King Courtois crowns Real champions as Reds fire Blancos
Real Madrid were crowned Champions of Europe for the 14th time after beating Liverpool 1-0 at the Stade de France. An eighth successive UEFA Champions League (UCL) final victory means the Spaniards have won Europe’s premier competition twice as many times as any other club.
While the atmosphere was reaching fever pitch inside the stadium, a scene of carnage was developing outside, as a huge number of fans struggled to gain entry into the stadium. The subsequent 37-minute delay to kick-off did little to stifle the ‘Reds’ though, as they took complete control of the match, aiming to gain revenge for defeat in this fixture in the 2018 final. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been the masters of survival in this UCL run, and those skills were being put to the test as the Liverpool barrage intensified, with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané testing Thibaut Courtois early on. The Senegal international had his side’s best opening, as he brilliantly evaded the challenge of Eder Militão before firing at goal, only for Courtois to tip his effort against the post.
Real had to wait until the brink of HT to find an opening at the other end. Unsurprisingly, it was Karim Benzema at the heart of the action, as he ran in behind before making a mess of his shot, only for the ball to rebound off Fabinho, back to the Frenchman to slot home. Controversially, the goal was ruled out for offside after a lengthy VAR review, but the scare provided a timely reminder of the threat that the Spanish champions possess.
‘Los Blancos’ began to grow into the game after the break, with the energy of Federico Valverde causing problems on the right. After withstanding the first-half onslaught, it would be Real to open the scoring on the hour mark. Valverde’s driven cross caught Trent Alexander-Arnold napping at the far post, allowing Vinícius Júnior to tap-in from point-blank range. The Brazilian’s 22nd goal of the season put his side in unfamiliar territory, defending a lead in the closing stages rather than chasing another miraculous comeback.
Liverpool are no strangers to mounting fightbacks on big European nights, and they needed all of their experience to break down a stubborn Real rearguard. Salah had been starved of service since HT, but he remained capable of magical moments, as he cut inside from the right before curling a shot towards the far corner, only for Courtois to meet it with a strong hand to beat it away.
Salah appeared determined to make an impact after injury ended his last meeting with Real, but Courtois stood firm, making another remarkable save to deny the Egyptian late on. Despite their best efforts, Liverpool were unable to find a way through, falling at the final UCL hurdle for the second time in five years to the same opponent. A fourth European crown as a manager for Ancelotti is an all-time record, overseeing one of the great UCL campaigns. Seeing off Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, and Liverpool on the way, Real earned their third trophy of an historic season.