Welshman Bale came on just past the hour with the score at 1-1 and after three minutes produced an astonishing bicycle kick finish and then netted with a speculative long-range effort that somehow went through the hands of the unfortunate Karius, Reuters reported.
The German keeper had earlier handed Real a 51st minute lead when he threw the ball straight at striker Karim Benzema and the ball rolled into the unguarded net off the Frenchman’s leg.
“Great emotions. To lift three Champions League trophies with this club, this team is magnificent,” said Real’s Zinedine Zidane, who became the first coach to win Europe’s top trophy in three consecutive years.
“We don’t quite realize what we have achieved yet. We are going to enjoy the moment.“
Liverpool, which crucially lost its leading scorer Mohamed Salah to a suspected dislocated shoulder in the 31st minute, had equalized in the 55th minute when Sadio Mane found the net from close range after Dejan Lovren headed the ball into the area.
In truth, though, despite their best efforts Liverpool never looked as much of a threat once Egyptian international Salah went down under a challenge from Real captain Sergio Ramos.
“We started well and played exactly like we wanted to,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who has now lost his last six finals as a coach.
“The situation with Sergio Ramos (and Salah) looked really bad and it was a shock for the team, we lost the positive momentum and they immediately came up,” he said.
Real have become the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win Europe’s elite club trophy three years in a row. The Spaniards won five straight European Cup trophies in the 1950s.
Real’s triumph rubber-stamped the Spanish giant’s recent hegemony in European football and underlined its status as a true super club but did not confirm Los Blancos as one of the all-time great teams.
Real’s unique character, however, was displayed in the fact that moments after the Spanish side had hoisted a record-extending 13th European Cup, its usual talisman Cristiano Ronaldo turned the attention back on himself, hinting in a post-match interview that he had played his final game for the club.
This was not the era-defining performance Real had produced last year in the final in Cardiff, when it blew away Juventus to win 4-1. Nor could it be compared to Barcelona’s sensational displays over Manchester United to win in 2009 and 2011.
“Everything imaginable seemed to happen in the game but we did it in the end, and even with everything that happened we always believed in our chances of winning, even when they equalized,” said Madrid coach Zidane.
“Then a player like Bale came on and did what he did.”
Ronaldo’s surprising statement that “it was beautiful to play for Real Madrid, I’ll make an announcement soon” meant that the aftermath of a unique achievement — an unprecedented third title in a row in the Champions League era — turned into a discussion about the future of their most important player.
Match winner Bale also cast doubt on his future at Real, although before the game the Wales forward’s status in the team next season was by no means certain.
Ronaldo said in a later interview that he regretted the timing of his comments although his remarks brought back instant reminders of reports that emerged days after winning the 2017 final that he wanted to leave the club.
“I spoke when I shouldn’t have done but something is going to happen. It wasn’t the right time, but I was honest,” said Ronaldo.
Spanish newspaper Marca reported that the Portuguese’s teammates were furious with him and that captain Ramos admonished the player after the game for taking the shine off the victory.
Real president Florentino Perez also appeared frustrated with Ronaldo.
“Everyone has the right to say what they want but the most important thing on a day like today is the club and that we all celebrate, and because people are always talking about him (Ronaldo) and nothing happens,” said Perez.
“I’m delighted that Cristiano has five Champions League wins, just like me. It’s not a question of him staying or not, he has a contract with us.”