Assailed by chaos off the pitch before the game, Liverpool were undone by the beautiful anarchy of Real Madrid at the Stade de France.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) May 28, 2022
Carlo Ancelotti’s team ran on miracles all the way to this Champions League final and they found another one in Paris with an outstanding performance from their goalkeeper, Thibault Courtois, that sometimes defied logic and brought them a remarkable 14th triumph in the world’s greatest club competition.
Outside the Stade de France, Liverpool’s fans had been made to wait for hours in the spring sunshine, the kick-off growing nearer and nearer, the confusion growing and growing, the congestion starting to seem dangerous and worrying. Gates were closed for no apparent reason. Parents and young children were doused with pepper spray. The kick-off was delayed by 36 minutes and anger and impotence were everywhere.
Once the game eventually began, Liverpool, whose team bus had been trapped in traffic on the way to the stadium, attempted to introduce order to the chaos and somehow defuse Madrid’s reputation, which they have built with a series of miracle comebacks against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City during this Champions League campaign, for conjuring victory from the most unlikely of circumstances.
𝐑𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝟏𝟔
Down 2-0 at half time of second leg vs. PSG. Won 3-2
Down 4-3 in the 75′ of second leg vs. Chelsea. Won 5-4
Down 5-3 in the 90′ of second leg vs. City. Won 6-5
Beat Liverpool 1-0
Ridiculous run pic.twitter.com/IHLUOU4Da4
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 28, 2022
Jurgen Klopp’s team dominated the first half but could not convert any of their chances, thwarted time and again by Courtois. ‘After I had made the first save,’ Courtois said later, ‘I just felt it was going to be a good night.’ And so when Liverpool had thrown everything at Real, the Spanish champions pulled off their favourite trick again. Undismayed by Liverpool’s superiority, secure in their belief that winning this trophy again was their destiny, Vinicius Jr rounded off a stunning team move to score the winner early in the second half.
And so Liverpool, who had once hoped to arrive in Madrid seeking to seal an unprecedented Quadruple, ended a brilliant season with just two domestic cups to celebrate. After losing the Premier League so agonisingly to City last weekend after a titanic battle, this was a bitter pill to swallow. Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ met their match.
It was Madrid’s night. They have now won this trophy double the number of times of the next most successful side, AC Milan. And their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, can now claim to be the most successful manager in the history of the game. This was his fourth triumph in the greatest club competition of all, one more than Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley. It is not long ago that he was managing Everton. No wonder he had a one-word answer for his change in circumstances when he was asked about it last week. ‘Vertigo,’ he said.
Thibaut Courtois EARNED that first Champions League title pic.twitter.com/DAlppxMYny
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 28, 2022
If Liverpool had come here seeking revenge for their defeat to Madrid in the final in Kyiv in 2018, Madrid left having gained revenge for their defeat to Liverpool in Paris in 1981 in the final. This was their fifth Champions League triumph in the last nine years. ‘This is something unbelievable,’ their Croatia playmaker Luka Modric, who played in all five, said afterwards. Madrid have now won all eight of the finals they have contested in the Champions League era.
This, of course, was a final that was originally scheduled to take place in St Petersburg before it was moved to the French capital after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. And in many ways, Liverpool’s journey to this clash began in Kyiv four years ago in the hours after they were beaten in 2018 final by goals from Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
It is haunting now to think of leaving the Olimpiyskiy Stadium that night and walking safely through crowded streets back into the centre of a beautiful city, past Independence Square, past the old Dynamo Stadium on the hillside above the Dnipro River, as Madrid fans celebrated and Liverpudlians drowned their sorrows. Far deeper sorrows have visited the environs of that city since.
— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) May 29, 2022
Klopp mentioned Ukraine in his pre-match press conference here on Friday and said that Liverpool would be playing for its people as well as the club’s own fans but he has also spoken about Liverpool’s football recovery from that night in Kyiv. He got home to Merseyside in the early hours of the morning, had an impromptu party with friends and found himself singing a song of defiance about the final with the lead singer of German punk band Die Toten Hosen, translated as ‘The Dead Trousers’.
Klopp convinced himself then that Liverpool could come back the following season and win the Champions League and his belief was borne out when his team beat Spurs in 2019 final. Andrew Robertson said it felt like revenge because the final was in Madrid, at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but everyone knew the real act of retribution was planned for Paris.
22 goals and 20 assists for Vinicius this season.
And when Real Madrid needed him most he stepped up.
I still remember, how people mocked and criticised when Perez was signing young talents from Brazil.
