There was no stopping Real Madrid from doing the historic threepeat, the first time in the Champions League era. Zinedine Zidane’s swashbuckling side vanquished Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev, bolstered by two brilliant goals from Gareth Bale which also saw Karim Benzema getting on the scoresheet.
The Reds, following a bright start to the game, were dealt a sucker punch when Mohamed Salah trudged off with a shoulder injury inside half an hour, and
1. Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk vs Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese is a man of big occasions. And like countless times in the past, was expected to produce the goods again. Except, Ronaldo endured an underwhelming outing. He couldn’t add to his incredible tally of 15 goals and was kept quiet for large swathes of the game.
Liverpool knew they have a task at hand in containing him, and the centre-back duo of Lovren and Van Dijk certainly was up to the challenge. Both of them kept a weather eye on his movements and whenever one of these were found further up, the other stayed back to keep him in check.
Ronaldo however, got the better of them towards the tail end of the game, when he was released through on goal with Real already 3-1 ahead. But Andrew Robertson jumped to their rescue, and his perfectly timed interception kept the Reds from further embarrassment.
Winner: Liverpool centre-back duo
2.Luka Modric vs James Milner
The match was touted to be an intriguing battle in the midfield given the sheer amount of talent in both sides. Most of the match was indeed won and lost in this position and it only went one way after a certain point.
Milner, the vital cog in Jurgen Klopp’s juggernaut, was inconspicuous by his absence in the centre of the park. The former Manchester City man was eyeing a record-setting 9th assist in the final but spent most of the time in his own half as Real Madrid threw the kitchen sink.
So whilst his effect was largely negated, his opposite number Luka Modric, flourished. The Croat, after struggling to exert himself in the initial few minutes, came to life by second-half. He constantly pushed team ahead with intelligent forward passes and his work-rate off the ball was terrific too.
In what was one of his best outings this season, Modric won 100% of his tackles, maintained 94% passing accuracy. He also completed 4 take-ons and made 70 passes, second only to Toni Kroos on the night.
Winner: Luka Modric, hands down
3. Marcelo vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
In many ways, Real Madrid and Liverpool share peculiar similarities. One of the more prominent ones being stemming the attack through the flanks. Marcelo and his opposite number Alexander-Arnold expectedly drifted ahead to overlap in the attack, but the Brazilian made the bigger impact and won the game for his side.
Marcelo, unlike in previous games where the teams enjoyed scurrying into spaces he left behind, maintained a great defensive composure. He only bombed forward when he saw an opportunity. And of all the times he actually did, ended up assisting two of the three goals on the night. His 19-year old counterpart was rendered hapless on both occasions. But it was a case of the gulf in experience in these players.
Alexander-Arnold instead, was guilty of leaving acres of space for Marcelo to run into, while his attacking contribution was a far cry from the bellwether he played against Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
Finals are won by thin margins. And Marcelo eventually, with all his experience and acumen, made a telling difference in that regard.