Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the 2018 Champions League
final between Real Madrid
at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. Two of the world's most prestigious clubs face off in the 63rd edition of the final - a repeat of the 1981 showpiece, which the Reds came out on top in for their third of five triumphs in this famous competition.
Five European Cups ensures that Liverpool are Britain's most-successful side on the continent, yet they still have some way to go before they can match Madrid's tally of 12. Los Blancos took some time between winning trophies number nine and 10, but this has very much been their competition in recent years, lifting 'Big Ears' in back-to-back campaigns and three times in the last four years. Is tonight the night that their stronghold finally comes to an end?
Madrid are seeking a 13th European Cup, then, cementing their status as the continent's most dominant side in UEFA competitions. Los Blancos have not always been at their best in reaching the 2018 final, yet they have developed a knack of simply getting the job done by any means necessary - just ask Juventus and Bayern Munich, who both fell narrowly short of toppling the defending champions. Next up is a Liverpool side that boasts the best goals tally in this year's competition.
Los Blancos became the first side to retain the Champions League trophy last season when defeating Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff. The scoreline suggests that it was a one-sided affair, and in the end it was pretty straightforward for the Spanish giants, but it was also a real battle for a good hour or so at the Principality Stadium. A little over 12 months before that, penalties were required to beat Atletico Madrid - the same side they beat after extra time in the 2014 final.
The 2014 victory brought up the famed La Decima for Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid - a 10th European Cup. They have not looked back, adding two more in the following three years, and now they are favourites to add another to their collection. Los Blancos, much like Liverpool in many ways, are synonymous with the Champions League, really growing to love the competition since its rebranding in the early 1990s. Nobody quite has the ability to get the job done like Madrid.
It is in more recent years that their love of all things European football has returned, of course, with those three triumphs since 2014, and a large part of that is down to manager Zinedine Zidane
. Despite his illustrious playing career, not a great deal was expected from the Frenchman when he was promoted to the position of first-team manager in January 2016. Fast forward 28 months, though, and he has won a near clean sweep of major honours at the Bernabeu.
Incredibly, Madrid have yet to lose a knockout tie in the Champions League during Zidane's two-and-a-half years in charge, going all the way in the last two seasons. The Frenchman has been accused of being tactically naive, while the obvious accusations of being made to look good due to having Cristiano Ronaldo in his ranks have also been thrown around, yet having a talented squad does not always equate to success. Even Zidane's doubters have to concede that three European Cups in a row would be an astonishing achievement in the modern day.
The obvious question to ask, then, is whether Real Madrid can be considered the greatest club side ever if they make it three in a row? Football is all about opinions, and it is a debate that will no doubt continue long into the night in pubs up and down the land, but one thing for certain is that this current crop of Los Blancos players have written their name into Champions League folklore. Two in a row is special; three on the bounce is just greedy!
The one thing working against Madrid in that 'greatest ever' debate is their domestic form this season. Winning a first league and European double last season since 1958 was an unbelievable feat, but it could be argued that they are now relying on the Champions League to salvage their campaign this time around. Los Blancos finished 17 points adrift of Barcelona in La Liga; a Barca crop that has been labelled as one of their weakest in recent memory. It has to be remembered that Zidane's men were favourites to finish top prior to a ball being kicked.
It has been one of Madrid's worst-ever domestic showings, having lost six and drawn 10 of their La Liga matches to finish 17 points off Barcelona, while also exiting the Copa del Rey early on at the hands of Leganes. With nothing to play for domestically in the second half of the season, all of Zidane's eggs were in a Champions League-shaped basket. The pressure has been immense, just like it was in 2014, 2016 and 2017, making their ability to grind out win after win all the more remarkable.
Remarkably, there have been suggestions that Zidane is relying on victory tonight to save his job - there really is no other club quite like Real Madrid in terms of media scrutiny! An array of major honours, including a first La Liga in five years and two Champions Leagues, may not be enough to prevent the Frenchman from being axed. Whether there is any truth to those rumours is unknown, and if Zidane does move on in the summer then he will certainly not be short of offers from elsewhere.
Madrid have been far from their best throughout this season's competition, being taken apart by another English club in Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium - a 3-1 loss flattered them in many ways - before being held by the same opposition on home soil. After finishing second to Spurs in a tough group that also contained Borussia Dortmund and APOEL, the cup holders then showed just why they have every right to be considered among the best ever, as they have seen off the champions of France, Italy and Germany in successive rounds.
