Final Champions League, in data: Courtois, hero of Madrid





In its umpteenth survival exercise, Real Madrid was proclaimed champion of the Champions League clinging to an extraordinary offensive punctuality -a goal with just two shots on goal- and, above all, to a goalkeeper in a state of grace. Thibout Courtois repeatedly frustrated Liverpool’s attacks, dominating for almost the entire game, until adding nine saves, more than any other goalkeeper in a finaland become the hero of the fourteenth.

Until now, the record for shots stopped in a Champions League final was eight, made by Edwin van der Sar against Barcelona in 2011, without this helping Manchester United win the title. Alisson Becker, the Liverpool goalkeeper, equaled that mark in 2019, when his team won against Tottenham. This Saturday, Alisson made no stops: Real Madrid’s first shot on goal was a shot by Valverde that was blocked by the defense and ended in Benzema’s disallowed goal for offside at the end of the first half; the second, the goal that decided the tournament.

On the contrary, in the other goal, Courtois came out unscathed from a real shootout. Liverpool finished 24 times, for only four of Madridaccording to OPTA statistics, which estimate that the English team created enough chances to score 2.14 goals. If you look only at the nine shots that were between the three sticks, the expected goals amount to 2.58.

But it was zero, beaten by a goalkeeper who became a wall. Courtois took them out of all colors and especially made the night bitter for Salah, the Liverpool starwho was arrested by none other than six shots, some very difficult, like a shot down to his left in the first half or a lopsided shot in the second. The save of the night, however, was a shot by Mané, in the 21st minute of the first half, when the Madrid goalkeeper deflected the ball with his right hand and the post returned the rebound.






Min. 15. Courtois stops a shot from Salah. REUTERS






Min. 20. With a great stretch, he manages to deflect Mané’s shot to the post. REUTERS






Min. 63. Another great stretch from the Belgian to cover a shot to the far post by Salah. AFP






Min. 69. Great reaction from the goalkeeper to avoid Salah’s shot from a corner. REUTERS






Min. 79. Courtois reflexes to respond to a deflected shot by Diogo Jota EFE






Min. 81. Courtois clears a one against one from Salah with his arm. REUTERS

An overwhelming and sterile domain in front of a decisive goal

They were the best minutes of a Liverpool that overwhelmed Real Madrid for much of the final. Klopp’s team not only shot much more on goal, but also had more possession of the ball (56.8% vs. 46.1%), they were more accurate in passing (88.5% vs. 82.7% %), he managed more dribbles (14, for Madrid’s nine) and took three times the number of corners (six versus two).

The white team, on the other hand, hardly took the initiative in a clear way in the last minutes of the first half and he only comes out the winner in the duels won in the final as a whole, 57 to 41. The estimate of expected goals based on Real Madrid’s chances is 0.88, although it drops to 0.35 if only shots on goal are considered. But while the English were unable to take advantage of their multiple chances, Vinicius Junior pocketed the decisive ball.

The play of the goal was developed in 32 seconds. It begins with a throw-in from Mendy to Kroos, which he returns. The French winger passes it to Militao in the center of defense and he switches the game to the right wing. There, Carvajal, Modric and Casemiro maneuver with the ball, freeing themselves from the pressure of the ‘red’ midfielders, until the ball returns to Casemiro and he opens the winger position for Valverde, who alone becomes the protagonist and assistant of the goal.

The Uruguayan can progress unopposed to the top of the area. There he has the possibility of prolonging Carvajal, who had followed his progress, or filtering the ball to Benzema’s unmarking inside the area. But the midfielder assisted with a center shot to Vinicius, who took advantage of the space behind Alexander-Arnold to beat Alisson without opposition. A shot on goal, a goal worth a Champions.







Vinicius scores the only goal of the Champions League final, in the 58th minute of the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. EFE EFE / FILIP SINGER

Salah, more incisive than Benzema

At the age of 21 and in his first final, Vinicius achieved the imbalance that Karim Benzema, the best striker in the tournament, did not achieve last night. The Frenchman was scattered, even somewhat confused, as was seen in the play that ended in the disallowed goal: after a phenomenal control and a good cut to a defender, it was done at night against Alisson. And although he scored in the subsequent hubbub, the VAR ended up annulling the play, so that closed the final without a single shot between the three sticks, with a dribble achieved from three attempts and 17 turnovers.

Much more incisive was his counterpart at Liverpool, the Egyptian Mohammed Salah. Nobody finished more than the star netuntil nine shots – more than a third of his team’s –, and his incursions down the right flank, accompanied by Trent Alexander-Arnold, dismantled the Whites’ defense on more than one occasion. He was somewhat unsuccessful in dribbling, with only one good out of five attempts, but he always gave a feeling of danger, even though Courtois deactivated his six shots between sticks.

Beyond Courtois and Vinicius, Real Madrid’s support was its defensive network, with a wonderful version of the entire back line. Especially successful was Daniel Carvajalwho achieved seven recoveries and emerged victorious in all his duels, until drying Luis Díaz, the Colombian winger who appeared as one of Liverpool’s main threats at this end of the season and who left with a single shot in the game.

Despite playing crouched –Real Madrid was in defense 24.3 meters from their goal, while Liverpool advanced to 39.6 meters-, the white defenders kept cool to bail out water in the own area: there they added 90 good deedsfor 30 of the netmuch less required. And where they did not arrive, Courtois did the rest.


www.rtve.es

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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