PARIS (AP) — Yet another Champions League title for Real Madrid, the undisputed king of Europe.
Yet another showpiece European football match marred by chaotic crowd trouble and disorder.
Madrid became European champions for a record 14th time – double the number of any other team on the continent – after beating Liverpool 1-0 in a final that started 37 minutes behind due to troubling scenes outside the Stade de France on Saturday. He evoked memories of the violence that marred the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium 10 months ago.
Brazilian winger Vinícius Júnior was the match winner, applying a 59th-minute close-range finish from Federico Valverde in front of goal, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois received equal applause as he made cut saves the breath of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
“Today nobody was going to get in my way,” Courtois said. “I was going to win a Champions League no matter what.”
It gave Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti a fourth European Cup title, the most ever for a manager in the competition’s history, and completed the Champions League-Liga double for a Spanish giant for whom winning titles is embedded in its culture.
And this time there was no need for the kind of emotional comeback Madrid needed to produce to overtake Paris Saint-Germain, defending champions Chelsea and Manchester City in the round of 16. This could become the most grueling title race in the competition’s long history.
“We are the best,” said Madrid striker Karim Benzema. “It was a very difficult competition for us and we deserved to win this final. With all the history of this team, we have shown everyone that we are still here.
The Liverpool players ended a season that held so much promise – a week ago he was in contention for an unprecedented quadruple of major trophies – with only the two domestic cups in England to show their efforts. They lost the Premier League title by one point last weekend and the Champions League to a Madrid side who fired a shot on target in the final.
Playing their 64th game of the season, Liverpool simply couldn’t find a way past Courtois, who tipped Mane’s first-half shot off the post and produced an even better save to fend off the Salah’s effort in the 81st.
It is incomprehensible that Liverpool, who possess one of the most devastating attacks in world football, have failed to score a single goal in their three cup finals this season. The Reds won the FA Cup and League Cup via penalty shootout after drawing 0-0 after extra time.
“No one in the dressing room thinks it’s been a great season at the moment,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said.
Liverpool players remained on the pitch to watch Marcelo, Madrid’s serial trophy winner who didn’t even play a minute of the final, having the honor of lifting the trophy against the backdrop of fireworks and of tickers.
Marcelo is one of many Madrid players to win a fifth Champions League title, just one of the record held by Francisco Gento, a Madrid great of the 1950s and 1960s.
For many, especially Liverpool fans, however, the pre-match crowd issues have overshadowed this final and will certainly be investigated by UEFA and the authorities in the coming days.
Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans forced to queue for the club’s biggest game of the European season, the kick-off of which has been delayed.
UEFA blamed the chaos on people trying to enter the stadium without legitimate tickets.
“During the match, the turnstiles on the Liverpool side were blocked by thousands of fans who bought fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles,” UEFA said in a statement.
Some fans scaled the fences surrounding the stadium to enter. Others broke through security and sprinted down the hall before being smashed to the ground.
Riot police with batons and riot shields ran from door to door to stop pockets of fans from forcing their way into the stadium.
“I have really bad asthma and I’ve been gassed twice,” Liverpool fan Angela Murphy told The Associated Press through a fence. “I’m really struggling.”
About 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff of 9 p.m. local time, an announcement was made that there would be a delay. He was greeted with mockery inside the stadium.
Liverpool have said they are “extremely disappointed” with the security issues experienced by their fans recalling last summer outside Wembley ahead of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. This was largely due to England fans aggressively trying to enter their stadium.
“I know the families had real difficulties getting into the stadium,” Klopp said. “We’ll leave it to the investigation to figure out…Obviously it was quite tricky there.”
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