Salah injury marked beginning of the end for Liverpool

The loss of Mohamed Salah checked Liverpool's momentum as they were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.   -  Getty Images

You could hear the confidence shift.

As Mohamed Salah lay tearful on the turf, the raucous red noise that had been present in Kiev all day waned somewhat, while the volume levels grew at the other end of the ground - a previously quiet Real Madrid contingent suddenly feeling confident.

The defending champions had been put under intense pressure by this final's underdogs early on, with Liverpool threatening to make the kind of flying start that had served them well on their way to the decider.

Liverpool's customary high-pressing game impressed but did not yield the goal it probably deserved before Salah hit the deck and left everyone backing the Premier League side in an anxious state.

Supporters initially chanted Salah's name in the desperate hope that their outpouring of goodwill might, just might, have some healing effect on their hero, or at least convince him that he was okay to carry on.

But he wasn't. Salah had hurt his shoulder in a collision with Sergio Ramos and tried to play on before despondently walking from the field two minutes later, sobbing as he went.

The tears may well have been replicated in the Liverpool end - a group of fans almost in mourning for the loss of a man who has been a revelation on Merseyside since signing from Roma ahead of the 2017-18 season.

A suddenly subdued atmosphere - highlighted by the fact Madrid's supporters were increasingly vocal - lasted for much of the remainder of the first half.

Madrid lost Dani Carvajal to a hamstring injury soon after Salah had left the field, but his exit and the introduction of Nacho in his place only seemed to improve Zinedine Zidane's men, further compounding the psychological blow of losing Salah.

Worse was to come for Liverpool when - after Isco had hit the crossbar - Loris Karius threw the ball against the boot of Karim Benzema to concede Madrid's opener six minutes into the second half, but Sadio Mane's equaliser four minutes later hit the reset button on the Liverpool fans.

The noise was back. The belief was back. But not for long.

Despite re-energising their supporters, Liverpool's leveller did not return them to the level of performance that had seen them shine early on.

Gareth Bale, fresh off the bench, then produced a moment of sheer brilliance to restore the Madrid advantage with a stunning overhead kick, before Karius made his second horrifying mistake of the match as he misjudged a long-range effort from Wales international to concede a third.

And though Karius will take his fair share of criticism for his failings between the posts at the NSC Olimpiyskiy, Liverpool's loss of momentum and control in this fixture can be traced back to one moment: the moment Salah left the field.

Like it or not, for all the talk from some that there is more to Liverpool than Salah, the club's 'Egyptian King' has taken on a kind of divine status after an all-conquering first season on Merseyside, and he was unavailable when they needed him most.

The loss of a player of such importance, in a match of such importance, was an inescapable mental setback that had an undeniable negative impact - alongside Karius' calamities - on Liverpool's failed quest for a sixth European title.