The heartbreaking feeling that will surely hit the entire Liverpool squad shortly after 11:30 pm in Paris will be familiar to many.
For the second time since Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield, it was Real Madrid who beat him in the Champions League final and although there was a sad feeling of inevitability about everything from their perspective, this one really hurts.
Four years ago, the predominant excitement as Liverpool stormed their way to Kyiv in a floating, excitement-seeking style was one of pride when they missed Madrid’s Spanish royal family. In truth, they were the subordinates then.
TYPES OF GAMES: Liverpool estimates after heartbreak in Champions League final
Why the sharp feeling of this one is more acute is due to the squad that Klopp assembled in those intervening years that flew too close to the sun as it circled the edges of football immortality this month.
There’s something about Real Madrid’s white-collar guarantee when it comes to this competition and considering their amazing streak of results just to get here in the first place, maybe Liverpool just played some role in the Spaniards ’own history. destiny? They have now won this tournament a total of 14 times.
But the real story here is how Real Madrid’s amazing win over Liverpool, in Paris, for the European Cup has been reduced to some sort of side show. For what looked like at least hundreds of fans who handed out riches to attend this event, they were shocked, pepper-sprayed and tearful.
The pre-match riots that unfolded outside the Stade de France cast a long dark shadow over the events inside it on a night when the craze was not up to its cinematic billing.
Liverpool are understood to be furious at the claim from inside the pitch overnight that the delay in launching the biggest fixture in club football was caused by “the late arrival of fans”. Supporters lined the sidewalks around the stadium hours before that game was initially scheduled to begin.
Again, UEFA and the football authorities in general have shown that supporters are bearable rather than liked. That some in Paris were forced to turn away and return to the city center after squandering wealth to be here is nothing short of a disgrace.
This was supposed to be the bright finale, which was bright enough to illuminate the continent. Instead of offering a timely reminder of the unique power of football to unite the masses, we were left to ponder disorganized chaos and the horrific treatment of the game’s lifeblood.
The sight of dozens of riot police circling around the Liverpool end during a stoppage time tick was indicative of everything.
The game itself was not a classic. Vinicius Junior’s second-half goal scored it for Real Madrid in the history books, but it was inspired by Thibaut Courtois’ performance on the other end, which really hurt Klopp and company.
The Reds started the brighter on both sides but lacked an edge in the final third before Sadio Mane forced Courtois into his first impressive save of about four on the night.
Mohamed Salah had previously almost stabbed one beyond the Belgian international even before the No. 11 headed tame towards the goalkeeper later in the half.
The first-half drama was reserved for the final seconds when Karim Benzema joined home after a confusion involving otherwise-watched Alisson Becker and Ibrahima Konate. After an anxiously long check of the fans’ perspective, the French international was denied the goal.
In many ways, it was indicative of how Real approached this whole campaign in the Champions League. They are a team that ate clean moments rather than fuller performances. That Liverpool survived should have served as a wake-up call for the second period. Unfortunately, it did not.
Vinicius tapped home at the back post shortly before the hour after a growing run by Fede Valverde. Klopp sent Diogo Jota for Luis Diaz and with under 15 remaining the manager brought in Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita, but as the chances continued to come, Liverpool found the inspired Courtois in invincible form.
Twice the former Chelsea man denied Salah before the final whistle ended a 63-game season that was so often exciting but ended with the most acid and sad notes.
Liverpool will be forced to accept that a domestic double is the total amount of their transfer. When the dust settles and the smoke clears, it will be remembered as a wonderful campaign.
But now is not the time to make any significant statements about Liverpool dusting themselves off and returning next season. For now, it may not prove such a bad thing to long roll in this pain and frustration. They’re feelings they won’t want to experience again, so keeping it up now, if only for a short time, might just serve a bigger purpose when it all starts again in August.