Loris Karius has long understood the unique pitfalls of his trade. This is what the Liverpool goalkeeper said in these pages last season.
‘When a striker misses a chance people say he should have scored but five minutes later they don’t talk about it,’ he said. ‘In our position it’s not like that. Goalkeepers don’t get second chances.’
The strange thing is that Karius has had a second chance under Jurgen Klopp. After last season’s troubles, the 24-year-old was recalled to the Liverpool team in late January of this year.
Loris Karius committed two horrendous mistakes that cost Liverpool in the final
The goalkeeper wept at full time and it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for him
So this huge game in Kiev on Saturday night was the culmination of Karius’ second chance, it was his mulligan. And now it is gone, buried beneath the rubble of two catastrophic blunders that he says have already cost him a night’s sleep and may yet cost him his career on Merseyside.
The internet was a mixture of anger, rancour and glee, depending on what team people support. This is what large swathes of online platforms appear to be for these days — vehicles for extremism and, at a stretch, low-grade criminality.
But viewed purely from a sporting viewpoint, it is almost impossible not to feel sorry for the Liverpool goalkeeper. You didn’t have to see him trudge red-eyed towards the team bus at 1am on Sunday to understand that.
Professional sport is primarily about a pursuit of glory and when it goes wrong — when it is your fault that the dreams have died — it must be enough to squeeze the breath out of you.
Those who know about these things had warned that this could happen. Ray Clemence, winner of three European Cups with Liverpool, said only a month ago he didn’t think Karius was good enough for his club.
Karius was afforded a second chance by Jurgen Klopp but it might have been one too many
There was evidence from the field of play, too. For all his athleticism and ability as a fine close-range goalkeeper, Karius made big mistakes in both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Roma but, thanks to the crossbar and an incorrect linesman’s flag, he got away with both. So some may say that in Ukraine late on Saturday night, his luck merely ran out.
But that does not help Karius as he considers the reconstruction of a career he had worked hard to build.
Liverpool is not the German’s first English club. He first moved to England a week after his 16th birthday to join Manchester City. People there remember him as a good lad with a willingness to learn but he didn’t manage to make it. Years spent back in Germany prepared him for a second go but now the ground has shifted dramatically under that existence too.
None of this means that Karius should be afforded any leeway as Klopp looks to move Liverpool forwards next season. At 24, Karius is not a kid any more and should be judged on his football.
What it does, though, is provide context to just how a young sportsman who has invested so much in to his career will be feeling.
Karius gifted Karim Benzema the first goal and was beaten by Gareth Bale for the third
Certainly these were car crash moments in Kiev, the kind that even TV replays do not really explain. How do these things happen? They just do. It’s called sport.
Klopp had been warned about might may occur. He cannot say otherwise.
With the scores locked at 0-0 against Roma at Anfield, Karius failed to deal with a long range, swerving shot from Aleksandar Kolarov. As the ball moved in front of his eyes, he presented two feeble, ill-positioned hands that did not provide enough of a barrier to prevent it crashing through them and striking the bar.
The late shot from Gareth Bale on Saturday was almost identical to that one, Karius’s reaction similarly so and this time there was nothing at all to stop the ball finding the back of the net. If Karius’ first error — seeing his throw-out intercepted by Karim Benzema — was a little freakish, a little unlucky, then the second one was not.
‘I have cost my team the final,’ he said afterwards and he was dead right.
With a competent goalkeeper in their side, Liverpool could have travelled home as European champions for the sixth time. Instead, they go back to being a club that has won only one trophy in the last 12 years.
The 24-year-old knew he cost his team and apologised profusely to supporters
Karius pledged to come back stronger but he may not play for Liverpool again
That is the fineness of the line and as Karius lay weeping on the turf at full-time, the only players to approach and offer consolation were those in the white shirts of Real Madrid. There was not, it must be said, much public sympathy extended by Karius’ team-mates. You Will Never Walk Alone, they say.
Maybe the Liverpool players simply suspect what many others suspect. Players are not stupid. Maybe they feel that the advances made in outfield positions under Klopp in recent times have not been mirrored by the goalkeeping department.
If so, we may not see Karius again in Liverpool colours. He has already indicated that he will return stronger but right now it looks a very long way back indeed.
Maybe the facts are simple and maybe Clemence was right. Maybe Karius is not quite good enough. Maybe Klopp has, for once, got a judgment call wrong.
If so, then the Liverpool manager must deal with the consequences of that. It is certain that he will emerge a better coach from this experience in Europe and his team will improve too.
As for Loris Karius, two chances may already be judged to have been one too many.