Gareth Bale came off the bench and did the damage for Real Madrid, including a sublime overhead kick moments after his substitution. In the Liverpool goal, Germany's Loris Karius had a night to forget.
Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool
(Benzema '51, Bale 64' + 83' — Mane 55')
If Gareth Bale was upset to be on the bench for Saturday's final in Kyiv, he responded in precisely the right way when given his chance in the second half. Within minutes of coming on, with the score 1-1, the Welsh international delivered a spectacular bicycle kick to restore Real Madrid's lead.
"Obviously I was very disappointed not to start the game, I felt I deserved it but the manager makes the decisions," Bale told BT Sport after the game, adding that he'd be discussing Real's selection practices with his agent ahead of the transfer window. "The best I have been doing is to come on and make an impact, I certainly did. I need to be playing week in, week out, and that has not happened this season."
Bale would later be named man of the match, although in truth, his second goal was more of a gift from the villain of the piece: Liverpool keeper Loris Karius.
Karius was at fault for Real's first and third goals. He assisted an opportunistic Karim Benzema by trying to roll the ball out to a defender in haste; the veteran French international read Karius' mind and intercepted for a tap-in. Then, in the closing phases, Bale's harmless, curling shot from distance evaded the 24-year-old's grasp and bobbled into the back of the net. Karius both apologized to the fans and shared words with fellow Swabian and Coach Jürgen Klopp after the match. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson sought to switch the focus talking to BT Sport.
"It's not about him and the mistakes he might have made, it's about the team. We weren't good enough on the night," Henderson said.
Even before Karius' woes and the final whistle, it was a match tainted by tears. Liverpool's Egyptian star Mohamed Salah went off injured in the first half after a clash with Real's Sergio Ramos. Dani Carvajal of Real was similarly distraught when injury claimed him moments later. Both players have World Cup dreams to keep an eye on, as well, and Klopp told Germany's Sky Sport after the game that Salah appeared to have fractured his shoulder and might miss the World Cup.
Real Madrid therefore claim a third consecutive Champions League crown. Their German playmaker Toni Kroos, who was quiet but surefooted in midfield on the night, becomes the first German to win the competition four times, still aged 28.
Follow all the action as it happened below in our live ticker:
FULL TIME. Real Madrid win the Champions League for a third time in a row.
90+3' — Ronaldo making his way through on goal as a fan charges into the penalty area, being promptly rugby tackled by a steward.
90+1' — Feels like we're just marking time at this point. Three additional minutes; Loris Karius still presumably hoping for the ground in front of his goal line to swallow him up.
88' — Another sub for Real, Asensio replaces Benzema up front. Just before Bale's second goal, German international Emre Can replaced Milner for Liverpool.
83' — GOAL! Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool. Gareth Bale. It's not a good night to be Loris Karius. Gareth Bale with a speculative shot from miles out, Loris Karius flaps at it and it slithers from his grasp into the goal.
82' — Mane booked for a frustrated foul on Ramos. A bit of revenge for his buddy Salah too, perhaps.
82' — Good save from Karius to deny Ronaldo, arriving at the back post.
79' — Spaces are opening up late in the game but neither side seems to have enough fuel left in the tank to exploit them, judging by the las few minutes. Real seem to have more than one eye on the clock, while Liverpool have been struggling to keep hold of the ball.
74' — Ronaldo breaks free in the box, looking to put the game to bed. But Andy Robertson gets in a huge tackle to put him off his shot.
73' — Firmino's appealing for a penalty for handball but to no avail. It did hit Casemiro's elbow, but would have been a fiercely cruel call.
69' — Sadio Mane rattles Real's post! His left-footer from around 18 yards out just wouldn't turn inside the post. There's life in this one yet.
64' — GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Liverpool.Gareth Bale with a bicycle kick to remember. Within minutes of coming into the game, he elevates and loops Marcelo's cross into the top corner.
60' — Karius with a strong save low to his left there, as the goalie seeks to make amends for his Benzema blunder. And, speaking of top knots, Gareth Bale is coming on for Real, replacing Isco.
56' — Jürgen Klopp, never one for a low key touchline celebration, let it all vent after those five hectic minutes, leaping around and pumping his fist after the goal.
55' — The Reds claw one back from a corner. Milner delivered, Lovren headed back across the box, and Mane slid in to put the ball home. As you were, gentlemen.
55' — GOAL! Real 1-1 Liverpool. Sadio Mane.
