UEFA Champions League Final Review: Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid
It was not surprising to see Real Madrid beating all the teams who were regarded as the favorites to win the Champions League. And even when the odds were stacked against them, the men in white came through and made it to the final.
Given the quality at Liverpool's disposal, and the fact that they were at their peak under Jurgen Klopp, this final was viewed as a one-sided affair.
The game unfolded as expected; Liverpool started strong and controlled possession in the first quarter, putting pressure on Real Madrid goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, who came up big on many occasions to deny the Reds.
Mane and Salah were frustrated by the Belgian goalkeeper, who stood like a brick of a wall guarding Madrid’s goal-post.
It seemed like the hard work of Liverpool would see the light, but Real Madrid gave them a scare when Benzema’s goal was flagged offside. The Reds walked off the field disgruntled as the referee blew the half-time whistle.
In comparison to the first half, the second half had a contrasting subplot. Real Madrid appeared to be a much better team and posed a threat to Liverpool; they also had more control of the ball.
The Reds' failure to score proved to be a major issue, as Real Madrid were given a reprieve when Valverde's cross was met by Vinicius Junior at the far post, who swept in and sent Madrid supporters into ecstasy, as it was enough to seal the club's 14th Champions League championship.
We examine five factors that contributed to Real Madrid's Champions League victory.
5 Reasons why Real Madrid won the Champions League of 2022
1. Thriving under pressure
Real Madrid's aura, which never settles for less, is reflected in their players' ability to flourish under pressure.
They're used to performing in such environments. It stems from their mythology, which has shaped their mentality of refusing to surrender until the referee blows the final whistle.
When the other teams concede goals and fail to find the answer, they think it’s the end, but for Real Madrid, they start from here.
It was seen against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City; when Real were trailing until the 90th minute, they had faith, and with that confidence and composure, they blossomed under pressure and brushed off all three giants.
2. Promoting young talent
Real Madrid should be appreciative of their youthful players. On their way to the final, the main players were Rodrygo, Valverde, Vinicius, and Camavinga. They all contributed to Real's European triumph.
Vinicius was a key player in the win over PSG. While Rodrygo came on as a substitute and scored an equaliser over Chelsea to force extra time, he pulled off another spectacular effort when he scored twice against Man City in the second leg of the semi-final to send the game into extra time.
In the absence of Modric and Kroos, Valverde and Camavinga were vital, since their tireless legs brought energy to Real's midfield and drove the squad to score goals.
3. Karim Benzema
In each of Real Madrid's games, he was a star performer. His scores gave Real Madrid hope in several matches, often from the slightest of chances.
Benzema delivered the last touch in the final third for Real Madrid, and he deservedly finished the season as the leading scorer with 15 goals.
4. Carlo Ancelotti
The Italian manager made history when he became the first manager to win four Champions League titles, courtesy to his realistic tactics that allowed players to excel in their roles. Vinicius has flourished under Ancelotti, and his partnership with Benzema has resulted in a slew of goals.
Ancelotti led the team tactically and delegated decision-making to the players. He listened to his players, which resulted in more ideas and tactical advantages over rival clubs.
When Real scored two goals against City, he sent in Camavinga and Rodrygo in place of Modric and Kroos, which was a tactical decision because it allowed Real to put pressure with young players who are quick, resulting in City defending deep and hitting the pitfall.
5. Overcoming adversity despite several setbacks
Los Blancos had a squad that was comprised of both young and veteran players. It was doubtful that Madrid would get thus far in the competition; they were not considered among the favorites to win the title.
However, the Spanish giant's determination and experience kept them afloat as they squeaked past major European opponents to defy the odds.
5 Reasons why Liverpool lost the Champions League Final of 2022
1. Injuries to key players
Following their return from injury, Fabinho and Thiago were included in the squad. It turned out to be a mistake, as both players were unable to impact the game and were outmanoeuvred by Real's midfield.
Real Madrid's solid backline restricted Thiago's trademark passes in the gaps, while Fabinho seemed unable to play the role of defensive midfield.
2. Real Madrid’s defense proved too much for Liverpool’s front three
Real Madrid's defensive line outmuscled Liverpool's trio of Salah, Mane, and Diaz, who were unable to do anything in attack. Carvajal and Valverde swamped Diaz, who struggled to make an impression. Salah and Mane, on the other hand, were unable to provide anything.
3. Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid's savior
Liverpool pushed it all to equalise, but Courtois manned the post like a guard. He made nine saves to keep Madrid in the lead. If it hadn't been for him, Liverpool would have led by two goals in the first half.
4. Defensive blunder by the Reds
Liverpool who had the second-most clean sheets in the Premier League were consistently caught off the guard by Real Madrid forwards.
Trent Alexander-Arnold should have been more aware when he left Vinicius unmarked at the far post, allowing the Brazilian to tap in Valverde's cross.
Only one of Madrid's two shots on target were successfully converted. Vinicius Junior chastised Liverpool for being too complacent.
5. Zero open play goals in three finals
This season, Liverpool reached three finals without scoring an open play goal in any of them. In both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals against Chelsea, the Reds were unable to score a goal in normal play, and had to win in penalty shootouts.
Despite boasting world-class attackers, Liverpool deceived themselves again, falling to a side with a well-seasoned and composed squad capable of punishing you for minor errors in these major finals.