Instead, they got a flood of tears.
Heartbroken and hopes shattered, the forward’s 26th-minute coming together with Sergio Ramos caused reverberations from Merseyside to Cairo.
It provided a sour note to one of the great debut campaigns. One that had delivered 44 strikes in 51 appearances before this doomed 52nd run-out.
From the moment the 25-year-old’s shoulder was driven into the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex turf, whether malicious or not, hopes of European glory were doomed to failure. A defeat, eventually by three goals to one, was inevitable as Real Madrid were gifted an open goal in their quest to land a third-successive continental crown and record-extending 13th overall.
At the same time, 96 million Egyptians united in panic and anger. Salah carried the hopes of a football-obsessed nation into a first World Cup since 1990.
Not even the legendary Mohamed Aboutrika ever matched Salah’s nerveless last-minute penalty against Congo in October that secured hallowed passage to Russia.
Initial, unverified reports of a suspected dislocation came with a six-to-eight week spell of convalescence. This was later softened by the Egyptian Football Association’s assertion that the injury was just to the shoulder joint, following conversations with the Reds’ medical staff.
Egypt’s World Cup opener against Uruguay is just 18 days away. Either way, only a medical miracle will see him run-out at Ekaterinburg Arena.
Yet alone the Group A-tests to come against hosts Russia on June 19 and Arab neighbours Saudi Arabia on June 25.
صرح الدكتور محمد أبو العلا طبيب المنتخب الوطني أنه بناء على الاتصال الهاتفي الذي جمعه بالجهاز الطبي لنادي ليفربول فإن إصابة محمد صلاح في مفصل الكتف ، وأضافوا أنه سيتم عمل آشعة اليوم على مكان الإصابة لتحديد مداها والعلاج المناسب لها والمدة التي سيستغرقها .— EFA.eg (@EFA) May 26, 2018
Such an inviting set of fixtures sparked real hope of deep progression. Those aspirations can be shelved now, if the prognosis holds true.
But the ramifications of this collision with Ramos should be felt by all football lovers. Not just those of an Egypt or Liverpool persuasion.
Salah seemed poised to raid the citadel built up around Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This pair have held an iron grip on the Ballon d’Or for the last decade, rewriting the norms of the game with campaign after campaign featuring 40-goal+ hauls.
A curly-haired usurper had arisen in electrifying fashion during 2017/18. Each inspired strike making the £34 million (Dh171.1m) handed to Roma last June seem like a theft of the century.
Regularly plundering goals of outstanding quality and invention. Putting sides of Manchester City and his former employers from the Eternal City’s quality to the sword with impunity during this enlivening run to Eastern Europe.
This prowess replicated on the global stage would have cemented legendary status, regardless of any sane football lover’s affiliation.
Now, this dream of glory to last a lifetime has gone.
Ramos’ intentions are sure to be debated in the days, weeks and months to come.
Their collision had seemed benign on first viewing. Yet the crossing of arms and forceful fall to the floor driven by the Spain centre-back appeared unnatural at best, malevolent at worst.
Liverpool shots before Salah was injured: 9— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) May 26, 2018
Liverpool shots after Salah came off: 0
Salt was thrown on open wounds as the Madrid skipper showed little remorse and then went on a personal mission to get Senegal forward Sadio Mane disciplined with a succession of theatrical dives.
The impact this intervention had on proceedings cannot be overstated. With Salah on the pitch, Liverpool had fired in nine attempts on goal before his pained removal on 30 minutes.
This figure was not added to in the remaining minutes of the goalless first half.
Madrid had appeared unsettled and unnerved with the ‘Egyptian King’ ruling proceedings.
He had been involved in a flowing third-minute move with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and Brazil forward Roberto Firmino.
A sensational pass also almost played Mane into space, only for France centre-back Raphael Varane to diligently step across.
Given the full 90 minutes to wreak havoc, he would have been sure to breach a Madrid backline that had creaked previously against Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Sadly, this is now all just conjecture. Egypt fans will pray to avoid the same, hollow feeling.
Gareth Bale came off the bench to fire Real Madrid to Champions League glory, before throwing his future with the 13-time European champions into doubt.