Los Blancos, who began their UEFA campaign with victory over Manchester United in Macedonia in last August's Super Cup, were second best at points in each of those three knockout ties. PSG were shaken off far too easily, suffering a 5-2 aggregate defeat, but Juve certainly pushed the Spanish giants all the way; a last-minute penalty from Ronaldo being required to get them over the line at the end of the second leg. Bayern, too, came within a goal of ending this incredible run, with another 4-3 win for Madrid in that one.
LIVERPOOL TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
SUBS: Mignolet, Klavan, Clyne, Moreno, Can, Lallana, Solanke
The Liverpool team news has just filtered through, and Jurgen Klopp
has very much gone with the starting lineup many expected. In truth, there were very little questions to be answered - injuries have forced the German's hand a little in the middle of the park, but this is still the core of the side that has led them this far. Emre Can and Adam Lallana are both including among the subs, despite their lack of playing time, while full-back Nathaniel Clyne is another who has not had the most proficient of campaigns.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been key in this run to the final, each growing more and more into their roles as the campaign has gone on. Both men start tonight - there had been a rumour circulating that Clyne may come in for Alexander-Arnold - while Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren link up in the heart of defence. Loris Karius
is once again preferred to Simon Mignolet in goal, giving this back five a settled look to it. That has paid off, too, as the Reds have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 20 outings - Van Dijk's price tag is starting to look a little less silly.
It has to be said that none of Liverpool's midfield three would get into Madrid's starting lineup, yet the trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and James Milner all have their strengths, and they have certainly held their own well called upon this term. The latter has a tournament-high nine assists this term, placing him above each of the continent's mercurial playmakers, while Wijnaldum and Henderson have the ability to get the ball into the danger men up top.
This Liverpool side will be best remembered years from now for their attacking ability, though, and it is therefore no surprise to see Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane
used up top. The forward trio have eclipsed the BBC's goals return from four years ago, netting 10, 10 and nine respectively on the run to the final. Salah in particular has been phenomenal, scoring 44 times in all competitions to leave him just three short of Ian Rush's long-standing record of 47 in a single campaign.
Salah would not be the force he is without Firmino and Mane alongside him, though, with the Brazilian and Senegalese chipping in with goals and assists aplenty. It is quite telling that Liverpool have failed to score in just five of their last 29 matches in all competitions, with their most recent blank coming in a 1-0 loss to Chelsea at the start of the month. They are by no means the most talented of Champions League finalists, but with Salah in their ranks anything is possible. The big question is whether Madrid are capable of thwarting him, as well as his attacking teammates, over the 90 minutes
REAL MADRID TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Modric, Kroos; Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema
SUBS: Casilla, Nacho, Bale, Theo, Vasquez, Asensio, Kovacic
Switching attention to the defending European champions, Zinedine Zidane
has also gone with the starting lineup that many would have predicted. Cristiano Ronaldo limped off in the 2-2 draw with Barcelona earlier this month, initially rendering him a minor doubt for tonight's match, but the Portugal international returned to action against Villarreal last weekend and has been described as "140% fit" by his manager in the lead-up to this huge showdown in the Ukrainian capital.
Ronaldo is joined in the forward line by Karim Benzema
, who endured a pretty dreadful domestic campaign - certainly his worst since arriving at the Bernabeu nearly a decade ago - but Zidane has stuck with his compatriot and it has paid off in Europe. More than that, though, the decision to go with a midfield diamond that is spearheaded by Isco has also worked wonders, although that move spells bad news for Gareth Bale
has he starts on the bench for the second Champions League final in a row. Unlike last year, the Welshman does not have a knock to blame.
The centre of the park is comprised of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos, with Zidane opting against throwing in Mateo Kovacic to pad things out a little. Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio are certainly not bad options to turn to, not to mention Bale, which is in stark contrast to Liverpool's pretty weak bench. For all of Emre Can and Adam Lallana's talents, they have very little playing time under their belts and will surely make minimal impact. You get the impression that, if it does go the distance, Los Blancos will be better suited to nick it late on.
The backline also has a familiar look to it as Marcelo, who has netted three goals in the knockout rounds, is joined by Sergio Ramos - another big-game player - Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal in a four-man defence. Carvajal returned from a hamstring problem last week and was always likely to start tonight, while Nacho is only among the subs having also had an injury problem of his own. Keylor Navas should be well rested between the sticks, meanwhile, having been given the night off on the final day of the domestic season last weekend.
