Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish club’s 14th European title. Here are the main talking points from the end of the match.
– Liverpool fans sprayed with pepper spray ahead of Champions League final
– Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League: How it happened
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (US only)
– You don’t have ESPN? Access immediately
1. Courtois the key to Carlo’s 4th crown
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti rewrote the Champions League history books as Vinicius Junior’s second-half goal secured a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in Paris to secure a record 14th success for Real and make Ancelotti the first manager to win four European Cups.
But while Vinicius’ goal was the decisive moment, Real owed the victory to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made a succession of crucial saves throughout the game. The former Chelsea keeper held off efforts from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane during the early stages, driving a Mane shot over the post as Liverpool tried to capitalize on a strong start to the game. Courtois continued his heroic performance in the second half, before and after his team’s decisive goal, to seal a convincing case for the man of the match.
By winning that match, Real avenged their 1981 European Cup final loss to Liverpool in the French capital and also stretched their incredible winning record in the competition. Real’s 14 European Cups are now twice as many as AC Milan, who sit second in the standings with seven titles. Liverpool remain on six having last won the competition in 2019. And Ancelotti now leads Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and Real’s Zinedine Zidane as the most successful manager by winning it for a fourth time. The Italian won two with AC Milan, in 2003 and 2007, before adding two more with Real in 2014 and now 2022.
2. Vinicius exposes Alexander-Arnold’s shortcomings
The decisive head-to-head in this game was always going to be the battle between Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and Real’s Vinicius. Last season, the Brazil international prevailed against the England defender in a quarter-final draw and he emerged victorious again on Saturday by scoring the winning goal.
Alexander-Arnold’s defensive shortcomings are the main reason he is no longer Gareth Southgate’s first-choice right-back with England, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp remains fiercely loyal to his player in because of the attacking qualities he brings to the team. Only Salah has provided more Premier League assists this season than Alexander-Arnold and his athleticism on the right makes him a formidable opponent for the vast majority of teams he faces. But when he comes up against a winger of Vinicius’ pace and finishing ability, Alexander-Arnold’s determination to push forward can become a major weakness.
At the Stade de France, the two players shared a finely laid battle until the game-changing moment. When Federico Valverde entered the penalty area he found Vinicius unmarked at the far post. And he went unmarked because Alexander-Arnold lost his man at the key moment, allowing the 21-year-old to find the space to claim the cross and score past Alisson.
Alexander-Arnold lost Vinicius again moments later, allowing him to break free at the halfway line, but on this occasion the real man didn’t take advantage. In the big moment, however, Vinicius delivered.
3. The Liverpool ‘quad’ discussion ends in a groan
Just two weeks ago, Liverpool were on the verge of making history by winning an unprecedented four silver linings with the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup. Now the quadruple has ended in a domestic double as Klopp’s side have failed in both major competitions.
Manchester City’s dramatic late fightback against Aston Villa last Sunday, when they overturned a 2-0 deficit in the final 15 minutes to win 3-2, deprived Liverpool of the title on the final day of the league season. And Saturday’s result left Liverpool without their seventh European Cup. So how do you judge a season that promised so much, but ended in disappointment?
Any team that wins two major trophies would generally be happy with their run, but going so close in the biggest competitions but finishing empty-handed ensures that disappointment at Anfield is inevitable. But still it was a huge feat to be so close to doing something that no other club has ever come close to achieving. When Manchester United won the treble in 1999, it seemed like the ultimate highlight, but Liverpool came within two games of beating that feat.
They missed out this time, but with Liverpool and City getting stronger every season, it seems only a matter of time before one of them does the quadruple.