The best football games always seem to showcase a clash of styles and on Saturday, it was no different. The Reds looked to dominate and pressed high as soon as the game began. Meanwhile, Madrid defended resolutely in a low block, depending on the speedy Vinicius Junior to take advantage of Liverpool’s high line.
On a night when Real Madrid showed off their championship pedigree to win a record 14th UEFA Champions League win at Liverpool’s expense, here are some observations from the game:
Konate Over Matip Proved to Be A Good Decision
In the days leading up to the final, the worry was whether Virgil Van Dijk would be fit enough to play.
When it became clear that the Dutch defender was fit enough to start, attention turned to which of Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip would partner him in Central defence.
Matip has been Van Dijk’s most frequent partner for the 2021-2022 season, is more experienced than Konate and more comfortable with the ball at his feet. However, Konate has also been excellent this season and more importantly, is a much quicker player than Matip, a quality needed to deal with the dangerous Vinicius Junior.
Jurgen Klopp picked Konate to start alongside Van Dijk and it proved to be the right decision as the young Frenchman showed off his pace, power and defensive nous to keep Vinicius Junior at bay every time they faced off.
On this showing, he’s a lock for that second central defensive spot next season.
VAR/Offside Law Controversy. Was Benzema’s Goal Legit?
When Karim Benzema’s goal was ruled out last night, debate raged hotly on social media channels as to whether the goal should have stood or not.
With the keeper ahead of play, Karim Benzema appeared to be offside when he scored just before half time. However, replays showed that the final touch had come off a Liverpool player and the goal looked likely to stand. Unfortunately for the Frenchman and Real Madrid, VAR interpreted Fabinho’s touch as “unintentional”, the goal was chalked off and both sides went into the break level.
With the crucial touch before the ball came off Fabinho being Konate’s attempted clearance (a very deliberate action), we, like many others, think the goal should have stood and that the current offside law needs to be simplified.
Courtois Establishes Himself as The Best Goalkeeper in The World
The job of a goalkeeper is so often a thankless one. Unlike forwards who can miss nine chances to score and redeem themselves by scoring a goal with their tenth chance, goalkeepers can pull off wonder save after wonder save, only to be piled on when they make one mistake.
On Saturday night, Thibaut Courtois announced his status as the best goalkeeper in the world with a legendary performance against Liverpool. Of Liverpool’s 24 attempts on goal, 9 were on target and he repelled every single one.
As he saved and parried shot after shot away, the Liverpool players must have wondered how exactly they were supposed to breach the Madrid defense with Courtois in goal.
His heroics even gave his team a springboard to score more late on. As the frustrated Liverpool players poured forward, Madrid had several chances to pick them off on the counter attack, but were uncharacteristically wasteful with the final pass.
After the game his quotes were telling: “…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…”
And he was right. He has absolutely earned that respect.
Ancelotti Wins Record 4th UCL
Carlo Ancelotti ended the 2020-2021 season in mid-table obscurity with Everton. When the chance came to manage Real Madrid again, he jumped at it, acutely aware that he was putting his reputation on the line for a team that appeared to have passed its best days.
Fast forward to now, after the Italian has just become the first head Coach to win four UEFA Champions League titles, twice with AC Milan and Real Madrid each, along with another league trophy and all we can say is…
Chapeau Don Carlo!
Liverpool Season, Disappointment or Success?
A week ago, Liverpool still had a realistic chance to win a quadruple, and they almost achieved it too.
Football is a game of fine margins and if Gündoğan didn’t have the impact he did against Aston Villa or if Courtois was a little less sharp, they would currently be celebrating an unprecedented quadruple.
Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work out that way and they had to make do with their FA Cup and League Cup double.
Given the amount of quality in the current squad and that their season promised so much just a week ago only to end up with just the two domestic trophies, how will this team go down in history?
Please share your answer with us in the comments.
Vinicius Cements His Place in Real Madrid History
On the rare European night that Benzema failed to light up this season, Vinicius Junior stepped up to win Real Madrid the title.
The young Brazilian forward has improved in leaps and bounds this season and his Champions League winning goal has now firmly written him into Los Merengues history.
Just two seasons ago, Benzema was saying of him to Ferland Mendy: “Brother don’t play to him. On my mother’s life. He is playing against us.” Today, he is an invaluable member of the squad and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Acquiring Galacticos will always matter to Florentino Perez and Real Madrid, so missing out on Mbappe in that fashion will hurt for a while. In Vinicius junior, however, they have a World-Class wide player of their own that will terrorize right backs for years to come.
Madrid’s Old Dogs Outfox Liverpool
Liverpool might have the better team on paper, but at this stage, the vastly more experienced Real Madrid players had the edge.
Dani Ceballos revealed post-match that pregame, Modric, Casemiro and Kroos were calmly playing cards.
These are three players that have been here several times for Real Madrid and their respective countries and gained a wealth of invaluable experience along the way and it showed.
It was not a vintage game for their midfield by any means. Liverpool controlled most of the game with 54% of possession and 524 accurate passes, 99 more than Madrid’s total. But still, they found a way to eke out the win.
Modric and Kroos dropped deeper to control the tempo of the game while Casemiro teamed up with the reinvigorated Dani Carvajal and Fede Valverde to lock off the defensive midfield zone and the right wing.
After a rough start for Madrid this season, Ancelotti learned to lean on their more experienced players in their hour of need and every time, they came up with aces.
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