So the big team news is that Isco is preferred to Gareth Bale as far as Real Madrid are concerned, which has been the case for a while now. Bale has just two Champions League starts to his name this term and was booed off in one of them, while Isco has managed to provide some much-needed balance in a slightly deeper position. All eyes very much on a certain Ronaldo today, though, with this the Portuguese's 153rd Champions League appearance - one more than legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, but still 14 short of Iker Casillas's record.
Following a pretty underwhelming first half to the domestic season, at least by his own high standards, it has been business as usual for Ronaldo since the turn of the year. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has 43 goals in all competitions, including 15 in a record-breaking Champions League campaign. After netting twice in last year's 4-1 win over Juventus in the final, adding to his goals from the 2008 and 2014 showpieces, Ronaldo then scored in Madrid's first 10 UCL games this time around; a run that ended with a couple of blanks in the semi-finals.
Ronaldo is aiming to become the fifth player to play in and win five European Cup finals, joining a list that also includes Paolo Maldini, Paco Gento, Alfredo Di Stefano and Jose Maria Zarraga. Los Blancos have not exactly been in stellar form, it is fair to say, despite picking up a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou and putting six unanswered goals past Celta Vigo recently, as they have failed to win back-to-back matches since March. Ronaldo will therefore have to play out of his skin tonight - he usually does on big occasions such as these, to be fair.
DID YOU KNOW? Real Madrid could become the fourth side to win three European Cups on the spin, and the first to achieve the feat twice following victories in the first five seasons of this competition between 1956-60. Ajax and Bayern Munich, both in the 70s, were the other sides to pull it off. Zinedine Zidane, meanwhile, is aiming to become the first coach to lift the famous trophy three times in a row; this in his third year as a senior boss, remember!
This is a repeat of the 1981 European Cup final, when Liverpool came out on top 1-0 winners in Paris for their third triumph in five years. That would prove to be Madrid's last final defeat, playing and winning six more since then. That was also the only time an English club has beaten a Spanish club in the European Cup final, with La Liga teams prevailing in 2006, 2009 and 2011 - Barcelona on each occasion. This is the ninth time that we have had a 'repeat final', which has now been the case for three years running. No surprise, as this is Los Blancos' 15th final, and their 31st in all UEFA competitions.
Liverpool, by comparison, are playing in their seventh European Cup final, winning five of those. Unlike Madrid, though, they have zero experience of competing in the final in terms of their current crop, whereas Los Blancos have a number of players who have been there and got the T-shirt. In fact, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Isco have each featured in all of Los Blancos' three recent Champions League triumphs.
As Klopp mentioned in Friday's press conference, though, winning is in Liverpool's DNA. It has to be remembered, though, that their most recent European triumph came in 2005 when famously seeing off AC Milan on penalties, while the 2007 final against the same opposition was the last time they made it this far. That has made this unexpected journey to Kiev all the more memorable for supporters, who would never imagined when their campaign started nine months ago that it would end with a trip to the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium.
A fourth-placed finish in the Premier League was a positive return for Liverpool, earning them successive campaigns in the Champions League for the first time since 2009, but there is no doubt that the Champions League has been their priority for a while - a slump in domestic results goes some way to highlighting that. After overcoming Hoffenheim in a playoff qualifier, the Reds drew three of their first five group-stage matches, including a 3-3 draw in Sevilla after opening up a three-goal lead inside half an hour.
Liverpool then faced a make-or-break showdown with Spartak Moscow, which they won with ease, matching the 7-0 win they claimed against Maribor earlier in the campaign. They have since gone on to beat Porto 5-0 on aggregate, Manchester City 5-1 and Roma 7-6. The theme has been their ability to quite simply blow teams away in quick bursts, scoring all five of their goals against Porto in the first leg; three in the space of 19 minutes in the first leg against Man City; and five in an incredible 30-minute period either side of half time in the high-scoring win against Roma last time out. Catch them if you can!
The elephant in the room, however, is Klopp's record in major finals. Since lifting the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, the 50-year-old has lost five in a row, including two during his time with Liverpool. The 2016 EFL Cup and Europa League finals ended in defeat, going down to Manchester City and Sevilla respectively. It means that the Reds are without any domestic honours since beating Cardiff City in the 2012 EFL Cup final. That, quite simply, has to change for a club of this stature.
