UEFA Champions League final wraps up a year of extraordinary performances

Jose Tovar

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The 2022 UEFA Champions League is advertised as Real Madrid prepares to take on Liverpool FC.

After a tumultuous first season back from the Covid pandemic, the UEFA champions league wrapped up a year of spectacles on May 28th for the Champions League final. The Stade de France hosted the match as the final returned to Paris for the first time since 2006.

While the game was initially scheduled to be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted UEFA to suspend that privilege and it was given to Paris instead.

With the ability to host over 80,000 spectators, the Stade de France is one of Europe’s biggest and most iconic stadiums. It has hosted multiple UCL finals and even a World Cup final in 1998.

This year the trophy was fought for by English side Liverpool FC and by Spanish giant Real Madrid. With a combined 19 UCL titles between the two, it was a heavily anticipated rematch from the 2018 final which Real Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

While both teams ended in first of their respective groups at the early stages of the tournament, many fans agreed that Real Madrid had one of the most challenging paths to get to the final.

“Real Madrid is overall the most balanced team, they have a lot of explosive speed on the outside that allows them to change the game very quickly,” soccer teacher Gladwin Worden said.

These are two teams with extremely decorated histories on the international stage as well as in their respective national leagues. With two of the greatest managers in the world as well as superstars such as Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, there was no lack of talent or quality.

I thought that Real would win due to their pace on the wings but I didn’t think that the deciding factor would be the goalkeeping, but rather a great play from one of the talented forwards.

— Gladwin Worden

The kickoff was delayed by almost one hour due to a struggle between French authorities and the many English fans attempting to enter the stadium. The mix of real and fake tickets confused the Parisien police and they utilized tear gas to keep the fans away.

After the incidents cleared up and the game was allowed to start, Liverpool quickly put pressure on the Madrid defense. The game’s first big opportunity came in the 15th minute when Mohamed Salah shot at the goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ near post and was narrowly denied by an outstretched glove.

This early opportunity sparked a series of shots from Liverpool and prompted multiple big saves from Courtois.

Five minutes after that first chance, Liverpool came within inches of securing the first goal of the final. Senegalese forward Sadio Mane received the ball with his back to goal and managed to turn quickly to get a chat off towards the bottom corner of the goal. This produced one of the best moments of the final as Courtois produced yet another great save as he managed to tip the ball enough to divert it directly onto the post.

Liverpool’s dominant possession and pressure continued until the 43rd minute of the match when Karim Benzema led a counterattack for Real Madrid which ended in a neat finish from inside the six-yard box. However, a lengthy and controversial VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review saw the goal overturned due to Benzema being in an offside position.

The second half started evenly with Real Madrid riding on the momentum from their canceled goal and Liverpool keen to finally put the ball in the back of the net.

After 13 minutes of little action, Federico Valverde began a diagonal run towards the Liverpool goal and made a great cross to Vinicius Jr. at the far post who tapped it in for the first valid goal of the game.

Despite intense pressure and multiple goal-scoring opportunities, the English side was unable to overcome the goaltending of Courtois. His nine saves to secure the win for Madrid also won him the man of the match award.

“He (Courtois) played very well, his saves were great and I think that Liverpool could have won by multiple goals if it wasn’t for him,” Park said.