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) May 29, 2022
There was little chance of revenge being served cold, though. The city was a cauldron in the build-up to the game. There were worrying scenes of crowd congestion outside the stadium near kick-off and dispiritingly familiar reports of confused policing. The roads were gridlocked, too. The Liverpool bus became stuck in traffic and arrived at the stadium 20 minutes after Madrid.
It gradually became clear there were serious problems outside the stadium. Swathes of seats in the Liverpool end were empty half an hour before kick-off and eye-witness reports spoke of gates being closed with fans stuck outside. Uefa pushed a false narrative about fans arriving late and said the game would be delayed by half an hour. In the end, it kicked off at 9.36 pm, local time.
Youngest goalscorers in a @ChampionsLeague final;
Patrick Kluivert (1995) – 18 years, 327 days
Carlos Alberto (2004) – 19 years, 167 days
Lars Ricken (1997) – 20 years, 322 days
Marco Asensio (2017) – 21 years, 133 days
VINICIUS JUNIOR (2022) – 21 years, 320 days pic.twitter.com/7siQTuKt7Z
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 28, 2022
There was also uncertainty about the Liverpool line-up right until kick-off. In the warm-up, Thiago Alcantara, who had been named in the starting eleven despite being an injury doubt, did not take part in the drills with the rest of the team but trained with a coach, his place taken by Naby Keita. But when the teams eventually emerged, Thiago was in their number.
¡GOOOOOOL DEL VINICIUS!
Gol del Real Madrid que está ganando al 60′ la final de la Champions League
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) May 28, 2022
Liverpool forced the first chance after 15 minutes when Trent Alexander-Arnold, their best player, played a fine exchange of passes to make space in the Real box and cut the ball back for Mo Salah. Salah was falling as he clipped a right-foot shot goalwards and Courtois dived smartly to his left to push it away. Salah saw a snapshot saved by the goalkeeper soon afterwards and Alexander-Arnold blazed over from a promising position.
Liverpool were dominating the game. Sadio Mane jinked inside a tackle 15 yards out and unleashed a shot that seemed to be destined for the bottom corner. Courtois, though, has a huge frame and he used every inch of it to dive to his right and tip the ball against the post. For a moment, it seemed it might rebound into the goal off his prone form but Real escaped. They were clinging on for all they were worth.
Liverpool went close again ten minutes before halftime when Alexander-Arnold, checked his run on the right and curled a left-foot cross into the box. It found Salah in space ten yards out but when he tried to power his header past Courtois, he directed it too close to him and the Belgium goalkeeper clutched it gratefully. The Real defence was struggling to cope with Mane in particular and Liverpool kept pressing for the opener.
The fear was that Liverpool, who had had ten shots to Madrid’s one, would rue not scoring while they were on top and that fear was almost realised two minutes before half time. Benzema ran on to a diagonal ball, cut inside Andrew Robertson and poked an attempted pass across goal.
Alisson and Ibrahima Konate got into a dreadful mess trying to clear it and when the ball ran back to Benzema, he swept it into the goal. The offside flag went up immediately and after an agonisingly long VAR check, the decision was upheld.
The alarm, though, had given us a reminder of quite how dangerous this Madrid side can be even if they appear becalmed, even if they appear second best, even if they appear overrun. They have so much talent in attack with Vinicius Jr and Benzema, players who can cause problems for the world’s best defenders, that the slightest lapse of concentration can cost an opponent the game.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 28, 2022
Madrid proved that again just before an hour had elapsed with a sumptuous move that brought them the opener. It started just inside the Liverpool half with a lovely interchange between Dani Carvajal and Casemiro that freed Federico Valverde on the right. Valverde advanced and drilled a cross-shot to the back post that arrowed behind Alexander-Arnold. Alexander-Arnold turned to look at the ball’s trajectory and saw that Vinicius Jr had run onto it. Brazil forward tapped it into the open goal.
Liverpool tried to hit back. Salah, who had only lasted 31 minutes of 2018 final after being wrestled to the ground by Sergio Ramos, was desperate to make up for that early exit and curled a shot from the edge of the area that Courtois dived full-length to push away. Courtois, already Madrid’s man-of-the-match, flung himself at the feet of Salah 20 minutes from the end to block another close-range effort.
Liverpool thought they had scored eight minutes from the end when Salah ran at the retreating Madrid defence, turning them one way and then another until he only had Courtois to beat. He hit his right foot shot sweetly enough but Courtois produced a quite brilliant save to push it away with his right hand. Salah beat the turf in frustration. He and this Liverpool team will have to wait for another day for their revenge.
Courtesy: Daily Mail UK