And there it is Real Madrid are Champions League holders for a record-breaking third consecutive season. But the bare match facts of a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev barely do the game justice.
Liverpool had already suffered the devastating blow of losing top scorer Mohamed Salah in the first half – with a shoulder injury sustained in a challenge with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos – before Gareth Bale scored one of European football’s greatest ever goals to give Real Madrid a 64th minute 2-1 lead. The Welshman, the subject of endless summer transfer speculation, later consolidated his stellar contribution with a third goal in a man of the match cameo from the bench.
But for Liverpool fans across the globe, the talk is not of Bale, or Real’s peerless feat, but of one of the great goalkeeping horror-shows of all time, performed by their own Loris Karius.
In 51 minutes, the hapless German keeper’s attempted throw rebounded off Karim Benzema’ and rolled into the net to break the deadlock. And Karius compounded the error, many times over, by fisting Gareth Bale’s 83rd minute speculative shot from distance into his own net for a game-settling third goal as Liverpool sought an equaliser.
Watching Loris Karius’s excruciating double whammy brought mind that great line, paraphrased and attributed to Karl Marx via Engels as:
History repeats itself the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
In this case though Loris Karius appears to have added a wholly different slant, a whole new dimension, to the concept. Forget Historical Materialism, this is a spin on an old idea that is all the big stopper’s own.
Every keeper has ‘tremors’, every keeper makes mistakes. Some make game-changing errors and Loris Karius has certainly not been immune to prior criticism, but this was something altogether different in scale.
With reports revealing today that police had been made aware of social media death threats in the aftermath of the defeat it is hard to feel anything but sympathy. That it doesn’t happen more often is the only surprise, but it looked to me as though Karius’ head had ‘gone’ in the act of gifting Benzema the opener and both catastrophic howlers were likely linked.
Ironically, since the turn of the year, Karius appeared to have actually found some sort of equilibrium and was enjoying his most settled spell as a Liverpool player. He’d seen off his Belgian rival Simon Mignolet to establish himself as The Reds’ first choice, and the consensus was that the back four and keeper had finally found some much-needed consistency.
At 24 years of age, the ex-Man City and Mainz 05 man is still a young keeper but nobody complained overly-much when Klopp confirmed he was no The Reds’ No. 1 in February: Jurgen Klopp to make goalkeeper Loris Karius Liverpool No 1.
It speaks volumes as to the shifting sands on which this Beautiful Game is built that no-one was overly talking up the potential of keeper error settling the Champions League Final in their match previews.
Karius has been erratic, yes. But this was unpredictably poor. By any standards. So much so that I doubt he will ever really recover as a keeper and almost certainly not as a Liverpool player.
Amidst the death threats and tears Karius took to twitter to offer Liverpool fans his heartfelt apologies: “Haven’t really slept until now… the scenes are still running through my head again and again… I’m infinitely sorry to my teammates, for you fans, and for all the staff. I know that I messed it up with the two mistakes and let you all down…”
But if there’s any consolation for Loris Karius it probably comes in the realisation that there is at least one keeper even more notorious than he is in the annals of football history.
There used to be an old football joke popular with English football fans of a certain vintage.
It went as follows:
Q: What’s the time?
A: Almost 10 past Haffey
It referred to the famous flop of stand-in Scotland keeper Frank Haffey who conceded nine times against England in 1961 and subsequently emigrated to Australia to avoid his notoriety. He later became a nightclub performer and let’s face it, it is probably one of the few career choices still viable for Loris Karius after his nightmare in Kiev.
Even still, Frank Haffey’s contribution is probably less noteworthy than that of Loris Karius v Real Madrid, given the global scrutiny, although it is equally dramatic.
Frank Haffey’s nadir occurred in April 1961 and a game where his Scotland side were defeated 9-3 by a Johnny Haynes, Bobby Robson and Jimmy Greaves inspired England at Wembley.
Unlike with the contrite Loris Karius it is reported that the Celtic goalkeeper ‘in his canary yellow jersey; got his excuses in early and was said ‘to be whistling unconcernedly as he made his way from that sunlit field.’
It was once Haffey was in the communal post-match bath, that events took a very wrong turn as the keeper attempted to lighten the mood with a singalong, before a youthful Denis Law is reported to have exploded in rage: “Don’t you realise you’ve just been responsible for Scottish football’s most appalling catastrophe?”
Yet Haffey remained blissfully unbowed as the team coach departed Wembley and at King’s Cross Station, Haffey was happy to indulge the photographers’ requests that he pose besides the “NINE” of a Platform Nine sign at King’s Cross Station in London.
By the time the night sleeper reached Glasgow, the knives were out for Haffey, a late call-up for the Wembley debacle and Scotland’s fourth choice keeper at the time. His name remains a stain, a relic from the darkest hour of Scotland’s football history.
His sin, unlike Karius, was not that he erred but that he didn’t appear to care enough and his explanation is curious to say the least, as detailed in a Scotzine feature (below):
“Yes, that was me. I always enjoyed a wee sing-song.
“So, it is a fact that I did a bit of warbling as we got a soak after the game. The baths at Wembley are quite huge.
“Remember, I was just twenty two years old at the time, I was still a Celtic player and I had my whole career ahead of me.
“I could sing or I could melt into the deepest, darkest depression.
“I chose to sing. I was sitting there in the bath and all around me was doom and gloom, so I just started singing.
“Denis Law came over and said: ‘Damn it, Big Man, for a goalkeeper, you are a great singer.’
“Don’t get me wrong, though. I wasn’t indifferent to what had happened to Scotland and a 9-3 defeat at Wembley was a very sad situation.
“I could have sung all night, but I was still shocked and stunned. I might have been trying to laugh it off – or even sing it off – but inside I was completely burned up.”
Loris Karius has hardly covered himself in glory on the field but, for all his perceived flaws, at least he’s had the good sense not to sing. And for that alone he should be truly commended.
The curious tale of Frank Haffey is told in two features linked below: