For the record 14th time in their rich, unmatched history, Real Madrid were crowned kings of the UEFA Champions League on Saturday at Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Carlo Ancelotti’s side got a second-half goal from Vinicius Junior on one of their few chances to defeat Premier League giants Liverpool 1-0 in the final (Player Ratings).
Jurgen Klopp’s team dominated the ball and the chances, but the best opportunity for Los Blancos in the second half resulted in the lone goal of the match. Federico Valverde played a strong ball across the box that found Vinicius Jr. at the back post for a fairly easy finish in the 59th minute, leaving the Reds shell shocked.
Liverpool hit the post in the first half and had the most chances in the game, but they could not get one past an unbelievable performance in goal from Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian shot-stopper, a loser in the final with Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid eight years ago, is now on the winning side with a epic performance that will go down in history, denying the high-octane attack and the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane with every chance he had.
Real Madrid finished the game with just four shots, while Liverpool had 24. Real finished with an xG of 0.88 to Liverpool’s 2.44. Courtois made nine saves on the night. The expected goals against Courtois was 2.14, which goes to show just how pivotal he was to the success of the Spanish giants on the night.
The victory completes a double for Real Madrid after having won La Liga this season.
Here’s what to know:
Liverpool will come away feeling …
Wasteful. The Reds will feel proud of the chances created but disappointed with how they finished. Part of the reason was what Courtois was able to do in goal, but then I think back to Naby Keita’s chance late on. The midfielder was alone at the top of the box when the ball fell to him, and he could have taken two touches before firing, yet he hit it first touch and sent the ball flying closer to the corner flag than the goal. It was the match of wasted chances for the Reds. They did everything they needed to in terms of creating to at least for extra time, but they couldn’t get it done.
Real Madrid will come away feeling …
Like they are back on their throne. Nobody does UCL better, and they’ve now won their last 10 European finals. You read that right. It might not always be pretty, but boy are they effective and nobody knows how to get the job done better than them. Early on, it looked like it would be the Reds’ night with their flurry of chances, but once again they only bent and did not break, scoring and then holding on late. It was a top-tier performance by a team whose permanent residence is atop of the continent. On this night, Real Madrid weren’t the strongest. But as always, they showed why they are the best.
It came in the 21st minute. Mane infiltrated the box, made a move to get across it, and he fired a low shot that had Courtois’ momentum taking him the other way. But the goalkeeper was ready for it, getting a slight touch on the ball to send it off the post. Take a look:
That wasn’t his first save of the match, but it felt like the moment where at least I came to the realization that this guy was on and ready for what was to come.
Man of the match:
Nobody came close to what Courtois did. His impact single-handled kept his team in position to win it. He closed down well, he was a sure thing in the air and made no mistakes. It was as close to a perfect goalkeeper performance as you will find.
A perfect five for five
Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric made history in this match, joining their former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo as the only players to play in and win five Champions League titles. They did four of them together, with Ronaldo’s other one being his first in 2008 when Manchester United beat Chelsea.
Most players in Europe’s top leagues never even get to play in the Champions League, but to go to five and win them all is the stuff of legends. On top of it, each made an impact in this one. Benzema was the creator, Modric the distributor, and Carvajal put in a stellar shift in defense to contain Luis Diaz.
Champions again, and again, and again, and again.
The trophy lift
Fourteen European crowns for Los Blancos, and this never get old for a crew that nobody gave much of a chance to do anything. Remember, this team lost to Sheriff in the group stage and end the season by defeating two of the greatest teams we’ve ever seen in this campaign’s Manchester City and Liverpool, taking care of them back-to-back.
Here is the trophy lift, led by 34-year-old Marcelo, who could be leaving the club this summer and gets a bittersweet moment: