Ronald’oh! Twitter Goes Into Meltdown After Cristiano Ronaldo Is Controversially Sent Off in UCL

These days we associate ​Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League with stunning overhead kicks, sublime hattricks and iconic images of him lifting the trophy on numerous occasions.

​However, not tonight! His Champions League debut for ​Juventus lasted just 29 minutes, after the forward was sent off for violent conduct against Valencia.

UEFA Champions League'Valencia FC v Juventus FC'

There was much confusion when the initial decision was given, and even once the replays were shown fans still weren’t entirely sure what Ronaldo actually did. The cameras seemed to show the Portuguese hit Jeison Murillo’s head, however, whether it was malicious or intentional is yet to be decided.

​Regardless, it is his first ever red card in the competition and he left his Juventus teammates a lot to do with still an hour left to play in their clash with the Spaniards. Once he was given his marching orders, Twitter users were almost instant to react to the incident and have their say.
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Before ​Manchester United fans get too excited thinking he’ll be suspended for both their clashes against Juventus, the Champions League rules state a straight red card warrants a one-game suspension. This means he’ll miss the Bianconeri’s next clash against Young Boys, but will still be eligible for both ties against United.​​

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Real Madrid Star Explains ‘Extra Motivation’ to Win Fourth Straight Champions League Title

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has claimed that the reigning Champions League winners will have “extra motivation” to lift the title once again this season as the final of the competition will be played at rivals Atlético Madrid’s home stadium.

Los Blancos have lifted the Champions League in each of the last three seasons, most recently securing a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev. The trophy hasn’t left Spain since the 2013/14 season, with Real Madrid – and Barcelona once – dominating the last five finals.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Many have tipped Real Madrid to lose out on their coveted trophy this season due to the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has upped sticks in an attempt to bring the Champions League title to Juventus.

But Ramos claims that the squad has been given an extra boost by learning this year’s final will be played at the Wanda Metropolitano, the new home of bitter rivals Atlético.

This season is an extra motivation for us because the final is in our rival’s stadium and to lift the trophy here would be extra special,” Ramos said ahead of their Champions League group stage opener against AS Roma, quoted by Marca.

They said it was impossible to win two in a row, we did it, the same thing was repeated with the third one and we also achieved it This team moves through great challenges and winning a new Champions League at the Wanda Metropolitano is another way to make history.”

Real Madrid should enjoy somewhat of a routine passage into the knockout stages of the competition this season. Along with Italian side Roma, Julen Lopetegui’s side will also come up against CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzeň.

Athletic de Bilbao v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander

Although another Champions League title is the ultimate goal for Europe’s biggest clubs, Real Madrid can’t afford to take the foot off the gas in La Liga. A recent draw to Athletic Bilbao has already seen Barcelona claim a two point lead at the top of the table. 

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An ‘All-Star’ XI of the Worst Players Ever to Win the Champions League

Winning the Champions League is obviously great, right? There’s really no higher accolade in  football than Europe’s premier cup competition.

However, winning the tournament doesn’t necessarily define a player’s worth. Gigi Buffon has never got his gloves around the big-eared trophy, nor have Dennis Bergkamp, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michael Ballack nor the original Ronaldo.

Those and others must look on greener than a freshly-mown pitch in August with envy at the host of seemingly less deserving players who can gloat with medals pride of place in their cabinets.

Which begs the question: who are the actual, objectively worst players to ever lift the trophy, since its 1993 rebrand?

Here’s an ‘all-star’ XI of men who can count themselves very lucky to have been involved with the right team at the right time…

1. Goalkeeper: Cesar Sanchez (Real Madrid – 2002)

A slightly harsh inclusion maybe, but as capable a keeper as Cesar was, he was only ever an understudy to Iker Casillas, making just 20 appearances for Real Madrid in five years.

Despite getting a rare moment to shine in the 2002 Champions League run, Cesar went off injured in the second half of the final and was replaced by the boy wonder Casillas.

He later spent a year at Tottenham, where he made exactly no league appearances.

2. Right Back: Oleguer (Barcelona – 2006)

More known for his politics than his playing ability, Oleguer is the ‘pointless answer’ when trying to name the Barcelona Champions League winning team of 2006, that included the likes of Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Carles Puyol.

The fervent Catalan nationalist struggled to contain Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry in the final against Arsenal and was eventually subbed off for the match-winning goalscorer Juliano Belletti.

3. Left Back: Djimi Traore (Liverpool – 2005)

Has to be really, I suppose.

