Vinicius Jr. and Thibaut Courtois turn saviours as Real Madrid complete ‘A por la decimo quarta’ by beating Liverpool 1-0￼
In a battle of two teams with unparalleled European pedigree, Real Madrid secured a 1-0 triumph over Liverpool to be crowned as the ‘Champions of Europe’ for the fourteenth time in their history. Vinicius Junior scored the decisive goal for Los Blancos.
Carlo Ancelotti made only one change to the team that secured a phenomenal 3-1 win against Manchester City in the second leg of the semi-final. A fit-again David Alaba was preferred to Nacho for the role of a central defender.
On the other hand, Jurgen Klopp made a couple of changes to the team that won 3-2 against Villarreal in Liverpool’s last Champions League fixture. Naby Keita made way for Jordan Henderson in the midfield, whilst Luis Diaz got the nod ahead of Diogo Jota for a role in the front three, alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
While Liverpool dominated the initial stages of the game, Los Blancos did well to ensure the Reds did not produce anything significant with all the possession that they had. The first major opening came in the 16th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold drilled in a low ball for Salah from the right flank, and the Egyptian winger back-flicked it towards goal. However, Real Madrid’s star of the game, Thibaut Courtois made his first big save.
A minute later, Thiago Alcantara had a crack from outside the box but Courtois was alert here as well. That was not all from Klopp’s men, as Courtois had to make his third save in as many minutes when Salah had yet another go at the goal.
The Reds kept on mounting the pressure as only a minute later, Salah found Alexander-Arnold unmarked inside the box. However, the English right-back could not find the target with his effort. Courtois was then forced into a fourth save in five minutes, and this surely was the hardest of the lot. Mane skipped past his marker skillfully to launch a powerful shot, but the Belgian shot-stopper somehow managed to get his fingertips to the attempt to push it to the crossbar.
Courtois was called into action to make his fifth just after the half-hour mark when Alexander-Arnold found Salah inside the box with a precise cross, but this time around, the attempt was direct straight at the custodian.
While Salah and Alexander-Arnold looked deadly on the right flank, Mane and Andrew Robertson combined on the left side before the former launched a shot, but his attempt was deflected for a corner. The white shirts initially cleared the corner but the ball landed kindly for Henderson, whose volley missed the target by a whisker.
Real Madrid got their first opportunity of the first half in the 43rd minute and it almost resulted in a goal. A ball from the deep found Karim Benzema unmarked, but instead of going for the shot, he tried to play a cheeky pass. Ibrahima Konate was alert, but his clearance attempt was met by Federico Valverde and the ball eventually found its way back to Benzema, who tucked it in for what he thought was the opening goal. However, after an incredibly long check, the Frenchman was adjudged to have been in an offside position and the goal was subsequently chalked off.
Though the Reds started the second half brightly as well, it seemed that they lacked the cutting edge. Salah had a go at the goal just before the hour-mark, but he could not find the back of the net. However, Liverpool eventually paid the price of the exhibition of missed chances only a minute later, as Ancelotti’s team scored with only their second chance of the match.
After a darting run down the right flank, Valverde played a defense-splitting low cross for Vinicius, who should have been marked by Alexander-Arnold but the latter was caught napping. Thankfully for Real Madrid, the Brazilian wonder kid was as alert as he could possibly be, as he slotted home the ball past a diving Alisson Becker in the Liverpool goal to hand his team the crucial lead.
Klopp’s side, however, retaliated almost immediately as Salah’s curling strike almost sneaked in just five minutes after Vinicius’ goal. However, Courtois came up with yet another spectacular save, this time to safeguard his team’s lead.
In the 69th minute, the Spanish champions’ last line of defense was called into action once again when Salah had another go at goal, but it seemed that Courtois had turned himself into a giant and the goal was way too small.
Alexander-Arnold himself had a pop just four minutes later, but could not find the target. Liverpool had yet another gilt-edged chance in the 82nd minute when Roberto Firmino cut in a pass for Keita, who had the entire goal gaping but chose to hit his shot wide.A minute later, Salah put on the afterburners to dart down the right-wing before pulling the trigger yet again, but there was absolutely no change in the outcome as Courtois kept Real Madrid’s 4-0 lead safe and secure. The last two chances of the game fell to two Los Blancos substitutes Dani Ceballos and Eduardo Camavinga. They were wasteful with the chances, but it did not matter much as Ancelotti’s team had done enough to lift their 14th Champions League title.