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Data proves Salah injury was turning point in Champions League final

 • by Mark Thompson
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When Mohamed Salah struggled to get up from a Sergio Ramos challenge, Liverpool held its breath.

The Champions League final was only half an hour old, the Reds looked comfortable in the match, and they had been peppering the Real Madrid goal.

As a tearful Salah walked off the pitch, having tried and failed to continue playing, the fear was Liverpool would lose their foothold in the match. After all, Salah was one of the best bets to take advantage of an often-vulnerable Madrid back-line.

The fears were justified.

There are various statistics that back up the feeling that Salah’s substitution was a turning point.

In the first half-hour, Liverpool had been out-shooting Real Madrid 9-2, and they’d also forced Zinedine Zidane’s side into making five clearances.

The swing

The swing is evident when combining the two teams’ stats into a little ‘plus/minus’ graph. If the blue line is below zero then Liverpool were on top; if above zero, Madrid.

Liverpool got off to a sparkling first 15 minutes, but after half an hour the tide turns dramatically until the break.

The graph makes the second half look fairly even but, given that Madrid were leading for most of it, they’ll have been happy to keep possession rather than look to force the issue.

This is, in fact, exactly what they did.

The same pattern for the first half is evident here as well. Liverpool were the dominant side for the first 15 minutes before Madrid got back into the game and things proceeded relatively evenly.

But then, after half an hour, the now-13-time European Cup champions ramped up the pressure. The line is a little less steep in the second half, indicating a slightly more even affair, but it’s still clear that the Spanish side were the ones in control of the game.

Salah injury ‘shocked’ Liverpool

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Liverpool only took four more shots after Salah left the field. They completed more passes in the final third while he was on the pitch than in the hour he was off it. No Liverpool player completed a pass into the box after the injury.

Manager Jürgen Klopp said post-match that the incident affected the rest of his team: “The shock of the boys was obvious and we dropped a little bit.

“Real used that for positive momentum and we settled a little bit at half-time and changed a few things.”

At the time, there were fears that it might be a dislocated shoulder or broken collarbone, injuries that could keep the Egyptian out of the World Cup. The situation seems more positive now, with reports the injury is merely damaged shoulder ligaments instead. But that does Liverpool no good.

Whether Ramos intended to injure Salah or not – and the debate on that rages on – it certainly swung the match in Real’s favour.

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