However, laugh and sneer all you want at the poster boy for unworthy winners, but the sentence ‘Djimi Traore won the Champions League’ will never not be true. And he won the FA Cup. And he scored this ​goal.

And, as the Wernham Hogg’s most famous regional manager once said: that’s the real quiz.

4. Centre Back: Roque Junior (AC Milan – 2003)

Incredibly Roque Junior is one of precious few to have won both the Champions League and World Cup, and even fewer to have taken home both in consecutive years.

The Brazilian was a second half sub as AC Milan beat Juventus in 2003, replacing the legendary Alessandro Costacurta, but is ‘best’ remembered in England for his error-riddled loan spell with Leeds United the following season, when he was sent off on his home debut.

5. Centre Back: Stefano Nava (AC Milan – 1994)

Be honest. You’ve never heard of him, have you?

Stefano Nava was largely an unused and unnoticed backup to possibly the greatest back four in the history of football. The names Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti rarely changed as Milan dominated in the early 1990s. Nava, meanwhile, only made a handful of outings for his hometown side in two spells totalling four years.

He got a token few minutes on the pitch as the legendary side dismantled Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 final.

6. Centre Midfield: Anderson (Man Utd – 2008)

Once ​described by Wes Brown as the least intelligent teammate he’s ever had. 

In fairness to Anderson, he was only brought on right at the dying moments of extra time in order to take a penalty in the shootout of 2008’s all-English final against Chelsea – which he duly scored.

The Brazilian’s career looks solid as a Wikipedia entry – four Premier Leagues, two Primeira Ligas and a Champions League – but in actuality he was fairly rubbish.

The Golden Boy award winner never lived up to his billing and (still only 30) is now at Adana Demirspor… that’s in Turkey.

7. Centre Midfield: Jaime Sánchez Fernández (Real Madrid – 1998)

Something of a journeyman, Jaime made 45 first team appearances for Real in the pre-Galacticos era, before embarking on a career of bit part roles as a bang average defensive midfielder for hire at places like Tenerife, Albacete and Racing Ferrol. 

Replaced Fernando Morientes for the final ten, as Los Blancos closed out a 1-0 win over Juventus.

8. Attacking Midfield: Harry Kewell (Liverpool – 2005)

Harry Kewell came to Liverpool as something of a steal for £5m in 2003, following a blistering few seasons at Leeds. 

However, injuries including (the presumably as painful as it is amusing-sounding) Gilmore’s Groin seemed to ravage the man and he never really won over the Anfield crowd.

Kewell was a controversial starting pick for the final, but lasted just 23 minutes before a torn muscle forced him off. 

9. Attacking Midfield: Jesper Blomqvist (Man Utd – 1999)

Jesper Blomqvist has the look a forgotten Lannister brother from Game of Thrones, and is one of the least remembered names from Man Utd’s 1999 treble-winning side.

The unspectacular Swede was a peripheral presence at Old Trafford but benefitted immensely from the suspensions of midfield duo Roy Keane and Paul Scholes for the final, where his key contribution was making way for Teddy Sheringham, who got the equaliser.

10. Attacking Midfield: Carlos Alberto (Porto – 2004)

Rated as one for the future, Carlos Alberto rarely troubled the scoresheets during a year at Porto, before heading home to Brazil and embarking on a whistle stop tour of the country picking up more clubs than goals along the way.

While attitude problems ruined any hope of career greatness, Alberto did score the opener in the 3-0 victory over AS Monaco way back when Jose Mourinho was still the coolest cat around.

11. Striker: Michele Padovano (Juventus – 1996)

Michele Padovano’s two-year spell at Juventus in a nomadic career happily overlapped with the 1996 Champions League victory over Ajax.

The injury-prone clogger of a forward also turned out for Crystal Palace, where he scored just one goal in a season.

In an unusual post-playing career move, he was ​sentenced to eight years behind bars for hashish trafficking in 2011.

Note:

1) This is just a bit of fun, chill out already.

2) Somewhat arbitrarily, I have decreed that all included must have played at least a minute in the final, to weed out the Jonathan Greening from the chaff.

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4 Key Battles That Could Decide Real Madrid’s Clash With Roma on Wednesday Night

​Real Madrid begin their defence of the Champions League as they entertain Roma at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday night.

An unbeaten start to La Liga, scoring eight while conceding only three, means that Julen Lopetegui’s side are clear favourites for the Group G clash – at least that’s what the paper suggests. 

Roma, however have work to do in Serie A, winning only one of their opening four games, conceding seven in the progress. They travel to Madrid a very different side to the one that reached the semi-finals of this competition at the expense of Barcelona just a few months ago.

Here are four key battles which could determine the outcome of this one.

4. Edin Dzeko vs Sergio Ramos

Pivotal in Roma’s brilliant run last season, Edin Dzeko will once again be called upon to produce magic. Scoring eight and assisting a further five in last year’s competition Dzeko has the ability to run defences ragged with his bullying physique and lethal finishing. 

Starting the season with a goal and assist, Dzeko will eye the Bernabéu as the perfect venue to kick start his season. 

The man looking to stop him is Sergio Ramos. The hardened defender is certainly no pushover and although has a tendency to lose his temper, he is up there with the worlds best.

Dzeko will know he has to be at his upmost best to get anything out of Wednesday night. 

3. Steven Nzonzi vs Luka Modric

Nzonzi often goes under the radar. Linked with a move to Arsenal after winning the World Cup with France, the former Seville man opted for a summer move to Roma.

Despite only appearing in two of Roma’s opening four Serie A matches, the dogged midfielder has a successful pass completion rate of 90.8% and will need to replicate this on Wednesday night to prevent his opposite number seeing much of the ball. 

Modric, fresh of the back of outstanding World Cup exploits, leading Croatia to the final is one of the worlds best in possession. Capable of playing a defense splitting pass this midfield maestro has all the tools to unlock the Roma defense and it will be up to Nzonzi to stop him.

2. Stephan El Shaarawy vs Dani Carvajal

Once lauded as one of Europe’s brightest prospects, the fairy-tale career hasn’t quite worked out for Stephan El Shaarawy. 

However he is now enjoying something of a renaissance in the Italian capital. Despite, having been left out of the Italian national squad for over a year, the 25-year-old still has time to change his fortunes.

Known for his skill and ability to play on both the right and left of the attack, El Shaarawy can cause significant problems for the Madrid defence.

Known for his attacking prowess, Carvajal will need to have his defensive wits about him on Wednesday night.

1. Gareth Bale vs Aleksandar Kolarov

Gareth Bale has always possessed the tools to be a world beater. Now he has the license. Blessed with blistering speed, power and the ability to do the unthinkable on instinct, he truly is one of the most dangerous players on the planet.

The flying Welshman has already netted on three occasions this season and not many would bet against him to netting again on Wednesday night. 

However, one area not as distinguished is Bale’s defending. The man looking to take advantage is the well-traveled Kolarov. Formerly of Manchester City, Kolarov has started all four of Roma’s Serie A matches this season. 

A powerful yet rugged fullback, Kolarov will certainty not give Bale an easy ride. Positive in possession, Kolarov often favors a darting forward run and is not afraid to take opportunities to shoot at goal with his powerful strike.

Whoever comes out on top in these key battles may very well end up having the final say in Wednesday’s match.

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‘Ignorance Is Bold’: Sergio Ramos Responds After Griezmann Compares Himself to Ronaldo & Messi

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has hit out at Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann following the Frenchman’s claims that he is on a level with his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as his perennial rival Lionel Messi.

Griezmann, who won the World Cup with France this year, has been insistent on competing with Ronaldo and Messi where individual awards are concerned. The Atleti striker missed out on a place in the top three for this year’s The Best FIFA Men’s Player award and ​was not shy in his assessment that he maybe should’ve been among the contenders.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - La Liga

The ​Real Madrid defender, though, felt he needed to call the France international out and put him in his place.

“Griezmann saying he is on the same table than Cristiano and Messi? Ignorance is very bold,” he told reporters (via Goal). “I remember Raúl, Francesco Totti, Iker Casillas, Paolo Maldini… They won every title and they don’t have a Ballon d’Or.

“Everybody is free to give his opinion and thoughts, but this guy should let himself be advised by Cholo Simeone, Diego Godín or Koke, who have some values which could be helpful to him.

“Anyway, he is a great player and I wish him the best.”

The Spaniard has also urged Madrid to move on from Ronaldo, with the superstar having left for Juventus this summer after a nine-year metier at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Cristiano had a wonderful time in Madrid, but we can’t keep living off what he did,” he continued. “Real Madrid start from zero every season. It’s a big gap but it’s being filled by players with amazing talent.

“We have built a superb squad capable of competing as well as when Cristiano was here. We respect him and wish him all the best.”

