As the first English team to reach the UEFA Champions League Final in six years, the hopes of an entire nation rested upon the shoulders of the Reds from Merseyside.
Unfortunately, that burden was too heavy to bear for Jürgen Klopp’s men as his team were defeated 3-1 by the mighty Real Madrid. For the German manager, that’s his sixth consecutive loss in a cup final. In past occasions, he’s been unlucky, however, in this match-up, he lost for a number of reasons.
Here’s why Liverpool lost the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final.
Too much focus on Cristiano Ronaldo
Of course, as we all know, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player on the planet today. But even the elites can have a bad day, and in Kiev, the 33-year-old put in a performance well below his normal standards. His finishing was off, his link-up play was average, and general sharpness resembled a man who clearly wasn’t fit enough. The 5-time Ballon d’Or winner could only muster one shot on target, completed zero take-ons and was dispossessed twice against Liverpool. (WhoScored).
Despite showing poor form, Ronaldo’s impact game was still as high as anybody else’ on the pitch. The Portuguese international was still able to affect the game through his movement, as every Liverpool defender seemed to follow him out of their respective zones.
With such attention, ample amounts of space were afforded to Karim Benzema and Isco to wreak havoc in. They were then able to control the final third in those pockets of space, leaving the Liverpool players scrambling to react. In a game built around Cristiano Ronaldo, it was Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale (2) that produce the goods for Los Blancos.
Over-reliance on Mohamed Salah
When you have a talisman, it’s normal to look to that player for inspiration. But for Liverpool, their reliance on Mohamed Salah worked against them in the biggest game in their history. This season, the Egyptian has scored 43 goals while producing 14 assists. He was the Premier League’s top scorer and third top scorer in the Champions League. Such form makes him by far and away the best player in Liverpool colours, but that’s not to say there aren’t other top-quality players at the club.
Last year’s Liverpool player of the season Sadio Mané hasn’t had a Salah-like season, but he still managed to directly contribute to 28 goals over the course of the season. False nine Roberto Firmino netted 25 goals in 50 appearances. Liverpool has an abundance in quality across the squad, but instead of having in faith in that distribution, they placed all their hopes on one man.
In the end, Sergio Ramos would crush Salah’s European aspirations with a wicked WWE-like takedown, consequently taking down Liverpool’s chances of European glory. From that minute on, the Reds were second best, and despite Mané’s best efforts, he was unable to carry the other 10 players on his back against the European champions.
Who knows when Liverpool will reach another European final but based on what we saw in Kiev, it won’t be for a while. On the other hand, who would bet against Real Madrid reaching their fifth final in six years.