Champions League comment: Sergio Ramos' greatest sin was a lack of faith in Real Madrid's beautiful game

Alex Broun 27/05/2018
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Sergio Ramos' tackle on Mohamed Salah was cynical and deliberate.

Two things were glaringly obvious after Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final on Saturday night – and they were not Loris Karius’ horrendous goal-keeping errors.

I am referring to the “professionalism” of Real Madrid and the naivety of Liverpool.

In my opinion, without doubt, the Sergio Ramos foul on Mohamed Salah was deliberate and designed to cause harm. It was as bad as a two footed, studs up challenge – but a lot more subtle.

Ramos’ foul was cynical and brutish however it was more opportunistic than pre-meditated.

The Spaniard, one of the most experienced and hard nose defenders in the business (as 24 red cards in 13 years will attest), simply used his physical superiority to nullify Salah’s substantial threat.

Ramos kept close to Salah and when the opportunity arose of the Liverpool goal scorer putting his arm across Ramos’ chest, which was very likely to happen at some point in the game, the Real captain was able to simply hook onto Salah’s arm and using his body-weight drag the Egyptian down to the ground.

In Australian Rugby League its known as a chicken wing tackle and the perpetrator is usually met with a two to four week suspension. Ramos was met with his fourth Champion’s League medal.

What was most upsetting about the incident, and millions around the globe and Egypt particularly lit up Twitter with their rage afterwards, was not so much that Ramos carried it out – but that he felt it was necessary.

The game was beautifully poised. Real Madrid, almost in denial of Liverpool’s famous gegen-press, were determined to play out from the back.

It was like Los Blancos were throwing down the gauntlet saying to Jurgen Klopp and his team ‘We know what you’re going to do – but we are good enough footballers to play through it.’

In reply Liverpool were going back to forward very fast, with Virgil van Dijk and the back four lobbing the ball over the midfield looking for Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to run in to the tantalizing space left by the high Madrid back four.

All that changed when Salah went off.

Liverpool’s confidence took a massive hit, while Madrid’s received a massive boost and immediately Los Blancos were straight on the attack – confident to commit more resources forward without the worry of Salah raiding in behind.

From then on there was always going to be one winner.

I’m not saying that Ramos’ actions changed the result. Indeed if the match had played out with Salah on the field I think Real Madrid still would have won but it would have been a far more engaging, entertaining and complex contest than the one-sided grind that ensued when the Egyptian departed.

It’s sad that the captain of such a great club did not have enough faith in his cavalcade of superstars to let the match play out with a fit Salah on the field.

He should have trusted that either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale (as he did) or Isco or Karim Benzema or Marcello – or anyone else would have come up that moment of magic – of beauty – to win the game. As Bale did.

But Ramos didn’t and now Salah is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup. What a tragedy it would be if that tournament was also robbed of the Egyptian’s magic.

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Watch: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp analyses Champions League final loss against Real Madrid

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While Saturday night was all joy for Real Madrid, it turned out to be a massive heart break for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.

The Reds were not just beaten 3-1 by Los Blancos, but to add to that they lost their key player – Mohamed Salah to injury, their goalkeeper Loris Karius was involved in two awful errors and plus they had to return back home empty-handed after a terrific run in the Champions League.

Speaking in the post-game press conference though Jurgen Klopp revealed how bad the loss really felt and how the team will have to get over it.

Watch below what the German manager had to say.

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Gareth Bale is cup final specialist after latest stunning haul for Real Madrid

Alex Rea 27/05/2018
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Before heads hit pillows last night, Gareth Bale’s bicycle kick would have been spinning on a continuous loop in every football fan’s mind.

The Welsh wizard issued an emphatic come-and-get-me plea after a two-goal display in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Bale’s first, one of the great European goals, was absurd in its thought and execution, but scoring crucial goals in cup finals has hallmarked his Los Blancos career.

Indeed, the 28-year-old cemented his legacy as British football’s finest export by scoring in a fourth major cup final win.

Below is a look at all five goals he’s scored in winning finales.

2013/14 Copa del Rey final, Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

The goal, which before Saturday’s strike, had come to define his career. It was quintessentially Bale in its raw athleticism, a dizzying blend of power, pace and precision.

His 50m gallop to win the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona was the most important in his career at the time but it was also one of his most jaw-dropping.

The Welshman’s first touch was on the half-way line as he pushed the ball past Marc Bartra but despite being bumped off the pitch, he accelerated in a long arc to reappear ahead of the defender.

He tore into Barca’s box and then jabbed the ball through Jose Pinto’s legs, racing away in celebration as if unable to stop his blistering momentum.

2013/14 Champions League final, Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid

For all the savagery of his Copa del Rey final finish, a simple nod of the head was enough for another significant strike.

Atletico Madrid were minutes away from a glorious Champions League triumph but after a Sergio Ramos header secured extra time, Bale broke their hearts to make it 2-1.

He actually missed a hat-trick of chances earlier in the clash but as Angel Di Maria surged and slalomed on the left, running between an exhausted Juanfran and Miranda, the Argentine’s deflected flick off Thibaut Courtois looped to the far post.

Bale jumped first and leapt high, calculating the spin perfectly to squeeze his header inside the post.

2014 Club World Cup final, Real Madrid 2-0 San Lorenzo

To all but English football, the Club World Cup carries great continental significance and so Bale’s finish to seal a first victory for Los Blancos in the format deserves mention alongside his other exploits.

The goal itself is the weakest of his five. Toni Kroos tapped it to Isco on his right shoulder and he slipped the ball into Bale’s path as the winger drove into the box.

His first touch to collect the ball was sweet and although his swivelled left-foot strike wasn’t clean, the ball squeezed under a pretty pathetic dive from San Lorenzo stopper Sebastinn Torrico for Madrid’s second.

2017/18 Champions League final, Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

Two goals, both equally absurd but for completely contrasting reasons. His first, just minutes after climbing off the bench is a thing of beauty.

Football in its raw element is an art form and Bale’s left-foot paintbrush produced a masterpiece as he lifted himself into the Kiev atmosphere.

The thought process to even attempt the overhead was as impressive as the execution. The cross from Marcelo seemed well out of his reach, too fast, too high and too far behind him to be manipulated back towards goal.

But the image of Bale hanging in the air, ball gripped to the sweet spot of his left foot will decorate his career.

In equal measure, the second will linger over Loris Karius for a long time. Emboldened by his opener, Bale smacked a long-range drive which while it dipped and swayed in the air, should have been a simple grasp for the Liverpool stopper. It slipped through his hands and Bale had his fifth final goal.

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