As touched upon earlier, Liverpool's defence has become far more solid since Van Dijk arrived in January - 11 clean sheets in 20 matches - but they still need further strengthening. Roma netted six times across two legs, showing what is capable, and a Madrid side that have netted in each of their last 29 UEFA matches will fancy their chances of finding a way through tonight. It is a familiar tale for Los Blancos, though, as they have three clean sheets in 12 matches and will themselves have to deal with in-form Liverpool forward Salah.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! These two sides have met on five previous occasions, each in the European Cup, with Liverpool winning three of those but losing the last two. Those most recent encounters came in the 2014-15 season when suffering a 3-0 loss at Anfield in the group stage - Karim Benzema (two) and Cristiano Ronaldo netting in that one - before going down 1-0 in the Spanish capital. As mentioned a little earlier, the Reds prevailed 1-0 in this fixture in the 1981 final.
With kickoff at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium now just a couple of minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Jurgen Klopp: "Experience is very important and I'm pretty sure that in the seconds before the game Real will be more confident than we are. But it's not a problem because the game doesn't end in that second, it only starts. We have had two weeks to prepare and everything is clear. We've analysed Real Madrid playing against different teams and thought, 'wow they are really strong', but they have never played us. We are Liverpool. Not only are we a really good football team, it's in the club's DNA to go for the big things. Nobody expected us to be here but we are because we are Liverpool. We had the most exceptional run to the final with the most goals."
Zinedine Zidane: "It's not like this and we know it. It's another final and we have the same chance of winning it as they do. It's 50/50, like every final is. And we're going to have to put on a huge display if we are to win. Inside the dressing room we don't feel like we are favourites at all. When in possession we'll have to attempt to hurt the opposition, whilst bearing in mind the way they play [on the counter-attack]. There are always moments of madness in games and it's a case of trying to suffer as little as possible when out of possession and do damage when we attack. We'll have to dig in, there's no question about that."
KICKOFF! The time for talking is over! We are up and running in the 63rd European Cup final, with Real Madrid seeking a third-successive triumph against a Liverpool side aiming to win the trophy for a sixth time in their history. What a mouth-watering contest we are in store for in Kiev!
In a stark contrast in experience, Madrid have seven starters who have featured in their three most recent Euro triumphs; Liverpool do not have a single Champions League finalist in their ranks. A big interception from Varane prevents Salah from getting in behind early on.
Wijnaldum with a shot that is blocked away on the edge of the box. Liverpool have started very brightly - they usually do in Europe, blowing teams away and then holding on for victory. Will we see something similar in Kiev tonight?
Varane has been a very busy boy early on, getting his head and feet to numerous balls into the box. Salah then won a free kick on the edge of the box, which is worked short to the Egyptian but well closed down before it could travel.
Liverpool have started this match brilliantly, really getting at Madrid's defenders. Salah so very nearly in behind once again, and from the next attack a knockout was almost pounced on by Alexander-Arnold - Navas read it well to race out.
A shot is dragged wide of Karius's goal as Madrid finally managed to get out of their own final third. The Reds have undoubtedly been the better side in the opening 11 minutes of the contest, without getting away an attempt on goal.
Better from the reigning champions, as they take back some control of the game. Possession has been with Los Blancos for the past couple of minutes, but Liverpool are more than happy with that - they may have a chance to counter.
Real danger for the back-to-back winners, as the ball bounces around inside their box. Firmino could not get a shot away, but Milner and Salah did, both seeing their shots blocked away. Klopp will be delighted with the way this match is panning out.
SHOT! Madrid's best moment yet as they win back the ball and quickly get the ball forward. The angle was against him, but Ronaldo decided to take on the shot and sent it over Karius's crossbar. The Portuguese forward has yet to find his range!
A cross towards the back post is dealt with by Liverpool; a cross into the Madrid boss moments later is dealt with. Ramos with a real howler from the next attack, however, helping the ball behind when there was nobody in red around him.
Van Dijk got his head to the corner after getting in front of Navas, but he could not direct it towards the empty net. Liverpool fans are the ones making all of the noise at the moment, buoyed by what has been a decent showing from their side.
Still no shots on target thus far, and just one off target, but it has been a gripping enough opening quarter to the game. Liverpool have had the better of things, but they have so far been unable to create any sort of openings in front of goal.
Good covering from Ramos to get across and take the ball from Mane before the Senegalese forward could find his stride. The Reds look so dangerous when they get their front three involved, but credit to Los Blancos for dealing with them thus far.
