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One shot on target is all Real Madrid needed to be crowned kings of Europe for a record 14th time in the club’s history. Vinicius Jr., the 21-year-old phenom, scored in the 59th minute to lift Los Blancos to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League Final Saturday.
A tap in for Vinicius Jr., but a sublime pass from Federico Valverde, who put a blistering pace on his ball in past multiple Liverpool defenders en route to the foot of the Brazilian.
Quite the Champions League Final debut for Vinicius Jr., who finishes his campaign with 22 goals in all competitions. His goal was needed, but without the services of Thibaut Courtois in net, Real Madrid are unlikely celebrating a victory.
With Real Madrid unable to create much on the other end, the defense was put under pressure from the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz. Liverpool put 24 shots in, nine on target, but none made their way past Courtois.
Courtois, who left Chelsea after the 2017-18 season to become Real Madrid’s No.1 goalkeeper, made many saves, but one stands out. With the two teams still feeling each other out in the 21st minute, Mane found himself some space just inside the box, and nearly put Liverpool out in front. But it was Courtois and perhaps a few fingers, who wouldn’t let it happen.
Courtois would continue to keep the Premier League side at bay in the second half, once again coming up huge in the 82nd minute. This time it was Salah, who came in on the right-hand side of the box and found just enough space to get a shot off his weaker right foot. Once again, it was Courtois to the rescue.
It was perhaps the greatest display of goalkeeping in Champions League Final history for Courtois, who said he was fueled by the lack of respect he receives in England.
“Yesterday in the press conference, I said that when Madrid plays finals they win. I was on the good side of history,” Courtois told BT Sport after the match. “I saw a lot of tweets coming my way that I would get humbled today — it was the other way around.
“Today, I needed to win a Final for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name as I don’t think I get enough respect, especially in England. I saw a lot of criticism even after a great season.”
Lost in the players’ performance is the managerial excellence of Carlo Ancelotti, who became the first manager to win four Champions League trophies. Having won the Final twice as a player with AC Milan, Ancelotti now owns the distinction of having won the Champions League in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s.