Monday 16 September 2019

John Aldridge: The key turning point in Kiev was what Sergio Ramos did to Mo Salah

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) lies injured on the pitch after a challenge from Real Madrid's Garcia Sergio Ramos during the UEFA Champions League Final at the NSK Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) lies injured on the pitch after a challenge from Real Madrid's Garcia Sergio Ramos during the UEFA Champions League Final at the NSK Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev. Peter Byrne/PA Wire

John Aldridge

DID Sergio Ramos deliberately set out to injury Mohamed Salah as he hauled him to the ground in Saturday’s Champions League final?

It’s a question that has become THE big talking point after an incident-packed final that left Liverpool’s players and fans heartbroken, while their star man faces a race to be fit for the World Cup finals with Egypt.

Petitions have been set-up online to try and get Ramos retrospectively banned for his wrestling move on Salah and you could say this is sour grapes from Liverpool fans, but believe me when I say this; that challenge was designed to rough up Salah at the very least.

It’s impossible to prove that Ramos deliberately tried to injure Liverpool’s leading scorer, of course it is, but the way he threw him to the floor suggests to me that he was trying to shake him up a bit and probably hoped to do a bit more damage.

This is a guy that has been sent-off 24 times in his Real Madrid career. He is a nasty player and you would have to say he is a clever one at that.

In an era of the game when physical contact has been all-but eradicated, Ramos is an example of a modern-day centre-back who knows how to bend the rules in his side’s favour and we saw that once again in Kiev on Saturday.

Ramos is lucky to be in an era when hard men have been taken out of the game because a guy like him would have been sorted out by the opposition long ago if he was playing in the 1970s or 80s.

We don’t have players like Graeme Souness, Jimmy Case and Norman Hunter in the game anymore, but they would have given Ramos a dig when the officials weren’t looking and warned him that more would come if he carried on his antics.

Players policed the game to an extent during my playing days, but that has all gone now with so many cameras following every move on the pitch and referees stopping playing from tackling, even when it is within the laws of the game. It means that a new breed of manipulator has sprung up in the game and Ramos would be captain of that team, as he has mastered football’s revised version of the dark arts over the course of his career.

You could say he is clever as it worked in his favour in the biggest game of the season, but the 24 red cards he has been shown suggests he is not great at trying to massage the laws of the game in his favour.

Sadly for Liverpool, Ramos got away with it this time as Salah’s exit from the game after half an hour was a hammer blow to Liverpool.

It felt like we had our best player sent off and it scuppered the momentum we had built up in what was an encouraging opening half an hour.

Then Ramos sees his chance to influence the game by taking down Salah and he goes for it, with Liverpool and their main man so unlucky to come out on the wrong side of a ‘challenge’ that swung the game towards Real Madrid.

The referee didn’t even talk to Ramos after that incident as he made it look like a tangle of arms and a tumble, but I’m sure he has done that before to have a dig at the opposition’s star man, with his record of nasty challenges on Neymar and Lionel Messi in games against Barcelona confirming he goes after the main men in the opposition line-up when he can.

The officials needed to be aware that Ramos would try every trick in the book to win that final at the weekend, yet they didn’t see what he was up to when the big moment arrived.

Despite the pain all Liverpool fans felt in Kiev on Saturday, I still take a lot of pride in what our team has served up this season.

A top four finish and a wonderful run in the Champions League leaves us with great memories and I don’t think for a moment that this was a one-off brush with a major trophy for Jurgen Klopp and his squad.

These Liverpool players should take inspiration from what has happened in the last few weeks rather than feel depressed about the result of the final as while we clearly need some tweaks in this squad, this team are going places under the guidance of a fine manager.

Real Madrid were the better team in the final, they scored a world class goal through Gareth Bale and benefited from two horrible errors from Liverpool keeper Loris Karius. Game over, let’s move on.

Now we have to dust ourselves down, take the positives from this season and go again.

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