The Kiev 2018 UCL final

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A Red Perspective:

 

Real Madrid 3 – Liverpool 1

 

I cannot recall a previous occasion when the UK media conducted such a post-mortem following a Champions League final and much has been made of goalkeeper Karius’ failings when any mistake will be very costly against a team of Real Madrid’s quality.

But as a Liverpool supporter, I am not gutted, disconsolate or even ‘bruised’ (as the BBC describe it) about Liverpool’s defeat in last night’s match.  I am more pragmatic than that.  As someone who has watched football since pre-school and enjoyed 5 decades as a Liverpool supporter I have witnessed many defeats, some of them crushing, alongside the great victories and that is the very nature of the game we enjoy.

We are still a developing team and yet have enjoyed a sensational season and quality of football that we have only dreamed about for many years and other than Istanbul in 2005, probably since 1989 before the Hillsborough tragedy changed everything.  At the beginning of the season we would gladly have settled for a top 4 place and after all, did we really expect to progress all the way to the final in the Champions League?  Liverpool fans now have very good reasons to be optimistic and to have realistic expectations that  our ambitions and ultimate destiny will be fulfilled.

Besides, there is no shame in losing to Real Madrid, undisputedly the top team of the moment and one of the greatest sides produced by what has been one of the greatest clubs in European football.  Furthermore, I would never mind conceding a goal when it has all the quality of Gareth Bale’s spectacular, overhead delivery that will be remembered and recorded in football history as one of the greatest goals of all time.  I can only applaud that.

However, I am disappointed and angered by one feature of the game, feelings that have only increased with further analysis today.  Before, the game I was optimistic about our chances and saw the main danger as being the ‘taking out’ of particularly effective players, something we see too often in big matches where stakes are high and especially in the European competitions.  During the early stages of the game I noticed at least two deliberate and aggressive tackles on Sadio Mane who was using his pace effectively and enjoying a lot of possession.

Even so, Liverpool were in control of the game and showing great skill in moving the ball about for the first half hour.  Then came, for me, the defining moment of the game in the form of Sergio Ramos’ tackle that left Mo Salah with a dislocated shoulder from which he was subsequently unable to continue.  In the BT Sports studio, Steven Gerrard kept silent whilst Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand described the tackle as non-cynical.   But this is hardly unbiased opinion as there are obvious reasons why both those pundits would rather not see Liverpool accrue another European title.

My view both at the time and now is that Ramos has pulled Salah down, using Salah’s own momentum to flip him over before landing on him.   In the video of the incident below, you can see how Salah is pulled from the change in his direction to take him further from the ball.  It is a technique that defines the martial art of Ju-Jitsu. But you can make your own mind up from the video –

 

Sergio Ramos’ Tackle on Mo Salah

 

To place this within the context of the match, many pundits had predicted beforehand that the contest between Ramos and Salah would be decisive in determining the game’s outcome.   At the point where Salah stayed on the ground and obviously in much pain, I knew that he would not continue and for the first time I resigned myself to the possibility of defeat.  The club may dislike describing anyone as ‘the’ star player but he is undoubtedly a star player. 

Although known more for his goal scoring ability,  his industry and effectiveness keeps the opposing players too pressured and busy in defending against him and thus reduces their ability to leave their own half in mounting an attack.  Thus Salah also has a defensive role and Liverpool have conceded many late goals this season after Salah has been withdrawn in thinking the game has already been won.

In addition, I have seen many games involving Ramos this season and although  he is a great player and strength for Real Madrid, he does have previous form in cynically trying to take key players out of games and is sometimes successful in this.  You only have to enter ‘Ramos’ in YouTube’s search box to see that he is one of the bad boys of the game.  There is a whole string of videos of Ramos’ bad tackles on key players including Messi, Lewandowski, Suarez, Mbappe and others.   There is even a compilation of the top 10 Ramos’ “brutal” fouls that have earned him red cards.

Having quickly left the immediate scene of last night’s foul for the touchline, it is difficult to explain why Ramos is seen laughing with the assistant referee whilst Salah is still writhing on the ground in pain.

To further make the point, here is another video from the same game in which Ramos is seen to skilfully elbow goalkeeper Karius in the head before deliberately dropping to the ground during one of Real Madrid’s attacks –

 

Sergio Ramos’ Elbows Karius

 

From that point on however, Real Madrid deserved their great, record breaking victory and gave all football fans a special gift in the form of Bale’s goal.  I also have to say that other players (including Ronaldo) showed good sportsmanship during the game and great respect towards Liverpool afterwards.   For this I congratulate and applaud them without any hard feelings whatsoever.

But the football authorities do need to look at the issue of top players who use skill to unfairly influence games. 

 

Update:

 

5th June, 2018 –  Within days of the match, Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius reported to the club whilst on holiday in the US and was sent for a brain scan at Massachusetts General Hospital on 31st May.  Dr Ross Zafonte, an authority on head-trauma injuries, and Dr Lenore Herget have since concluded that Mr Karius sustained a concussion during the match on 26 May 2018.  This is now being widely reported in the sports media, as here for example –

1. Loris Karius: Liverpool keeper referred for concussion tests by club – BBC Sport

2. Concussion may have led to Loris Karius’s calamities, says US hospital – The Guardian

 

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