LIVERPOOL were the favourites coming into the Champions League final.
And the news that both Fabinho and Thiago were fit to take their place in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield only added to their confidence.
Karim Benzema lifts the Champions League trophyCredit: Getty
Vinicius scored the winner after peeling off his marker Alexander-ArnoldCredit: GETTY
However the script did not go to plan.
And Carlo Ancelotti’s men proved to be too strong again, having already beaten Man City, Chelsea and PSG on their way to the final.
Madrid sneaked it, despite having just two shots on target all game, compared to Liverpool’s nine.
So where did all go wrong for Klopp’s men on the biggest night of the season?
1. Madrid keep cool despite Liverpool’s dominance
Liverpool were on top straight from kick off, and they dominated the early stages of the game.
With Thiago and Fabinho back in the midfield they had the base on which they could build.
But it was the positioning and presence of Trent Alexander-Arnold in the right channel that posed the most problems for the Spanish side.
Alexander-Arnold was a constant early threat, forcing Real Madrid to come out of their ideal shape
His unpredictable movement was hard for the Real Madrid to cope with.
At times he was wide, but his willingness to come towards the centre of the pitch posed problems for the Spanish side’s defence.
In the build-up phase Alexander-Arnold continually pushed inside into that position in the channel, to the extent that Jordan Henderson at times ended up outside him.
And as Mohamed Salah positioned himself more wide that we might normally expect there was no Madrid player in place to challenge the space that the Liverpool right-back was taking over.
Alexander-Arnold comes inside and Henderson takes up the wide right position to offer width
Alexander-Arnold was a powerful attacking force but could not capitalise
From this position the young English right-back probed the Madrid defence and controlled the pace of the match.
He has the passing range and technical ability to access all areas of the field from this inside-right position.
His ability to get on the ball and break lines with his driven passes for the dynamic Sadio Mane forced the Spanish side to collapse back and defend deep.
Gradually as the first-half wore on we saw Toni Kroos step into that space slightly more in order to close the space that Alexander-Arnold was utilising in the early stages.
However Liverpool failed to capitalise.
Party this was because when Alexander-Arnold was in possession in the final third his decision making was relatively poor.
Modric came out on top in the midfieldCredit: GETTY
Liverpool dominated but could not score against Real Madrid
2. Real know just the moment to pounce
In the first-half of the match there were points in which Real Madrid looked as though they were content to sit deep and look to absorb Liverpool pressure.
This was a strategy that had served the Spanish side well over the course of their Champions League campaign as they sat off and looked for opportunities to play in transition towards Vinicius Junior.
Nine Real Madrid players sit deep and allow Liverpool to have the ball in front of them
Casemiro kept his defensive discipline throughout
In the first-half in particular we saw the Spanish side drop deeper and deeper as Liverpool dominated possession.
With Madrid defending in a low block the three central midfielders sat deep and prevented Liverpool from finding pockets of space in the final third.
They were content to allow the English side to have possession in front of them and for a period of time it seemed as though Madrid would struggle to create any meaningful possession.
Modric beats the Liverpool press with a clever pass to Carvajal which led directly to Real Madrid’s winning goal
At the end of the first-half suddenly Madrid burst to life as they enjoyed their first real period of sustained possession.
This effectively forced Liverpool to adjust their approach in terms of how high they were willing to push their fullbacks.
With Alexander-Arnold forced to drop deeper he became less effective in terms of controlling the game.
The opening goal came in the second half when Madrid showed their quality in transition.
With Liverpool pressing aggressively we saw the Spanish side play through the pressure with short and incisive passing.
Suddenly the quality of the Madrid midfield showed in the game with Modric and Casemiro in particular showing their poise on the ball.
The sudden change in tempo and intent from Madrid caught Liverpool off balance as the Spanish side suddenly moved from passive positioning to incisive passing.
3. Real maintain discipline in frantic final minutes
With Liverpool behind in this match as the game entered the closing stages Klopp decided for a change in shape as he tried to unsettle the Madrid defensive structure.
As the season started to draw to a close the German coach rolled the dice with the introduction of Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita as Liverpool moved from their famous 4-3-3 shape to something approaching a 4-2-4.
Real Madrid kept their shape as the game moved on and Liverpool pushed more midfielders forward
With Salah moved inside to try to occupy the central spaces and Diogo Jota having already replaced the ineffective Luis Diaz we saw a more centrally focused Liverpool attack.
Liverpool were intent on finding overloads centrally with Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota looking to drop off to find space in which they could receive the ball.
While Salah and Mane threatened to run behind and break the lines of the Madrid defence.
Liverpool sub Firmino drops deep but the Real Madrid kept their defensive discipline
Essentially, however, despite all of their efforts Liverpool could not break down an effective defensive block from Madrid.
Liverpool were unable to sustain any effective possession and they found it too difficult to break through the defensive lines.
The combination of the Brazilian midfielder Casemiro and the Belgian goalkeeper Thibault Courtois combined to deny Liverpool a fairytale ending.
Liverpool ended the game too frantic as they looked to play direct in order to force a breakthrough that never came.
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