51' — Good grief, you don't see that every day. Karius collects a loose ball in the Liverpool goal, and tries to roll it straight out to his right back. Benzema read the keeper's mind and stuck his leg out, making contact with the ball and redirecting it into the net. Horrible moment for the keeper.
51' — GOAL! Real 1-0 Liverpool. Karim Benzema.
47' — Crossbar! Isco hits the bar after 30 seconds of slapstick stuff from Liverpool. Lovren, Alexander-Arnold and Lovren again all played their parts in ensuring Real had a shot at goal.
46' — We're off again. Second half begins.
HT analysis: Tears, but not that many thrills in the opening period. Those 45 minutes will stay in the memory mainly for the injuries to Mohamed Salah and Dani Carvajal. Nacho very nearly used his chance off the bench within seconds of joining the fray for Carvajal. England international Adam Lallana, recovering from a long-term injury, also has a major chance on the biggest stage that he may not have been expecting tonight. On the pitch, the early phases of play belonged to Liverpool, while the last 10 minutes of the half was one-way traffic for Real.
HALF TIME. Real Madrid 0-0 Liverpool.
45+3' — Shot Benzema, the tank got rolling in the final third and saw a chance to fire his big cannon. A well-hit strike, but wide of the mark. Klopp won't have enjoyed the last few moments of this half.
45+2' — Corner for Real as they turn the screws before the break. Kroos takes it, but Andy Robertson heads clear at the near post.
45' — Sub Nacho arrives unmarked at the back post and volleys into the side netting. Strong finish to the half for Real.
42' — Disallowed goal for Real Madrid! Offside flag calls it back. Ronaldo's header was only parried by Karius and Benzema followed it in. We're not 100 percent on which Real player was offside, Ronaldo or Benzema. Both were tight calls.
38' — So, it's time to take stock "sans Salah." Lallana seems to have taken up Mane's spot on the left wing and Mane has moved across to Salah's right flank. With the ball, no notable change in shape from Liverpool.
36' — Substitution: Nacho replaces Dani Carvajal. Liverpool are down an attacker, Real are down a defender.
35' — Dani Carvajal is the next player to have taken a knock, after Andy Robertson clipped his heels with his studs.
31' — Substitution Liverpool: Salah off, Lallana on. Half the world tears up their "Salah to score" betting slips.
29' — Salah's on the ground again, it's looking like Liverpool's star attacker won't be seeing out the season's grand finale. Adam Lallana's warming up. A tearful Salah is escorted off by the physio after a brief Klopp hug.
28' — Salah's back on, still holding his shoulder.
26' — Salah off, holding his shoulder, after tumbling with Sergio Ramos. The big Spaniard landed on the little Egyptian king, and there is a weight imbalance there.
23' — Two good chances for the Reds; Milner found Firmino in the box, whose shot was blocked. Trent Alexander-Arnold followed up on the loose ball; his shot was kept low and on target but wasn't enough to truly test Navas.
22' — Milner trips Carvajal, no card.
19' — Vigil van Dijk gets his head to a Liverpool corner ahead of goalie Navas, but can't keep the ball down.
15' — Cristiano Ronaldo's first big chance, made by some fine work from Dani Carvajal. He blasted the ball over the bar. Andy Robertson will thank his teammates, after he was skinned on the half-way line by Carvajal to carve out the opening.
14' — Navas punches clear after a period of Liverpool pressure with no real end product. But the quick Reds attacks are unsettling the Spanish giants.
13' — Free kick Liverpool as Kroos fouls Mane. It looked painful, but not malicious — the ref just gives Kroos a talking-to.
11' — Real's left back Marcelo wriggles free in midfield and tries a shot from range, not unlike the one he netted against Bayern in the semis. But he drags it wide of the post.
7' — Scary moment for Keylor Navas, coming to claim a bobbling ball as Salah and Alexander-Arnold bear down on him in the Real goal. Strong start to the game from the Reds.
6' — Liverpool tried a fancy set piece, with Milner squaring the ball so Salah could shoot. It wasn't executed that slickly, and Real's defense was able to block the shot.
4' — First chance for a decent cross falls to Liverpool's homegrown youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold. His delivery didn't pose much of a threat. Second later, Salah wins a free kick after a foul by Marcelo.
2' — Offside flag breaks up Real's first dangerous attack. Loris Karius dived to punch the ball clear, but his defense did not have to worry about the loose ball as Mazic blew his whistle.
