In the end, it was almost prophetic that the goalkeeper would prove to be the downfall of Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League Final.
In many ways, this was a truly absurd final. Real Madrid, third place in their domestic league and a shadow of the side they were last season, faced Liverpool, who have just finished fourth in the Premier League.
Within 25 minutes of the game, Liverpool’s key man and superstar Mohamed Salah was forced off with injury following a tussle with Sergio Ramos. The Spanish defender, known to pull off any trick he can to lend his team an advantage, hauled Salah down when chasing the ball, locking his right arm and forcing the Egyptian to land awkwardly on his other shoulder.
Immediately, you could tell something was wrong. Salah was slow to get up, whilst Ramos was protesting his innocence to both player and ref, a sure sign as any that he knew he was at fault. Of course, Ramos didn’t intend to damage Salah’s shoulder, as bitter Liverpool and Egyptian fans have claimed following the game, but there’s no doubting that the Spaniard was cynical in taking Salah down and impeding the game.
Either way, there was more disbelief to come for Liverpool fans. Enter Karius the ‘keeper.
In years to come, this final will not be remembered for Gareth Bale’s career-defining overhead kick, nor will it be looked back on as the scene of Madrid’s triple crown. Instead, it will go down as the Karius Final.
His first mistake was like something you’d experience on FIFA. Actually, scrap that. If what Karius did happened on FIFA, you’d cry that the game was fixed and incredibly unrealistic. Throwing the ball straight into the leg of Benzema, which in-turn rebounded into an empty net, the stadium fell silent, as did probably every single household watching the final around the world. This wasn’t just the worst mistake ever made in a European cup final; it was arguably the worst mistake ever made by a goalkeeper in a high-stakes game. Hyperbole perhaps, but this was on a different level.
The second mistake, in contrast, was nowhere near as severe, but in isolation was also humiliatingly poor by Karius. Following a rifled-Bale shot from around 30 yards, Karius had time to compose himself and get into position to make what would’ve been a routine safe. Instead, he flapped and let the ball glide past his finger tips and into the back of the net, confirming Madrid as winners.
It had to be seen to be believed. So there we have it; Madrid are champions of Europe yet again. From having no back-to-back winners of the competition for a generation, we now have a side that has won three in a row. Only Bayern Munich, Ajax and, of course, Madrid themselves, can claim such prestige and domination of the competition.