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Every Premier League Club’s Most Memorable Opening Match in the Champions League Group Stages

The Champions League group stages get underway this week, with four English teams hoping that they can be the one to end Real Madrid’s recent dominance of the competition.

This year’s final will be in Madrid (as if Real need any more help!) but teams hoping to compete for the trophy in May will have to navigate 12 games before then, starting this week with some mouth-watering fixtures including Liverpool vs Paris Saint-Germain and Inter vs Tottenham.

Great stories often have humble beginnings, but some European campaigns start with a bang. Here are the best opening group stage matches played by each of the 10 English clubs to have competed in the Champions League.

10. Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Spartak Moscow (1995/96)

Blackburn only ever competed in the Champions League once and it was exactly as forgettable as this result suggests. Sergei Yuran’s first half goal gave the Russian side the victory in a group where they went on to record maximum points.

Rovers finished bottom of the group, only salvaging some late pride thanks to a 4-1 win over Rosenborg on matchday six.

9. Barcelona 4-0 Leeds United (2000/01)

Leeds’ only season in the Champions League began in ignominious fashion as they were thrashed by Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Goals from Rivaldo and Frank de Boer gave Barca a comfortable half time lead before Patrick Kluivert’s second half brace sealed the emphatic win.

Yet unbelievably, it was Leeds who progressed to the knockout stages at Barcelona’s expense, finishing second in the group behind AC Milan. They also beat Deportivo in the quarter-finals but a semi-final against Valencia proved a step too far.

8. Standard Liege 2-3 Arsenal (2009/10)

When it comes to Arsenal and great European nights, there aren’t many to choose from, but this 3-2 win in Belgium at the start of the 2009/10 campaign epitomised the Gunners at the time: exciting to watch, but far too vulnerable defensively to compete with the very best.

It looked like a routine fixture against a side making their group stage debut but Arsenal endured a nightmare start. Future Premier League flops Eliaquim Mangala and Milan Jovanovic gave Standard Liege a two-goal lead within the first five minutes.

Nicklas Bendtner halved the arrears on the stroke of half time and second half goals from Thomas Vermaelen and Eduardo spared Arsenal’s blushes, but their weaknesses had been cruelly exposed. No wonder Lionel Messi helped himself to four goals against them in the quarter-finals.

7. Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla (2017/18)

Liverpool often don’t click into gear in the Champions League until the knockout stages, resulting in some underwhelming opening matches. This clash last season is probably the pick of the bunch. Liverpool fancied their chances against Sevilla but fell behind within five minutes to Wissam Ben Yedder’s tap-in.

Liverpool quickly turned it around thanks to two men who would make scoring in the Champions League a habit. First Roberto Firmino popped up with a poacher’s finish from Alberto Moreno’s cross, before a massive deflection gave Mohamed Salah his first European goal for the Reds.

Jurgen Klopp’s team wasted chances to wrap the game up and were punished for their profligacy by Angel Correa’s smart finish. A frustrating night at Anfield, but Liverpool had shown the attacking potential that would take them all the way to Kiev.

6. Club Brugge 0-3 Leicester City (2016/17)

After the previous season’s unlikely heroics, the question was whether Leicester could continue their fairytale story in the Champions League. An opening match against Club Brugge gave them a chance, but they could not have dreamed of a night like this.

In just the fourth minute, a long throw into the Belgians’ box caused confusion and the ball dropped to Marc Albrighton, who bundled it into the empty net. The Foxes never looked back and Riyad Mahrez’s sublime free kick made it 2-0 before the half-hour mark.

Mahrez converted a penalty after half time to put the icing on the cake and set Leicester on their way to topping Group G. They would go further than any other English team that season, eventually bowing out in the quarter-finals to Atletico Madrid.

5. Tottenham 3-1 Borussia Dortmund (2017/18)

Plenty of people were writing Tottenham off the second they were paired with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund last season, but this was the perfect way to silence the doubters in the first Champions League match to be played at the new Wembley.

An early strike from Son Heung-min set the tone for a memorable night and although Andriy Yarmolenko curled in a brilliant equaliser, the parity didn’t last long. Harry Kane tussled his way past the Dortmund defence before scoring a carbon copy of Son’s opener.

Kane’s second wrapped it up after the interval as Spurs made a huge statement of intent. Real Madrid also lost by the same scoreline at Wembley later in the group stage, but Juventus ended Tottenham’s ambitions in the last 16.

