Earlier in the half Karim Benzema had grabbed a bizarre opener for Madrid before Sadio Mane levelled for a Liverpool team operating without top-scoring Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian had been substituted in the first half after injuring his left shoulder in a tangle with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The injury threatens his presence at the World Cup next month.
Liverpool's Mo Salah had to be substituted in the first half for a shoulder injury that could affect his role at the World Cup for Egypt. (Photo: Getty Images)
While Bale was named as official man of the match, the opponent left to carry the can in defeat was Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius. His careless throw-out gifted Madrid’s opening goal to Benzema and he let Bale’s long shot slip through his hands for the holders’ third which effectively ended the game 10 minutes ahead of time.
Afterwards Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane found himself fending off questions about the fuures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale when all he wanted to do was enjoy having coached his club to their third latest triumph.
He said: “That’s not what’s on my mind. We have to focus solely on this latest major achievement and then we’ll see what happens.”
Asked whether Bale’s goal was better than his own decisive volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 final, Zidane said: “The last goal is always the most important so right now Gareth Bale’s goal is more important than mine.”
Madrid, reigning world champions, thus achieved a record-extending 13th European crown and the honour of becoming the first club since Bayern Munich in the mid-1970s to claim ‘Old Big Ears’ three years in succession.
Zidane’s men vindicated their status as favourites by once again calling up their matchless Champions-occasion experience and almost surreal self-belief.
Real Madrid lift their third consecutive Champions League title and fourth title in the last five years. (Photo: Getty Images)
Liverpool had outscored Madrid in the overall Champions League campaign leading up to the final by 40 goals to 30 but there was no first-half goal and the most significant incident was Salah’s 26th-minute injury.
Madrid subsequently began to enjoy significant periods of possession with Liverpool perhaps nervous of being caught out on the counter. One such spell ended with Benzema popping the ball into the net from close range but it did not count since Ronaldo had been marginally offside with his initial headed goal attempt.
Liverpool had needed to rethink, reorganise and regroup at half-time but whatever they planned went awry almost immediately.
They carelessly conceded possession in front of their own penalty box two minutes after the restart to let Isco hit the bar. Worse followed in the 51st minute when Karius saw his throw-out ricochet off the extended leg of Benzema and pop back into the net.
Madrid’s celebrations lasted only four minutes before Mane equalised from close range after forcing a right-wing corner. But that was the last sight of Liverpool as an effective attacking force after Isco was replaced by Bale in what proved a masterstroke of a change by Zidane.
The newly-arrived Welshman immediately restored Madrid’s lead by meeting Marcelo’s left-wing cross with a sensational overhead bicycle kick which must have stunned not only the entire stadium but the 160m watching on television around the world.
In the 83rd minute Bale killed any hopes of a characteristic late Liverpool fightback.
This time he drifted in from the right to strike a lofted long-range drive from 30 metres which skimmed through the hands of the hapless Karius and into the net.
Liverpool manager Klopp dealt diplomatically with both Salah’s injury and Karius’s mistakes.
He said: “Of course the Salah injury was a big moment. It was a harsh challenge, a bit like wrestling. It was bad luck that he fell on his shoulder and it’s a really serious injury. You need a little luck in football and we not only did we have no luck we had bad luck.
“Karius’s mistakes were obvious. He knows it. I know it. You all know it. He has to deal with it and we have to deal with it.
“I’m turning 51 next month so have I lost games before and won games. I know how to deal with that but you cannot avoid the feeling you have in the night after the game. We all feel really, really bad. We wanted everything and we got nothing.”
KIEV, May 26, 2018 - Substitute Gareth Bale struck twice in the second half – his first goal astonishing – as holders Real Madrid outplayed Liverpool 3-1 in the Champions League Final in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.