The Champions League is a competition comprised of key moments that often decide the outcome of individual games.
Take Tottenham’s Round of 16 exit to Juventus, for example. The Lilywhites outplayed and outclassed the Italian champions for the best part of 110 minutes across two legs, but were ultimately eliminated by virtue of a three-minute double salvo from Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.
Taking advantage of these moments as and when they arrive is crucial to victory -and both Real Madrid and Liverpool have the man for the moment-, but will Cristiano Ronaldo or Mo Salah be lifting the trophy come full time?
The Champions League in focus
It’s hard to argue both Real Madrid and Liverpool don’t deserve to be in the Champions League final when you examine the seasons Ronaldo and Salah have had in the tournament.
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Mo Salah|
In the same amount of games (11), both players have had phenomenal European campaigns, with Ronaldo leading the overall scoring charts (15), trailed by Salah (10).
Ronaldo scored a higher percentage of Real Madrid’s Champions League goals (53.4%) than Salah (26.3%). This demonstrates Los Blancos’ greater reliance on Ronaldo, but doesn’t diminish the role Salah has played in driving Liverpool to the final.
Ronaldo, though, took nearly twice as many shots at Salah, indicating either his lesser accuracy in front of goal or the fact that Real Madrid, as a team, create more chances (161) than Liverpool (136).
The Egyptian does, however, have one more assist than the 2017 Ballon d’Or winner, and created nine more chances, highlighting his greater overall role within Liverpool’s team dynamic.
The key moments
How did Ronaldo and Salah compare in these so-called key moments?
Arguably the defining moment of Real Madrid’s Champions League campaign was their quarter-final against Juventus.
Taking a 3-0 lead to the Santiago Bernabeu after their first leg victory, courtesy of two goals and an assist from Ronaldo -including that bicycle kick-, Los Blancos proceeded to crumble under the pressure, which saw the Old Lady storm to a 3-0 lead of their own after 60 minutes in the second leg.
With the game hurtling towards extra time, there arose a moment.
Medhi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez in the box and Gigi Buffon was sent off for dissent. With a penalty awarded, up stepped Ronaldo to cooly dispatch it and send Real Madrid through to the semi-finals in the 93rd minute.
The Portuguese striker also scored three goals and assisted another in a 5-2 aggregate victory over French champions Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16.
For Liverpool, there defining moment was their stunning quarter-final victory over eventual Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Reds are something of an Achilles heel for Pep Guardiola’s outfit, and Salah made sure such a tradition continued with a 12th minute goal in the first leg to send Liverpool on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory.
The second leg produced the ‘key moment,’ however. Jurgen Klopp sent his side out after the break 1-0 down in the second leg with the Citizens building momentum. A key pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent Salah and Sadio Mane into the final third, with Salah dinking Mane’s saved effort over Ederson.
Said good quelled all nerves and completely killed the game, making it 4-1 on aggregate overall.
The Egyptian, furthermore, scored twice and assisted two more in Liverpool’s 5-2 semi-final first leg win over Roma.
The King of Europe
Both players have clearly played decisive roles in their respective Champions League campaigns, but the difference currently separating the duo is that Ronaldo has experience of finals.
The Portuguese scored a brace against Juventus in 2017, the winning penalty in 2016 and the final goal of a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in 2014. You’d bet your bottom dollar on the fact he would score again this year.
Whenever there’s a moment, Ronaldo arrives.
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