Ruthless Real takes advantage of Liverpool’s lapses

Egypt more hopeful of Salah

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos (L) and Mohamed Salah (C) of Liverpool fall during the Champions League final at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday. —EPA

KIEV — Liverpool came into Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid on a wave of confidence but Zinedine Zidane’s side showed exactly why they are the masters of Europe’s top club competition in their 3-1 win.

Real has now won three Champions League titles in a row, something no team has achieved since the switch from the European Cup knockout format, and while it may not be remembered as the most attractive or transformative of teams there is no doubt it knows how to win on the biggest stage.

Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool produced exhilarating football on its way to the final, ripping apart Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma with some thrilling attacking displays.

But this Real side, which finished third in La Liga, 17 points behind champion Barcelona, has a habit of taking the wind out of its opponent’s sails and finding a way to win.

This time it was not the genius or deadly finishing of five-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo that proved to be the decisive factor.

Two goals were simply handed to Real by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, whose hapless performance will be remembered as one of the worst by a keeper at this level.

But both those mistakes had to be capitalized upon, and Real rarely turn down such gifts.

Karim Benzema reacted sharply and with alertness to take advantage of Karius’s rushed throw in his direction, to open the scoring.

Karius was also at fault for Real’s third when Gareth Bale fired a hopeful, long range effort through the wafting hands of the German keeper to wrap up the win.

Good fortune, without a doubt, but Bale had the nous to realize the keeper was vulnerable and the ability to expose him.

The Welshman’s confidence came from his earlier goal, a brilliant bicycle kick that put Real 2-1 up.

Zidane gets little credit for Real’s success and is viewed as a fortunate man who took over a well-established side and merely kept it running smoothly — at least in Europe.

But the Frenchman was prancing around the touchline after Bale’s screamer, which came just three minutes after he had brought the Welshman on.

It was an inspired switch and a brave one given that the player who was withdrawn, Isco, had until that point been Real’s most dangerous attacking threat.

Add into the picture that Bale, for some reason, has never convinced the supporters of the Spanish club of his worth, while Isco is adored by the Madrid faithful, and Zidane’s decision-making looks even more astute.

Liverpool will rue the misfortune of the injury to its top scorer Mohamed Salah which led to his first-half departure but that also exposed another key to Real’s success.

While Zidane was able to turn to Bale and the exciting Marco Azencio off the bench, Klopp was forced to throw on Adam Lallana, who only recently returned from injury and had made just three starts this season, when Salah, with 44 goals in all competitions, had to go off.

The lessons for Klopp are obvious. Liverpool needs greater strength in depth and, as cruel as it is obvious to note, a new goalkeeper.

Real may not be a team that charm the neutrals or raise the heartbeat but it is impossible not to respect a side which, as Klopp had noted before the game, has the efficiency and reliability of a Swiss watch.

It has not won four Champions Leagues in five years out of good fortune. It has winning in Europe in its DNA and no one in the modern game has been able to match its merciless ability, shown once again on Saturday, to take whatever opportunities are presented to it.

Egypt more hopeful of Salah

Liverpool’s Egypt forward Mohamed Salah is doubtful for next month’s World Cup after suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, his club manager Juergen Klopp has said.

Salah, who scored 44 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season, left the field in tears in the 31st minute after falling heavily under a challenge by Real captain Sergio Ramos.

However, Egypt’s FA said on Twitter that Salah had sprained shoulder ligaments and they were optimistic he would be fit for the World Cup.

Egypt’s Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abd El-aziz said on his Facebook page: “It is expected Salah will need 2 weeks for treatment. He will stay in Liverpool and will have there the rehab period then will join the Egyptian team camp in Italy.

He added that Salah would be in Egypt’s final World Cup squad which will be announced on June 4.

Klopp said the injury to Salah had sent his team into shock after they had made a strong start against Zinedine Zidane’s side and added that it had handed the momentum to Madrid.

“It was for me kind of a harsh challenge because the arm is there, it’s like wrestling a little bit and the shock to the boys was obvious,” he said. — Reuters