Liverpool’s glorious season once presented the baffling prospect of a historic quartet only to end in the chaos of Paris with a mixture of one-sided feelings.
Real’s 1-0 win, scored by Vinicius Junior’s goal in the 59th minute, put coach Carlo Ancelotti’s name indelibly in the history books with his record fourth win in the tournament.
It capped six days of desperate disappointment for Liverpool after they missed the Premier League by one point against Manchester City and then lost to the street-wise, street-smart Real Madrid.
However, this final will not be remembered only because of the defeat of Liverpool and the victory of Real.
He will also be remembered for the spectators outside the Stade de France in the hours leading up to kick-off, when the street leading from a tunnel by the stadium was dangerously crowded with Liverpool fans.
As you walk alongside these fans, you may feel overheated and frustrated every minute as the big crowds make no progress. It was an uncomfortable and uncomfortable experience.
As tension mounted, larger queues formed outside the stadium entrances, eventually ending with French police using pepper spray and tear gas on fans and a 36-minute kick-off as Liverpool’s end of this sparsely populated huge bowl.
Liverpool FC called for an official investigation into the events, while UEFA claimed the gates were “blocked by thousands of fans who bought fake tickets that did not work”.
It was the desperate backdrop for the match in which Liverpool created many chances, but was met with a brilliant goalkeeping performance by Thibaut Courtois.
With Liverpool’s players plunging onto the pitch and Trent Alexander-Arnold standing motionless for minutes, coach Jurgen Klopp and his players will reflect on a fantastic season in which he won two titles but also ended with a match against the undisputed climax.
Alexander-Arnold looked particularly frustrated, not only by the pain of the defeat but also by the fact that Vinicius came just yards behind him to score the goal that proved Real Madrid’s winner.
And there is one notable case worth checking out, especially when combined with a team known for their offensive power.
Liverpool won the League Cup and the FA Cup, both on penalties, against Chelsea. The blank goal sheet here means they haven’t scored in open play in three finals, including two more.
Given the offensive qualities of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, it is always a surprise when they miss the net. It didn’t cost them in the League Cup and the FA Cup, but it is here.
The man responsible for this was Courtois, who was as close to perfect as possible, making six saves against Salah alone and making a rather impressive attempt to clear Mane’s shot off the post.
This was Salah’s redemption evening after he was fouled and injured by Sergio Ramos just 30 minutes later in the 2018 final as Real beat Liverpool 3-1 in Kyiv.
He made his intentions clear by tweeting “We have goals to eliminate” shortly after Real Madrid’s stunning return in the semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu confirmed that last encounter.
Salah will forever wonder how he didn’t score at least one goal here. He could have had nightmares with Courtois’ face, that was the only barrier he set up.
Liverpool looked a bit worn out by the rigors of recent weeks, and given the experience and management of the game for opponents who have long been Champions League champions, there was despair in their attempts to reclaim an equaliser in the final minutes.
Klopp and his players have done everything they can and will be showing off their UEFA Cup and FA Cup at Liverpool’s parade on Sunday but how would they have wished for their seventh win in the competition.
No one in their right mind would describe Liverpool’s season as a whole as a disappointment, given their silver medal and relentless pursuit from Manchester City, which at one point on the final day of the season looked like it might explode. With the title, Guardiola’s team scored three goals in five minutes against Aston Villa.
Had it not been for Courtois’ exploits, this massive trophy might have found its way to Merseyside.
Instead, it was the smiling Ancelotti who lifted him up in the air in front of the Real Madrid fans who are accustomed to the experience. He will enjoy the familiar feel of a Champions League celebration when he returns to Spain.
Real have been sailing against the wind in the Champions League this season, especially when they needed two goals to survive after 90 minutes in the semi-final against Manchester City.
They have found a way and which team can beat PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool because whoever beats them deserves to win the Champions League. Nobody can doubt that.
It couldn’t be described as a disappointing season for Liverpool – it was fantastic – but it is undeniable that it ended disappointingly on two important fronts in a miserable environment in Paris.