Rivals

Anatomy of a goal: Gareth Bale's overhead kick in the 2018 Champions League final

Sean Walsh
Image by 90min
Image by 90min /
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Few players will ever compete in a Champions League final. Fewer players will score in a Champions League final. Fewer players will ever score an overhead kick to help win a Champions League final.

In fact, that list is narrowed to one: Gareth Bale.

The golfing Welshman has never truly been adored at Real Madrid, but he stands as one of the most influential figures in their history. His defining, crowning and unquestionable glory came in 2018.

Los Blancos just about made it through the quarter-finals and semi-finals of that season's Champions League, limping over the line against Juventus and Bayern Munich.

They came up against an unfancied Liverpool side in the showpiece event in Kyiv. Jurgen Klopp had built an impressive team with the record-breaking Mohamed Salah leading the line, but this was not the all-conquering Reds outfit we know today.

After Salah was substituted with a dislocated shoulder in the first half, Real Madrid looked to be in the driving seat. They took the lead after a concussed Loris Karius threw the ball straight into Karim Benzema's thigh, but this was quickly canceled out by Sadio Mane's tap-in from a corner.

With just over an hour played, Real manager Zinedine Zidane threw Bale on for the ineffective Isco to help turn the tide again. As impacts substitutions go, few were better than this one.

Less than 90 seconds after coming on, the ex-Tottenham winger had made his mark.

Casemiro's clever chipped ball over the top of the Liverpool midfield found countryman Marcelo, who was quickly closed down by Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Brazilian cut inside onto his weaker right foot, only for Mane to be similarly pressing him too.

Marcelo instinctively crossed the ball towards the penalty area, where Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were essentially holding hands (my old football coach used to teach us that if you were within a yard of a teammate in open play, you had to hold hands for the next minute to highlight how daft you were being).

Standing slightly higher than that duo was Bale, who had cut inside and evaded Andy Robertson. Marcelo's cross was under-hit and was never going to reach either of Real's nominal target men, and so in less than a split-second, Bale decided the best cause of action was to attempt an audacious overhead kick.

It just about proved to be one of the best decisions of his life.

Ronaldo had scored with a similar acrobatic effort in Real's run to Kyiv, but this was even better. Even if Karius hadn't been concussed, he still wouldn't have gotten anywhere near it.

Bale's strike flew up and over the German at such speed that the Welshman didn't even have time to get to his feet again before it had gone in. A usually calm and confident figure, Bale went racing off in celebration, bringing out a Jurgen Klinsmann-esque dive to expend that extra energy and adrenaline.

After clawing their way back into the final, that was the blow to truly knock the wind out of Liverpool's sails. Their dreams were shattered once and for all when Karius parried Bale's 30-yard effort into his own net.

But in a final with so many notable events and storybook narratives, Bale's overhead kick stands above them all.


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