SAVE! Liverpool with a couple of good chances to open the scoring in Kiev. Milner picked out Firmino, who swivelled on the penalty spot and saw his shot blocked by Ramos, before Alexander-Arnold's well-hit strike was held down low by Navas.
Alexander-Arnold could not have done much more, really putting his foot through the ball and finding the target. Credit must go to Navas for watching the ball and not only keeping it out, but also stopping any player in red from pouncing on the rebound.
A real worry for Liverpool, as Sergio Ramos landed awkwardly on Mohamed Salah's shoulder when both players crashed to the floor. The physios inspected the damage before deciding that the Egyptian forward is OK to continue.
LIVERPOOL SUB! This is a huge, huge blow for Liverpool. Salah continued for all of two minutes following that awkward landing, but his night is now over. The Egyptian leaves the field in tears to be replaced by Adam Lallana.
That will obviously mean a change of shape for Liverpool, as Solanke is clearly not trusted to slot into the space vacated by Salah. This is a big opportunity for Lallana to impress, having barely featured for the Reds all season due to injury.
Looks as though Madrid will be forced into a change now, because Carvajal is distraught on the ground after picking up a knock. Certainly not as big a player for Madrid as Salah is for Liverpool, but an injury Zidane could have done without.
REAL MADRID SUB! Nacho comes on for the injured Dani Carvajal in a like-for-like change at right-back. The second quarter of the match has been quieter than the first, not helped by those two injury stoppages in the space of 10 minutes.
The first half has petered out as we enter its final few minutes. The big news so far is that Liverpool have lost key man Mohamed Salah to a shoulder injury, forcing Jurgen Klopp to turn to Adam Lallana. What a huge blow for the Reds!
GOAL DISALLOWED! Benzema thought that he had given Madrid the lead, only for the offside flag to go up. Karius produced a superb stop to keep out Ronaldo's close-range header, and Benzema was the wrong side of Liverpool's defence from the follow-up.
That is now one attempt on target apiece - Ronaldo's header would have stood had Karius not kept it out - in a gripping first half. Both these teams love scoring goals, but it looks as though the first half is going to end goalless.
CLOSE! Benzema with a brilliant cross-field pass, which Nacho meets first time near the back post. Hearts in mouths moment for Liverpool, but the full-back could only volley the difficult chance into the side-netting.
HALF TIME: REAL MADRID 0-0 LIVERPOOL
Benzema got a shot away from 20 yards right at the end of the first half after being given far too much time and space. Karius got down to his left but the save did not need making as the ball skipped narrowly wide. It is all square at the midway point!
Liverpool had been the better side prior to losing Salah, finding their rhythm pretty much from the off and asking serious questions of their opponents' backline. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos had to produce a number of blocks, but they were exposed with just short of a quarter of the match played.
James Milner already had a tournament-high nine assists to his name prior to this match, and he nearly got another as Roberto Firmino swivelled on the penalty spot after being picked out but sent his shot straight into the body of Ramos. The rebound fell nicely to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who put his foot through it and forced a good save out of Keylor Navas down low.
Madrid, whose only opening in the first 30 minutes saw Cristiano Ronaldo thump the ball over the bar from a tight angle, themselves lost a player to a first-half injury as a distraught Dani Carvajal limped down the tunnel. Los Blancos ended the first half on top, with Karim Benzema having a goal ruled out for offside after Loris Karius
had produced a super save to keep out Ronaldo's close-range header.
Nacho, brought on for Carvajal, then fired a volley into the side-netting and Benzema dragged a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box. Both managers forced into first-half changes, then, but will we see any further tinkering at the break?
REAL MADRID SUBS: Casilla, Bale, Theo, Vasquez, Asensio, Kovacic
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Mignolet, Klavan, Clyne, Moreno, Can, Solanke
RESTART! We are back up and running at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. News at half time is that Mohamed Salah has dislocated his shoulder, likely putting his World Cup participation with Egypt in doubt as well.
No further changes made by either manager at the break, incidentally, so it is as you were from the end of the opening 45. No doubt that Los Blancos have the more talented options among their subs, with Gareth Bale among their back-up options.
OFF THE BAR! Liverpool, in contrast to the first half, have started the second half very slowly. The Reds fail to clear their lines and Isco had a big target to aim for, but he shinned his shot and the ball came back off the crossbar.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 1-0 LIVERPOOL (KARIM BENZEMA)
Madrid have looked the stronger side since the restart, and they have made the breakthrough via the most incredible of goals - and not in a good sense! Karius attempted to roll the ball out to a teammate, only for the ball to hit Benzema's boot and trickle over the line. I hope that does justice to how shocking a moment that was!