4. Chelsea 2-2 Juventus (2012/13)

Reigning champions Chelsea looked like they were on a mission to retain their title in the first half of their opening group match against Juventus in 2012. Two goals from Oscar, the second of which was absolutely spectacular, put breathing space between the Blues and their opponents.

But Arturo Vidal caught Chelsea cold to halve the deficit before the break, and Fabio Quagliarella completed the comeback late in the second half.

By the time the two teams met again in Turin, Chelsea had lost to Shakhtar Donetsk and were staring down the barrel of an early exit. Juve’s 3-0 win eliminated the Blues and manager Roberto Di Matteo lost his job just six months after lifting the Champions League trophy.

3. Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester City (2012/13)

Manchester City’s Champions League debut the previous season had ended with a group stage exit and a group containing Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax looked like a very difficult assignment on paper.

But City were not daunted by the surroundings of the Santiago Bernabeu on opening night. Edin Dzeko’s composed finish broke the deadlock with 20 minutes remaining, and although Marcelo equalised, Aleksandar Kolorov’s free kick put the English side within touching distance of a famous victory.

Alas, it was not to be. Karim Benzema brought the scores level again just two minutes later before Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute shot deceived Joe Hart for the winner. It was all downhill from there for City, who didn’t win any of their six group games. 

2. Newcastle United 3-2 Barcelona (1997/98)

Newcastle’s first ever Champions League group game remains one of the most memorable matches in the club’s history, and it is for these sorts of occasions that Magpies fans can only yearn in their current predicament.

The hero of the hour was Tino Asprilla. The Colombian striker won and converted a penalty to break the deadlock midway through the first half, before burying Keith Gillespie’s fantastic cross from point-blank range eight minutes later.

Asprilla looked to have sealed the win with his hat-trick goal just after the restart, although Newcastle were made to sweat by goals from Luis Enrique and Figo. The home side held on for a famous triumph, but that was as good as it got: they finished third in the group and were eliminated.

1. Manchester United 3-3 Barcelona (1998/99)

A Champions League campaign that would end in the craziest fashion also started that way for Manchester United, who shared six goals with Barcelona in one of the best opening matches the competition has ever seen.

Goals from Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes gave United the perfect start in front of an electric atmosphere at Old Trafford. But complacency crept in after half time and Barcelona pulled level thanks to Sonny Anderson’s strike and Giovanni’s controversial penalty.

A trademark David Beckham free kick restored the hosts’ advantage, but Nicky Butt was sent off for handball in the box and Barca were awarded a second penalty, which Luis Enrique converted to leave United hanging on for a point.

Remarkably, United would also draw 3-3 against Barcelona in the reverse fixture as they finished second in the group behind Bayern Munich. The following spring, United and Bayern were reunited in Barcelona for the final, and we all know what happened there.

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PHOTOS: Real Madrid a Step Closer to Stadium Renovation With Work Set for Late 2018

Real Madrid have edged closer to getting the green light over their plans to renovate the Santiago Bernabéu, according to reports.

Los Blancos are hoping to start works on revamping their iconic stadium by the end of this year, with the project set to cost an estimated £350m (€400m).



A report from Marca has outlined how the new look Santiago Bernabéu, which will have a retractable roof, a 360-degree video screen and shopping facilities, could get underway in a matter of months as soon as the club partners give permission to finance the works.

Real Madrid have been unable to secure any deal which will pay for the renovation, so the club will have to put themselves into debt in order for the work to go ahead.

It is unknown at this stage what effect putting the club into so much debt will have on the operation of Real Madrid’s first team, but it has been widely speculated that these plans will be the final nail in the coffin for the club’s Galácticos era.

FBL-FRIENDLY-ESP-ITA-REAL MADRID-MILAN

Club president Florentino Pérez has previously hinted about a decision to move Real Madrid away from the “dizzying” transfer market, with Los Blancos now set to only recruit promising players like summer signings Álvaro Odriozola and Vinícius Júnior.

“We know very well that the international footballing landscape has changed in a dizzying way and we must adapt and face up to this new reality,” Pérez said back in July. 

We will put our faith strongly on the young talents that one day want to be the best in the world. That’s why Real Madrid are intensely strengthening the process of looking for young players.”

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Mesut Ozil Names Former Teammate ‘One of the Greatest Footballers Who’s Ever Lived’

Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has credited former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo with making him a better player and believes the now Juventus superstar is ‘one of the greatest footballers who’s ever lived’ as a result of how hard he has worked for all of his achievements.