Bale’s stunning overhead kick, just over two minutes after coming on, handed Zinedine Zidane’s side a 2-1 advantage against Liverpool, before an error from Loris Karius allowed the Welshman to grab his second of the night and seal the win.
Zidane had left Bale among his substitutes in Kiev, with Isco and Karim Benzema preferred to the 28-year-old, but he certainly made his presence felt, as his goals sealed Madrid’s third Champions League title in a row.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Bale said: “I need to be playing, I need to be playing week in, week out and that hasn’t happened this season for one reason or another.
“I had a five or six week injury at the start of the season and I’ve been fit ever since.
“Obviously now I have to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent and we’ll take it from there.”
On his frustration at not starting the final against Liverpool and his performance from the bench, Bale added: “You have to make an impact. I was disappointed not to start, but you have to keep working until the end.”
Gareth Bale produced one of the all-time great Champions League goals in Saturday night’s final against Liverpool.
The Wales star scored twice as a substitute in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win Kiev, the first coming barely two minutes after coming on as he met Marcelo’s cross with a stunning bicycle kick to find the top corner.
It surpassed even his 60-yard solo run for Tottenham against Inter Milan seven years ago and here, we highlight some of the other great goals in the competition.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, 2010/11)
After exchanging passes with Sergio Busquets, Messi showed his sublime skills during the 2-0 semi-final first leg win at Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid. The Argentinian accelerated away from Lassana Diarra, evaded both Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol and then beat Marcelo before coolly sliding the ball past Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid, 2001/02)
Four years after leading France to World Cup glory, the current Real coach won his first and only Champions League title as a player after a superb winner at Hampden Park. Roberto Carlos hooked in a looping cross from the left and Zidane, just inside the penalty area, calmly waited for the ball to drop before rifling a first-time left-footed volley into the roof of Hans-Jorg Butt’s net.
Lars Ricken (Borussia Dortmund 1996/97)
The 20-year-old substitute had been on the pitch for just 16 seconds when he sealed a 3-1 success for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Dortmund in the 1997 final against Juventus. Ricken, on for Swiss striker Stephane Chapuisat, raced from halfway to latch on to Andreas Moller’s through-ball and then lifted a fine first-time strike over stranded keeper Angelo Peruzzi.
Mario Mandzukic (Juventus, 2016/17)
Juve lost the 2017 final 4-1 to Real but scored undoubtedly the best goal of the night in Cardiff. Leonardo Bonucci’s searching pass, the ball did not touch the ground as Alex Sandro volleyed first-time across goal, Gonzalo Higuain cushioned the delivery and Mandzukic controlled with his chest before hooking an overhead volley into the top right corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, 2008/09)
Ronaldo produced a stunning long-range strike against Porto to put United into the 2009 semi-finals. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men needed a result in the Estadio do Dragao having conceded two away goals in drawing the home leg 2-2, and Ronaldo made the difference. Inside six minutes, he collected the ball from Anderson, turned and then unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top left corner from around 40 yards.
Dejan Stankovic (Inter Milan, 2010/11)
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s sweeper-keeper role came undone in sensational style thanks to Stankovic’s outrageous volley from inside the centre circle. Neuer, then playing for Schalke, came racing out of his goal to clear the ball from the edge of the D with an impressive diving header. Unfortunately for him, it sailed straight to Serbia midfielder Stankovic and his technique was flawless as he rifled the ball into the unguarded net without a bounce.
Michael Essien (Chelsea, 2008/09)
Although Andres Iniesta ultimately ended Chelsea’s hopes of making the final in heartbreaking fashion with a stoppage-time away goal, Essien’s thunderous strike will live long in the memory. Frank Lampard’s attempted cross was blocked by Yaya Toure, sending the ball looping into the air. It dropped perfectly for Ghana midfielder Essien, who stepped forward and let fly with a left-footed volley which crashed down off the crossbar and bounced into the roof of the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2017/18)
Bale’s stunner in Kiev had precedent, with Ronaldo producing an almost identical moment of magic in the quarter-final. The Portugal forward acrobatically connected with Dani Carvajal’s cross to fire the ball past Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from around the penalty spot and help Real to a 3-0 first leg and 4-3 aggregate win.