Vinicius Junior scores winner as Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Champions League final

Spanish side seal 14th European Cup as goalkeeper Courtois produces wonder show in Paris

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Real Madrid might have become the great titans of European football on the strength of a history of attacking riches.

And yet, as the Champions League’s most successful club extended their own record to a 14th European Cup title, their one great galactico was their goalkeeper.

The Spanish champions claimed victory over Liverpool on a tempestuous night in Paris on the strength of a lone goal from Vinicius Junior, plus a mighty rearguard from Thibaut Courtois.

The 1-0 win went against the majority of pre-game predictions and, in truth, against the dominant direction of play, too.

And yet, given the way Madrid’s campaign in this competition had panned out – battling against the odds for what felt like all of it – their triumph somehow felt written.

There was a 36-minute delay to the final due to security issues apparently born from organisational failings outside the stadium.

A number of ticket-holding fans were locked out of the ground, and video footage showed some being pepper-sprayed by riot police.

Despite it all, the planned opening ceremony went ahead before the rescheduled kick off. The performance of Camila Cabello, the Cuban-American singer, was received with understandable hostility from the majority in the stands.

In his pre-match interview – what seemed like eons before the eventual start time – Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp had deemed the final a meeting between the “comeback kings” of Madrid and his own “mentality monsters”.

And, after the unsettled build-up, it was indeed Liverpool who found their poise first.

After a pensive first 15 minutes, the English side burst to life with three shots in quick succession – two from Mohamed Salah and one from Thiago Alcantara. Courtois, in the Madrid goal, was equal to each attempt.

Moments later, the Belgian goalkeeper needed both the full extent of his reach, plus the aid of a post – and a slice of luck, too – to keep out a shot from Sadio Mane.

Although Liverpool wholly dominated the first phase, they were lucky not to fall behind just before the break.

After confusion at the back between Ibrahima Konate and Alisson Becker, Karim Benzema had the ball in the goal. It was initially ruled out for offside, a decision which was only confirmed after a lengthy video review.

Having escaped that scare, Liverpool reasserted control of possession after the restart – only to fall behind against the run of play.

Vinicius found space behind Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s right back, and steered in a fierce cross-shot from Federico Valverde to give Madrid the lead.

With a quarter of an hour to go, Madrid could have double their advantage. But Casemiro botched an attempted pass when a shot seemed the better option after he had found space in the Liverpool box following a freekick.

While the Spanish side did have their chances, still Liverpool poured forward. They rained in shots on the Madrid goal, yet the remarkable Courtois stood up to everything.

In the end, it was he they had to thank for another title – a 14th for the club, and a fourth as a manager for their manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Updated: May 29, 2022, 3:23 AM
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