Ozil spent three years alongside Ronaldo in Spain and was a key member of Real’s 2011/12 La Liga winning side, revealing that time with the Portuguese icon rubbed off on his own game.

Real Madrid's German midfielder Mesut Oe

“People always ask me about is what it was like to play with Cristiano Ronaldo and all I can say is that I’ve never seen a person like him,” the Gunners number 10 told Arsenal.com.

“He works really hard and is the first guy to get into the training ground, then the last one to leave. He’s very professional and always wants to win, even in the training games,” Ozil added.

“Of course I was looking at what he was doing, even something as simple as just looking at his shooting technique.

“I really enjoyed playing with him because he made me better on the pitch and he’s a great guy off it, too. I gave him loads of assists and he doesn’t need me to remind him of that! It was easy to play with him because you didn’t need to create a lot of chances.

“Even if I just gave him two passes, he would score two goals and that’s why he’s one of the greatest footballers who’s ever lived.”

Ozil also credit his time at Real with teaching how to cope with pressure and expectation, to the point where he now actively enjoys playing under pressure.

Arsenal v Paris Saint Germain - International Champions Cup 2018

“If you play for Real Madrid, even if you get a draw against Barcelona, it’s the worst thing in the world. You have to win every game. If you win 10 games in a row and then maybe draw at home against a smaller team in the next game, you’re under so much pressure,” he explained.

“I really learned about controlling the pressure and enjoying it while I was there.”

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Gareth Bale Reveals What He Said to Loris Karius After Champions League Final Mistakes

​Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has revealed the encouragement he gave to Loris Karius after the Liverpool goalkeeper’s mistakes allowed Bale’s team to win the Champions League final in May.

Much to his frustration, Bale started on the bench in Kiev but came into the match with the scores locked at 1-1. Karius’ first error had gifted a goal to Karim Benzema, but Sadio Mane restored parity.

It was ​Bale who took control of the game, first firing an incredible overhead kick beyond the despairing dive of Karius before profiting from another lapse of concentration on the German’s part. He spilled Bale’s shot over the line to put the game beyond ​Liverpool.

FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-REAL MADRID

Karius was distraught at the final whistle but Bale did his best to console him, and even now the Welshman insists that Karius’ second mistake was not as bad as it looked.

“I always try to put a bit of wobble on the ball,” Bale told the ​Daily Mail. “It’s the same with free-kicks. You try to make it more difficult because if it doesn’t go in the corner I always give them a problem if it’s right down their throat.

“I just said [to Karius], ‘keep your head up’. Mistakes happen. It’s just unfortunate it’s in a final. Yes, I suppose it’s not quite as bad as it looked but I suppose he should save it.”

Real Madrid CF v CD Leganes - La Liga

Being left on the bench for the final left Bale with doubts about his future, but the resignation of manager Zinedine Zidane and departure of star player Cristiano Ronaldo has given the 29-year-old a new lease of leave at the Santiago Bernabeu.

He scored in each of Real Madrid’s first three La Liga games this season, before providing the assist for Isco’s equaliser against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

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Julen Lopetegui Explains Where Real Madrid Must Improve After Disappointing Draw With Athletic

​​Real were held to a 1-1 draw away to Athletic at the San Mames Stadium, leaving Barcelona with the only 100% record remaining in La Liga.

Manager Julen Lopetegui remained positive after the match, but admitted his team should have been more clinical in the game, the Spaniard stating: “We weren’t decisive in the big moments.

Athletic de Bilbao v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander

“It’s a difficult ground, but I think that in the second half the boys were much more successful in an attacking sense and we generated many chances.”

Lopetegui’s decision to bring on Isco for Luka Modric, after the Croatian had not been able to influence the game from midfield as he so often does, proved pivotal after the Spaniard scored Real’s equaliser. 

Lopetegui made it clear in his press conference why he brought on Isco for Modric, explaining: “With Isco we were looking for a player to get behind the midfielders and who could receive the ball.”

Lopetegui then chose to bring on Lucas Vazquez late on instead of newly-named number 7 Mariano as Real pushed for the winner, with Real’s manager explaining: “He (Mariano) could have been an option.

“But we understood that Gareth Bale needed a rest and we decided to put Lucas on to create a lot of danger.”

Athletic Club v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

Lopetegui ended his press conference acknowledging his side should have been able to win the game as they pushed for a winner late in the second half, the Real manager saying: “In the second half we have improved a lot and in a very intense match, we were superior and could’ve scored more than one goal.”

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