Heartbreak in Kiev | Champions League Final 2018

It wasn't supposed to end this way. The Reds were always labelled as the underdogs but nobody could have predicted the way that the Champions League final unfolded on Saturday night. 

Image via The Mirror
I'd travelled up to Liverpool via the Wirral with me fella, brother and a mate to watch the match at Camp and Furnace. I was so excited to head up to Liverpool for the final, I love being in the city in general but even more so for an event like this. 

We pottered around in the centre and popped to a couple of pubs and the bookies prior to heading to Camp and Furnace. Arrived at the venue after a few ciders and some rum around 5pm-ish and then took our places in front of the big screen.

Tucking into my hot dog, still on the cider, that sick feeling which had hit me Friday night after finishing work began to slowly get worse. I'd made the decision that I wouldn't drink during the match. Before long the famous Champions League graphics were staring back at me and I was faced with a starting lineup that was fully capable of getting the better of Real Madrid.

The first portion of the game was brilliant, Liverpool were all over the white shirts and Madrid at times looked like they were struggling. The pressure was high, the Reds were intercepting misplaced passes and forcing mistakes from the Spaniards. The attack was building and surely it was only a matter of time before Salah, Firmino or Mane got a decent chance.

Unfortunately for Liverpool though, Salah never would get his chance. The Egyptian has had a simply phenomenal season and still, two days on while I'm writing this, my heart breaks for him. Nobody expected or wanted to see our star man leave the pitch in tears unless you're Sergio Ramos of course.

Granted, if you check my Twitter at half time from the night, I may have overreacted ever so slightly to Ramos but I will never apologise for that reaction. Ramos may not have planned to dislocate or damage Salah's shoulder but 100% he intended to hold on to Mo or make it difficult for him to pull away from the challenge or the tangle. Ramos has always been a dirty player, the kind that you know will have been instructed to "get stuck in" prior to kick off.

Fair enough, I can take that attitude, Liverpool have had players in the past who would do similar, Jamie Carragher springs to mind, but this moment just felt more sinister. Ramos followed later in the match diving to the floor holding his face claiming Mane had prodded him and also elbowed Karius when neither of them were anywhere near the ball. If Ramos and Real Madrid were that scared of Salah and the rest of our XI then so be it, quite frankly if it was me, I'd be embarrassed at the desperation of my team to take out players.

Having lost Mo, the Reds had a lot to do in order to maintain composure and shake off the incident. We'd started the second half still at 0-0, our heads had dropped slightly but we were still very much in the game, that was until Karius made the first of two unforgivable errors.

Six minutes into the half with Benzema directly and clearly in front of him, for some reason the keeper thought it was safe to distribute and rolled the ball off of the Real Madrid player who of course ended up getting a goal.

That was hard to take but these things can happen, there was no time to let this affect our performance and the Reds responded emphatically. A corner taken by James Milner just four minutes later found the head of Dejan Lovren who flicked the ball forward. There, waiting was Sadio Mane who sent the fans crazy with a Liverpool equaliser.

I bloody love Mane, I made the decision at the start of the season to get him on my shirt and I don't regret it one bit. Sometimes living in the shadow of Salah and Firmino, he did ridiculously well on Saturday night. A solid performance in a Champions League final that was far more tentative than anybody could have predicted.

Below is a video shortly after his goal, we didn't get any footage during but I can assure you that I will never forget celebrating that goal. Absolutely hilarious, screaming my head off bouncing around, I'd lost my brother then felt him grab my arm, grabbed him back, more jumping around. Fella is on the floor, tried to film some immediate aftermath but dropped his phone, smashed the screen, not even a Liverpool fan. My mate Reece about four rows back cheering with new found friends, absolutely awesome. Just awesome. Covered in beer, voice still now on Monday evening is cracking. Unbelievable.

Sadly for us, the goal would not turn out to be as important as it felt at the time. To score that quickly after conceding via such an error, it truly felt as though this was Liverpool pulling off a typical come back but then a Welshman entered play.

At 64 minutes, having come off the bench just minutes earlier, Gareth Bale scored arguably one of the best goals you will ever see. His bicycle kick was stunning, there's just no stopping that kind of goal you just have to hold your hands up and appreciate it.

At 2-1 down with just under half an hour to go, being a Liverpool fan, you know full well anything is still possible. It continued to feel possible right until the 83rd minute.

It was Gareth Bale again, taking a bit of a chance with a long-range shot from outside the area, it looked as though Karius had it covered but the German fumbled the save and kopites around the world looked on in horror as another goalkeeping error practically ended the chances of Liverpool lifting a 6th European Cup.

Loris Karius has never been my favourite person to be honest, as those who read my blog will know, I never really saw him as any better or worse than Mignolet. What I will say though is that he has definitely shown improvement of late, however those errors, in a final? It's just extremely hard to accept. Even more so when you realise that our back four on the night were absolutely superb.

No matter what we might think though, nobody is feeling that pain more than Karius. He showed true guts to go over to the fans and apologise on the night, everybody makes mistakes it's just frustrating that his focus was flawed on Saturday and two errors led to Jurgen Klopp's team walking away as losers.

On another night, with Salah still on the pitch and no goalkeeping mistakes, Liverpool could have had that Madrid side. Bale from the bench was their most influential player, Ronaldo to be perfectly honest barely did anything and that was down to a solid performance elsewhere on the pitch from Liverpool.

Salah would definitely have punished, he'd come too far this season to not find the net or assist a goal in the final, I'm convinced of it. We'll never be able to prove it of course but with him on the pitch for the whole match? I think we'd have got over the line.

It was heartbreaking to watch us lose in such a way but now having had time to truly reflect on this season, we must not be ashamed of our efforts. Klopp has done extremely well with that side, a side that most would agree still has weaknesses and a bench that lacks in impact.

I contributed towards a piece for This Is Anfield earlier in the season, I think it was close to that horrendous Spurs' result. They were asking for thoughts on Klopp and I will admit I was quite critical, I never expected us to reach the Champions League final and at points was getting concerned about 4th place but the manager has shown that he can consistently put the Reds in a position for silverware, we just need to tweak things a bit to ensure that next time, we walk away with the prizes.

It's been a fantastic season that I don't want to remember via images of Salah and Karius tearfully walking off the pitch in Kiev. I will instead remember the goals, the power of the attack, the thriving youngsters Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold coming through, the addition of van Dijk which spurred on Lovren, Henderson proudly captaining his side, Milner at 32 topping the assists boards...

There's a hell of a lot of good in this Liverpool side and with some solid spending during the summer transfer window, we could be on for a cracking 2018/2019 season.

Thanks for reading through the year folks, since working full time I've found it very hard to blog as often as I used to but I still thoroughly enjoy it and will continue to write as and when I can.

I hope to do a season round-up at some point so stay tuned and for those of you with a team at the World Cup this year, enjoy and good luck!

#YNWA - Kirsty