Thirty minutes of football in Kiev and Liverpool’s dream of clinching their sixth Champions League title were vanquished by Sergio Ramos. The Real Madrid captain who is widely hailed as one of the most destructive defenders of modern-era football does it again for the Los Blancos. Although the job was not yet complete with an hour still to go for the final whistle, Liverpool supporters knew that the uphill task to end Real Madrid’s supremacy in the Champions League just became next to impossible.
As Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s leading scorer who had been in sublime form throughout the season, was forced out with a shoulder injury in the first half of the Champions League final on Saturday, it didn’t take much time for the Egyptian football supporters to vent out their emotions and rage on Twitter. The emotion can be captured in one tweet: “A man fell on his shoulder and 100 million people felt the pain”. The arm locking challenge by Ramos on Salah dragging down Liverpool’s best player on the pitch was more than enough to turn the Spaniard into the most hated person in Egypt. Soon after the final whistle, an online petition garnered over 100,000 signatures urging both FIFA and UEFA to punish Ramos for his rough challenge on the Egyptian ‘Messiah’.
Liverpool who were compelled to play in Salah’s absence had somehow managed to keep the score 1-1 at the hour mark. Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, who became the first manager to win the Champions League thrice in a row, introduced Gareth Bale. Three minutes later the Welsh international in the most stylish manner registered his name in the history books. The goal broke the deadlock and Real Madrid were well and truly headed in the direction of lifting the European silverware for a historic third consecutive time. Overall, the tally expanded to a staggering 13 – more than any two other clubs combined. (AC Milan have won seven with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool on five)
It’s fair to credit Bale and his stupendous overhead kick along with some hopeless display by Loris Karius in the Liverpool goal for Madrid’s victory at Kiev. However, half of the job was complete in the initial phase of the game. From the beginning, it felt like that Salah was the primary target of Real Madrid. Stopping the Egyptian was a huge task, as he single-handedly guided Liverpool through to the Champions League final. He was phenomenal against Manchester City in the quarterfinals and his heroics continued when Liverpool faced AS Roma in the first leg of semi-finals at Anfield.
Ramos has been a key player in the Madrid unit and the skipper has never failed to impress when it comes to big occasions. The Spaniard has always pushed himself an inch forward to put Real Madrid in a dominant position. He not only defends and tackles but when the team is desperate for a break, Madrid fans can count on him to lead from the front as an ’emergency forward’.
Looking at Real Madrid’s last four Champions League victories, we can see how influential Ramos has been to the equation. Starting with the 93rd-minute header to break Atletico Madrid hearts and stop them from winning their first Champions League title to ending Gianluigi Buffon’s dream of winning the most prestigious European title, Ramos has been involved in some way or the other. The Sevillano may be one of the most disliked footballers on the planet at the moment but one cannot deny that most would love to have a defender like him in their team.
Leading 1-0 throughout the match, no one would have imagined Atletico falling in the dying moments. The party at Lisbon was disrupted by a late header by Sergio Ramos followed by extra-time goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo eventually crowing Real Madrid as champions of Europe for the tenth time. The fact that the goal came at 92:48 ended up deflating the city rivals who had given it all up until then.
San Siro (Champions League 2015-16)
Ramos scored a header to kick off the proceedings when Real Madrid faced city rivals Atletico at the San Siro. However, Atletico with the help of Yannick Carrasco’s calm finish did manage to equalise in the 79th minute of the game, which was followed by a celebration where the Belgian international ran up to the stands to kiss his girlfriend. The scoreline remained 1-1 and things didn’t change even after the additional half hour. As the match went into penalties, Ramos delivered while his fellow Spain international Juanfran failed to convert the spot kick.
Buffon’s dream of winning Champions League fades again
The Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid was an opportunity that many anticipated would be a chance for Buffon to conquer Europe and add the coveted Ballon D’or to his profile. However, great performance by Real Madrid and instances of smart defending by Ramos was enough to crush Buffon’s dream. He deceived the officials by slyly falling to a very light shove by Juan Cuadrado, who was booked twice in ten minutes. Reducing Juventus to 10 men with a two goal lead, Real Madrid won their third Champions League title in four years.