberg. Even If we get a new keeper he’ll ruin them too.
I’d like to see Karius return stronger, I just don’t know if he will improve mentally and if he has it in him and the levels of concentration needed, especially with the current coaching set up.
In my line of work if I put somebody in a position of responsibility that is greater than their actual competence I’m to blame. The only possible excuse is if we have invested in significant training and they have failed to respond appropriately but even then I have a duty to review and assess whether the training has been embraced.
It’s simple – we love Klopp and he’s perfect for this club but he has one Achilles heel. Be believes in his ability to raise every ones performance sufficient for any occasion. As the article rightly points out the examples of his success are self evident but when that success has not been achieved he needs to show the same ruthlessness he applies for falling short in team protocols (a la Sakho).
Klopp has an opportunity to be on the same top table as Ferguson, Paisley, Clough, Stein or Guardiola. I suspect this will be his personal proving ground.
Indeed. One of Klopp’s strengths can also be a weakness. He is quite loyal and willing to give not just second chances, but fifth and sixth.
Need him to be more ruthless because the more successful managers tend to be. Moreno and Karius have cost us in European finals after the extended loyalty showed by Klopp to them.
Some other managers would have had them out of the door after the first few blunders. Heck, even “gentlemanly” Pep had one look at Hart, bombed him out. Brought in Bravo, saw he wasn’t good enough and then brought in Ederson after one season. Also got rid of the fullbacks and brought in new ones who could play the game the way he wanted. Need more of that type of ruthlessness from Klopp.
Like the article and agree with most of it but the timing of RM’s 3rd goal was a stinker. If we could have kept the score at 2-1 then there is always a chance of a late goal to take the game to extra time. We may not have looked like equalising up to that point but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have done so.
I admire the sentiment but TAW has gone from full on rally “We are bringing it home no matter what” to “It doesn’t matter if we don’t win, memories are what counts.”. Maybe I’m too safe by nature but football has a habit of kicking you in the teeth when you less expect it. Im surprised more of us haven’t learnt this trait.
TAW is not one voice Ant. I also never said we were bringing it home no matter what, and equally haven’t said it doesn’t matter if we don’t win. In fact “memories are what counts” is the only thing I did say.
Good to get the Anfield perspective after so many brilliant Kiev accounts.
Hard to see a way back for Karius with us but in Klopp we trust.
Fantastic article, and fantastic season for the Reds. Some perspective is needed. These lads took us on a journey none of us would have predicted, and all of us would have wanted, at the start of the season. We are ahead of schedule. Things are good, but not perfect. They never are. We’re 90% there, it’s that last 10% that is always the hardest to grasp. With Fabinho incoming, we really only need 2-3 (maybe 4) more players to create a balanced squad with depth and experience.
For me, these players are Alisson, Fekir and Koulibaly (or Tah). As a luxury, maybe even Pulisic.
I’d love to go into the first game of the season with: Alisson, TAA, VVD, Koulibaly/Tah, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Fekir, Salah, Mane and Firmino.
Signing the above players would mean we’d also have the following players in reserve: Karius, Clyne, Lovren, Matip/Klavan, Moreno, Hendo, Wijnaldum/Milner, Ox, Lallana, Pulisic/Woodburn/Wilson, Solanke/Ings.
That ‘reserves list’ is a first team (and bench) that would not look out of place for all-but 5 clubs in the Premier League, and could realistically challenge for a domestic trophy in-and-of itself.
I’d expect some departures: Bogdan and Ward, Mignolet too. Can will likely leave along with Sturridge. However, the future is bright and the perspective of what this current group of players and the Manager has achieved should not be lost on this club’s true supporters.
From Down Under.
A really exceptional article, the likes of which you can always rely on this site to produce. Haven’t felt this good about the club since Rafa’s peak years.
Ramos may be a “born winner” but he’s also a born cheat. A vulgar, unashamed cheat. There was a comment earlier that suggested we’d all want him as our captain, but I can honestly, wholeheartedly say that I wouldn’t. He disgusts me.
Fair enough, if you are old enough did you feel the same about Souness? It was just a rhetorical question not a statement.
Barney – Souness was a footballer who could get you off your seat, and have you shaking your head in admiration for some of the amazing things he did on the pitch. Sure, he had the devil in him, he was the ‘enforcer’ for want of a better word, but first and foremost, he was a quite brilliant footballer. Ramos, in my humble opinion, is not a brilliant footballer. He is a very effective and important cog in that team, but even his biggest fans can’t go to matches wondering what example of brilliance they are going to see from Ramos that day. But we did with Souness in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. He was just immense
Thanks Andy, just asked the question further up on how our support would feel if Ramos was our captain.
It’s a difficult comparison with Sounrss to square as they play and played in different positions, in my opinion I think Ramos is better than made out on here and other mediums due to in no small part to his own rather dubious behaviour , he is after all one of the most decorated players in the history of the game and you don’t do that dy just being average and a dirty bastard.
I loved Sounrss growing up in the 70s even more than Kenny, but not quite as much as Ray Kennedy as you rightly pointed out he was majestic and a winner which from time to time crossed the line, not as much as Ramos true to say
Thanks for the reply
Would I rather win with Hendo as captain rather than pure evil Ramos – answer yes. Would I have Ramos as captain if it meant we won the league or CL rather than plucky runners up – answer with a heavy heart is yes. There is a feeling our team are a bit Queensberry Rules compared to some of their fellow pros approach to life. Admirable and would have loved to see it win out but dark arts pretty much blew our chances in Kiev out of the water. Ramos must have had in mind taking Mo down.