Vinicius Junior Fires Real Madrid To 14th European Title

Vinicius Junior’s 59th minute strike fired Real Madrid to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Stade de France, Paris, to clinch 2021-22 UEFA Champions League title. 

Following a 36-minute delay to kick-off due to crowd issues outside the Stade de France, Liverpool dominated the first-half but Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema saw a 43rd minute goal chalked offside following a VAR check.

Junior then fired in a 59th minute winner to clinch a 14th European title for Real Madrid, as Thibaut Courtois constantly denied Liverpool with a series of excellent saves throughout the match.

For Real Madrid manager – Carlo Ancelotti, this is his fourth Champions League title as a manager and second with Real after he previously guided them to the trophy in 2013-14 season.

Speaking to BT Sport post-match, Courtois said that he is “proud” of his team for their game plan execution as he commented: “I am really proud of the team. We stuck to it and when I needed to be there I was there for the team. We beat some the best clubs of the world.

“City and Liverpool were unbelievable this season. They fought to the end in the Premier League, Liverpool won two cups and they were really strong.

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Kick-off was delayed 36 minutes from 8pm BST to 8:36pm BST after Liverpool fans struggled to get into the Stade de France due to chaotic security issues which led to closures of various gates and tear-gassing of Liverpool supporters.

Once the match eventually got underway after the pre-match opening ceremony, Liverpool enjoyed the best chance of a tense opening 15 minutes as Thiago won a free-kick nearly 30 yards from goal in the second minute, only for the set piece to be swiftly cleared.

Liverpool however continued to press with a high defensive line with a 16th minute cross finding Jordan Henderson, who nodded down for Trent Alexander-Arnold to tee up Mohamed Salah with the Egyptian’s on-turn shot blocked by Courtois’ quick left-handed save.

Salah again went close two minutes later but Courtois blocked his shot again before Salah turned provider a minute later as he teed up Alexander-Arnold, who could only fire over the bar.

Sadio Mane then weaved his way into space in the 21st minute inside the box, only for Courtois to flick his shot onto the left post, with the Belgian goalkeeper swiftly gathering up the rebounding ball before anyone could get a shot on goal.

Fabinho, Henderson and Salah then all saw shots denied as Jurgen Klopp’s Reds continued to dominate the first-half.

Real launched a late attack in the 43rd minute as a cross found Benzema who was able to stretch Alisson, with the Brazilian goalkeeper deflecting his save to Konate’s feet but Federico Valverde intercepted and returned to Benzema who fired in but the goal was ruled offside by VAR.

Neither team thereafter failed to break the deadlock meaning that the Final remained goalless at half-time in two of the last three Champions League Finals.

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After the break, Liverpool continued to dominate possession but struggled to carve out clear-cut chances as Salah saw a 58th minute penalty appeal for unintentional handball appealed.

Real consequently punished the Reds’ sloppiness as they broke forward a minute later, with Valverde finding Junior unmarked at the left post to fire in from close range to put the La Liga champions in front.

Salah almost responded five minutes later for Liverpool as he curled in towards the left corner from just outside of the box, only for Courtois to punch his effort away from goal.

Another chance evaded Salah’s luck in the 68th minute as a corner clearance eventually was worked to Diogo Jota at the left post, with the Portuguese forward nodding across for Salah who couldn’t properly connect under the challenge of Courtois.

Jota then missed a huge chance to equalise in the 74th minute as he flicked Alexander-Arnold’s curled cross just wide of the bottom left corner.

Courtois again proved a nightmare within the space of two minutes for Salah as he blocked the Egyptian’s 80th minute shot, before flicking his shot just wide of the top left corner just two minutes later.

Real Madrid eventually clung on with a series of defensive blocks and excellent saves from Courtois to clinch a 14th overall title in Europe’s biggest competition, as well as an eighth crown in the Champions League era alone.

This result also meant that Liverpool finished the season with just a domestic cup double, having looked on the verge of a potential quadruple after winning the FA Cup a fortnight ago.

 

Stat Attack

  • This is the third consecutive Champions League final to be settled by a 1-0 result after Bayern Munich defeated PSG in 2020 and Chelsea beat Manchester City in 2021.

 

Teams

Liverpool: Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson (Keita 77′), Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara (Firmino 77′), Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz (Jota 65′)

Substitutes: James Milner, Naby Keita, Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, Takumi Minamino, Diogo Jota, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Joel Matip, Caoimhin Kelleher, Harvey Elliott

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, David Alaba, Ferland Mendy, Luka Modric (Ceballos 90′), Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde (Camavinga 85′), Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior (Rodrygo 90+3′)

Substitutes: Nacho, Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, Marcelo, Andriy Lunin, Lucas Vazquez, Gareth Bale, Dani Ceballos, Rodrygo, Isco, Mariano Diaz, Eduardo Camavinga 

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