20:42 — Pennants exchanged, time for the coin toss. Cameras catch Salah in a pregame prayer, and Kroos fixing his hair.
20:40 — Players in the tunnel. Captains Jordan Henderson and Sergio Ramos share a handshake. Ronaldo looking pensive, number 11 Mo Salah at the back of the Liverpool queue, to walk out 11th.
20:34 — Barely 10 minutes remain, and some scantily-clad ladies in pink are doing a thing with a rapper in the pregame show. Meanwhile, in more important matters, Serbia's Milorad Mazic will be the referee this evening.
20:25 — Huddersfield's manager David Wagner, Klopp's former second-team coach at Borussia Dortmund, is in the stadium, talking to Germany's Sky Sports. Asked what's possible for Liverpool, he says: "I think anything's possible. The game's totally open. (...) I certainly don't think it will finish 0-0."
20:15 — Half an hour until kickoff in Kyiv. Time for us on the sports desk this evening to make fools of ourselves and offer up our predictions.
Our social media wizard Felix Tamsut has it as 3-2 Real Madrid in 90 minutes.
Michael da Silva in Berlin is "going with my heart over my head," saying Liverpool, 2-1, after extra time.
And I (Mark Hallam) will go for Real Madrid, 3-1 in regular time. But that's mainly out of a silly superstition that I never predict a win for teams close to my heart.
20:03 — If you're looking for the dark horses in Liverpool's side to keep an eye on, you could do worse than focusing on James Milner in midfield and left back Andrew Robertson. Milner has more assists (9) than any other player in the history of the competition. As for Robertson, he was a fairly low-profile summer signing for around 8 million pounds (roughly €9 million, $10.5 million) but has developed in leaps and bounds this season. The Scot has plugged a crucial hole for Liverpool, actually freeing Milner up to return to his natural midfield home after spending much of the past two seasons covering the left back spot.
19:52 — If you fancy some borderline sacrilege before kickoff, we also took a look at the several similarities that bind Liverpool's current Swabian manager with the club's most famous Scottish mastermind, Bill Shankly.
19:50 — This chap, Toni Kroos, could pick up his fourth Champions League title tonight, having won in 2013 with Bayern Munich and the last two seasons at Real. Not bad work for a 28-year-old — and it would be a record for a German in the Champions League/European Cup.
19:40 — Real, meanwhile, line up with Benzema and Ronaldo in attack. Gareth Bale is only on the bench, making space for Isco, Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. That's looking like a hard night's work for Liverpool's midfield containing all that creativity.
19:36 — It's starting lineup time! No surprises in the Liverpool XI. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane lead the line. German international Emre Can, who was thought to be ruled out of the game with injury, has made a speedy recovery, but is only on the bench.
19:33 — One trouble spot for Klopp at Liverpool has been between the sticks. He's flitted between Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet ever since the German joined from Mainz in 2016. But it's Karius minding the goal tonight in surely the biggest game of the uncapped 24-year-old's career. You can read more about his sometimes turbulent time in red here: Loris Karius: Liverpool's thick-skinned first-choice keeper
19:28 — Fancy a whistle stop tour, in pictures, through Jürgen Klopp's footballing career? Say no more...
19:21 — Hard to predict how things might evolve this evening. Both Real and Liverpool tend to attack rather better than they defend, a promising sign for the neutrals, but then finals have a habit of being tense and nervy affairs. What's certain is that Liverpool's supporters have been keeping themselves entertained in Kyiv.
19:08 — What's so special about the 2012 German Cup? Well, it was the last final a Klopp team won, smashing Bayern Munich 5-2 and claiming the German double. But since then, Klopp's teams have been beaten in a total of five finals. Still, the German has a trademark response to talk of this curse: "If you want guarantees then don't qualify for a final. Stay at home or go on holiday! It is not nice when you lose a final, but I will always try again."
19:06 — Zinedine Zidane's feeling confident, Jürgen Klopp wants to show his team that bravery's best in the big games. Watch more here:
19:02 — Tonight's game in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv is a replay of the 1981 European Cup final, which ended 1-0 in Liverpool's favor at Paris' Parc des Princes.
19:00 — Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the 2018 Champions League final. Real Madrid take on Liverpool, seeking a hat trick of Champions League wins. Meanwhile, Jürgen Klopp's Reds play the role of dangerous underdogs, as the German manager seeks to end a run of five finals without a win at Dortmund and then Liverpool.