The triumph of Real Madrid in the Champions League
The situation around the Champions League final became heated even before the match began. Outside viewers might have suspected something was amiss when the game was delayed first by 15 minutes and then by 36. At first, UEFA announced at the stadium that the postponement was due to the tardiness of a large number of fans to the stadium. Then there was a more “honest” message that the start of the match was postponed for security reasons.
And all the hottest things happened outside the Stade de France. The long search and sluggishness of the organizers of the final, as well as of the Paris police, irritated the fans, who at one point tried to simply break into the arena in droves. Complicating matters was the fact that not only those who had a legal right to enter the stadium arrived, but also adventurers without tickets, and even those who had fake tickets.
At one point, the police lost control of the crowd and even used tear gas, and in some places clashes broke out between Liverpool fans and police officers. The English press are already ranting at UEFA and the organizers of the final in Paris. It is reported that among the injured in the clash there were even women and quite “peaceful” fans. They even included the brother of Liverpool defender Joel Matipa and his pregnant wife. And the clashes outside the stadium continued even during the first half, which was on the whole quite boring, so in some ways the situation on the battlefields outside the arena was more interesting than in its bowl.
Everything under control
Even before the start of the match many were inclined to believe that Liverpool would be the favorite or at least would have the initiative and apply pressure, and Real Madrid would try to play in the same style as in previous playoff matches. The first half largely confirmed this assumption. “The Reds started off with a powerful high pressing and actually pressured Real Madrid’s possession.
The extent of Liverpool’s visual dominance can be seen in the kicking statistics. 10-1 in favor of Liverpool, and five times the Reds hit the bar, which made Courtois almost the main hero. In the first half, he made two superb saves after a surprise strike by Salah from close range and after a powerful strike by Mane, when he turned the ball into the bar. The Belgian saved chances for Real. Once again. So that the Madrid team, sitting back in defense with just one attack, made the first half ambiguous.
A matter of interpretation
It was made ambiguous by Real Madrid’s cancelled goal. The Madrid side threw out all of Liverpool’s pressure and all of Courtois’ attempts. Alaba’s cross from deep allowed Benzema to run away from the Reds defenders into the penalty area, where miracles began to happen. Robertson dribbled past Karim but Alisson came on and the Frenchman was confused. He made a poor pass which could have easily been cleared by the defenders but Conata, Alisson and Fabinho got in each other’s way. Valverde, who burst into the crowd, failed to get a shot off, but the ball bounced to Benzema who rolled it into the goal.
The result of the turmoil would have been a goal, but after a lengthy review of the replays, WAR decided to cancel it because of offside. It turned out that Valverde’s final pass to Benzema was offside – there was only one defender closer to the goal than Karim. But at halftime, there was a huge controversy about the legitimacy of the cancellation of the goal. It probably wouldn’t go away, although Real Madrid’s victory in the final, of course, would reduce the intensity of the argument.
The fact is that the ball bounced to Benzema not from Valverde, but from Fabinho, that is, from the opponent. And it would seem then that offside should not be counted. But the referees decided that Valverde was giving a pass and that Fabinho’s actions resulted in a ricochet and were not an attempt to pass or interfere with the flight of the ball. That’s where the controversy comes in.
What counts as a ricochet and what counts as a bounce due to an attempt to interrupt the flight of the ball? Especially in the dynamics, when everything is fast, all in a close crowd. After all, you can’t say that Fabinho didn’t try to interrupt the flight of the ball, but the rebound can also be called a ricochet. In general, you have to feel the difference and choose one of the sides. The referees decided one way, they could have decided another. And in both cases, they will have an excuse and criticism. Such a mishap.
We can remember Mbappe’s goal against Spain in the 2021 Nations League final. At that time Kylian was obviously closest to the goal, except the goalkeeper, but Eric Garcia tried to interrupt his pass, changed the flight of the ball and “nullified” Mbappe’s offside. The goal counted there because it wasn’t a ricochet.
On the shoulders of the titans
The story would have been especially beautiful if Benzema had scored the decisive goal. If he had scored at all. But Karim did everything he could to get his team to the final. He was extremely useful in the final game itself. Even without goals. And yet Real Madrid showed that to win such a tournament it is not enough to have only one leader – you need a team, and players capable of taking the lead at the crucial moment.
Such in the final, in particular, was Courtois. He pulled out a couple of difficult goals in the first half. In the second half, Liverpool took even more shots – 14, although fewer of them – four on goal. But on at least two occasions Thibaut again pulled out magnificent goals. In comparison, Real Madrid had just four shots and two on goal. But one of them was victorious.
And the episodic confrontation between Alexander-Arnold and Vinicius on the wing turned out to be fateful. This confrontation was anticipated, but in reality there were no vivid episodes of their struggle. All the moves were bitten off somewhere else, and there were no direct confrontations between Trent and the Brazilian. Until the moment with the goal. Kroos, Casemiro and Modrić allowed the preconditions for a goal combination to emerge, when with timely passes they escaped the pressure of the Reds, who lashed out at them by several men.
When the attack had already acquired shape and speed, Trent was in the wrong position to stay in the center with Konate to save Benzema and denuded the flank for Vinicius’s breakthrough. He couldn’t cut the space between himself and the Brazilian in the crucial moment, and Vinicius calmly clinched Valverde’s shot. Yes, Trent has a lot of qualities and many people call him the best right-back for a reason. But here, his poor decision was the final in the situation with the decisive goal against his team.
Subsequently, the responsibility for the victory rested on the shoulders of other titans. We have already talked about Courtois’ exploits. But in the episodes with the furious pressure of Liverpool, which was expected and inevitable, brilliantly played in the defense of Casemiro, who perfectly insured the central defenders, blocked everything, without causing confusion, not interfering with partners, but reading and crossing out the Reds’ plans. So the final showed: despite Benzema’s resurgent genius this season, without the participation of the entire balanced team, Real Madrid would not have had this success.
And Madrid have established themselves as masters of the Champions League finals. They have won eight consecutive finals in the competition. In total, they have 14 trophies, if we count the European Cups. The gap between them and all the others is widening. AC Milan, remember, have seven titles, Liverpool and Bayern each have six, and Barcelona have five.
For Carlo Ancelotti, this is the 23rd trophy of his career, and he holds the record for victories in the Champions League. This is his fourth triumph, and he has surpassed Zidane and Paisley, who have three wins each. And Ancelotti has won the Champions League with both AC Milan and Real Madrid. He has lost only one of his five finals. Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, has not been so lucky so far. He has lost three UEFA Champions League finals out of the four in which his teams have played: once against Borussia Dortmund and twice against Liverpool.