Loris Karius was fuming at the officials for some reason - there was no foul from Karim Benzema; he was simply opportunistic and blocked the keeper's attempted pass. Quite possibly the most bizarre Champions League final goal of all time.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 1-1 LIVERPOOL (SADIO MANE)
This final has well and truly bust into life! Varane with a big touch to prevent Firmino from nodding in a Milner cross, and from the resulting corner Mane hooked Lovren's knockdown past Navas from a couple of yards out to level things up in Kiev!
Unbelievable response from Liverpool, who are level within four minutes and 16 seconds of falling behind. This one surely has more goals in it; was always just a matter of time before it exploded into life, and that is exactly what has happened.
SAVE! Isco, who looks likely to make way for Bale in a few moments' time, turns six yards from goal but is thwarted by Karius. The German keeper made that one huge howler, but he has also produced a couple of decent saves.
REAL MADRID SUB! Gareth Bale is brought on in place of Isco for the final half an hour of this Champions League tie - and possible longer if it remains this way. The Welshman has eight goals in his last eight La Liga outings.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 2-1 LIVERPOOL (GARETH BALE)
The most bizarre goal in Champions League history and not quite possibly the best! Gareth Bale, on the pitch for two minutes, sends an overhead kick flying past Loris Karius from 15 yards. Marcelo left his teammate with so much to do, and they will show that one over and over again.
Twenty goals for the season for Bale, and 16 Champions League goals in his career. That one is never being beaten, even if he goes on to play into his 40s. A once in a lifetime strike from the Wales international, which may just win this tie.
Ramos with a huge interception to prevent Salah from tapping the ball in. The Reds are now on top and looking to draw themselves level for a second time. It only took them four minutes to equalise through Mane last time.
OFF THE POST! Mane attempts to bend the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, and he comes within inches of doing exactly that. The ball hit the post and went away from goal, rather than back into the centre of the box.
BLOCK! Ronaldo is through on goal but he took a stride too many, allowing Robertson to produce a last-ditch block and preventing a certain goal. Up the other end, Liverpool had a weak shout for handball rejected by the referee.
This second half has flown by! We are now into the final 15 minutes and Liverpool need to find a goal from somewhere. Both teams have come close to netting since Bale's wonderstrike, which as things stand is a worthy winner in the 63rd European cup final.
The problem for Klopp is that he does not have the squad depth to change the game from the bench. Lallana is the one back-up player capable of producing something different, but he was brought on early due to Salah's injury.
SAVE! This is going to be remembered as the Gareth Bale final years from now. The Welshman produces an incredible outside-of-the-boot pass for Benzema, whose volley was kept out by Karius. The game is very stretched now.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 3-1 LIVERPOOL (GARETH BALE)
Well if he wasn't the greatest British export ever prior to tonight, Gareth Bale certainly is now. The Welshman has a second on the biggest stage of them all, albeit with a helping hand - pun intended - from Karius. Bale's shot from 30 yards flew through the air and went right through Karius, who got nothing to it.
Ronaldo is fuming with Bale for not squaring the ball when through, as he went in search of a first European Cup final hat-trick in 49 years. The Portuguese is not doubt upset that he has been massively overshadowed by Bale and Karius tonight!
Liverpool now need two goals in around six or seven minutes to force extra time. Milan, anyone? It has been a gripping second half, but this one is now surely over thanks to the impact made by Madrid forward Gareth Bale.
REAL MADRID SUB! Karim Benzema is taken off late on, replaced by Marco Asensio. Simply a case of seeing this one through now, with three or four minutes likely to be added on at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev.
Just the three minutes of added time, in fact, so Madrid can start celebrating a third successive European Cup. A good showing from them, but the match had been in the balance prior to Bale's quite incredible overhead kick 63 minutes in.
FULL TIME: REAL MADRID 3-1 LIVERPOOL
REAL MADRID ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS FOR A THIRD SUCCESSIVE SEASON!
Real Madrid really are kings of this competition, winning it for the fourth time in five years. The match will be best remembered for Gareth Bale's unbelievable strike to put his side a goal in front, while Loris Karius's howlers will also live long in the memory.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while reaction from Kiev will be available elsewhere on the site in due course. Thanks for joining!