Heartbreak and disgust: Liverpool come up short, but UEFA should be ashamed by Champions League final chaos

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Liverpool fans Van Dijk GFX
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The Reds were beaten by Real Madrid on a night where thousands of travelling fans were locked out of the Stade de France and attacked by French police

Match statistics: Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid

The tears will dry and the anger will subside.

But it will take a while.

A day which started with such hope and such promise ended only in heartbreak for Liverpool.

Well, heartbreak, rage, disbelief and disgust, if you want the full picture.

Mistreated off the pitch, they were pickpocketed on it. Vinicius Junior’s second-half strike settled this Champions League final, and ensured that for the 14th time, Real Madrid will get their hands on club football’s most famous trophy.

At the end, Liverpool’s players sunk to the floor, broken. They’d given everything they had, but it wasn’t enough. A game too far, you might say, but were it not for the heroics of Thibaut Courtois, we’d be talking about the perfect end to a quite magnificent season for the Reds.

Instead, their incredible journey ends here, in Paris and in disappointment. Close, but not quite close enough. The cruel world of elite-level football, summed up in a neat, 90-minute package.

Mohamed Salah Liverpool Real Madrid Champions League final 2022

How they lost is anyone’s guess. How they didn’t score should be the subject of future theses. Courtois was super-human, denying Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the first half, then Salah on three occasions in the second. Each save was different, each was crucial.

Salah alone had six shots, more than anyone has ever managed in a Champions League final, but he, and Liverpool, could find no way past the giant Belgian.

Their fans, meanwhile, were discovering just how bad UEFA are at organising big football events, and just how unsympathetic the French police can be towards travelling supporters.

What happened outside the stadium should shame the authorities, and demands an immediate - and thorough - investigation.

How on earth did we end up with a situation like this, with the kick off of the biggest game in club football delayed by more than half an hour, because hundreds of Liverpool fans were stuck outside, waiting behind a locked gate?

How do we get to the point where those fans, with legitimate tickets, were then attacked with tear gas and pepper spray, and then, ridiculously but not surprisingly, held up as the cause of the issue by UEFA?

Inside the stadium, we were told that the kick off had been delayed because fans had “arrived late”. It was crass and predictable, a blatant attempt to deflect the blame away from those who deserve it. Organisers who failed to organise, blaming ordinary supporters for their own errors.

The fans outside told us the truth, and we should listen to them. This was no late arrival, it wasn’t misbehaviour or anything sinister. It was supporters arriving at a European Cup final and being treated like dogs. “Unacceptable,” said Liverpool in a statement, which also called for a formal investigation into events outside the ground.

UEFA’s response was to blame “fake tickets” for the problems, again attempting to lay the blame at the feet of fans, many of whom missed some or all of the first half of the game, some of whom turned back and went home, their evening and their weekend ruined before Real Madrid even got a chance to do it.

You don’t have to look far to find the truth. You can read it in the accounts of the supporters, but if you prefer you can look back through the tweets of Gary Lineker and Kelly Cates. You could ask Joel Matip’s brother, Marvin, who was caught up in the mayhem along with his pregnant wife, or Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, who spent most of the first half outside the ground, trying to help his brother and son.

What about Liverpool owner Mike Gordon, who also witnessed the scenes first-hand? Other Liverpool employees suffered. A reporter from the Associated Press was dragged into a hut and told to delete any video footage he had captured on his phone, or he would have his accreditation taken away.

Journalists were there to witness it all. UEFA can issue as many statements as they like, but this is 2022, where everything is seen and everything is captured. They, and the French authorities, must not be allowed to brush this one under the carpet, or worse, to pass the buck.

As for Liverpool’s players, they can only reflect on what might have been. After seeing the Premier League title elude them last weekend, they watched the Champions League slip away this time around.

Sadio Mane Liverpool 2021-22

There’s a victory parade planned on Merseyside on Sunday, and though they deserve the appreciation and adulation that their supporters will give them, it will be a tough one to get up for, for Jurgen Klopp and his team.

They’ll come again, for sure. They’re too good not to. Their season will be judged harshly in the coming days, no doubt, as pundits and rival fans stick the knife in, but the fact remains that they came closer than any English side has ever come to achieving the impossible.

One more point, one more goal, one less-brilliant opposing goalkeeper perhaps, and they’d have had the lot.

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As it is, they must content themselves with the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, and with the ride they have taken their fans on this season. It’s been special to report on, never mind to live it or to play in it.

When the dust settles they can be proud, and they will. But it will take a little bit of time.

Paris is the city of love, but it broke their hearts here. They won’t forget tonight in a hurry.

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