Bale’s first was an ‘I-was-there’ goal, one to rival Zinédine Zidane, Mario Mandžukić and any other you care to name as the best in final history. Marcelo’s cross from the left looked harmless enough, but the Welshman, just inside the penalty area, somehow contorted his body to hook the ball over his head with enough power that it fizzed past Loris Karius.
Quite the contrast to Madrid’s opener on 51 minutes, when Karius attempted to roll the ball out to a team-mate only for Benzema to stick out a hopeful leg which turned out to be a goalscoring interception.
Isco had been denied by the crossbar shortly prior to that, but Liverpool – creaking ever since the talismanic Mohamed Salah had been forced off with a shoulder problem in the first half – were quick to dust themselves down after going behind. Indeed they were level just four minutes later, Dejan Lovren’s towering header from a corner poked in by Sadio Mané at the back post.
That was as good as it got for the Reds, though, Bale almost single-handedly turning the tide back in Madrid’s direction after coming on just past the hour. He struck his second with seven minutes left, a long-range shot that somehow squirted through Karius’s palms, and – after Mané had struck a post at the other end – almost added a third when clean through moments later. Madrid and Zidane had already wrapped up their very own hat-tricks by then, though.
Man of the match: Gareth Bale
What an impact. He only got 13 minutes as a substitute in Cardiff last year, but had a far more telling role to play during his half-hour this time round. That first goal really was one for the ages. Peter Rudbæk, speaking on behalf of the UEFA technical observers, said: “The observers chose Bale due to his game-changing display off the bench and his outstanding acrobatic goal to put his team ahead.”