Los Blancos had a stunning run to the final, defeating Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, then-defending European champions Chelsea and Premier League champions Manchester City to reach the Stade de France spectacle. The Spanish giants had to come from behind against all three of those opponents and had Karim Benzema to thank for his 10 goals in the knockout stages.
Many suspect Real Madrid were fortunate to book their spot in the final and this did not escape Ancelotti’s attention in the build-up to Saturday night’s showdown. However, speaking after Vinicius Junior fired his side to a 1-0 victory and a 14th continental crown, the Italian manager declared it was relatively simple to prepare for the Reds compared to previous opponents.
“Looking back, people said PSG were unlucky, Chelsea were unlucky, Manchester City were unlucky,” Ancelotti told reporters. “This was practically the only game where people thought we were more or less on the same level.
“I think it helped that Liverpool were easier to decipher than the others, because they have a very clear identity and we could prepare the way that we did. We knew what strategy to take – don’t give them space behind the defence to run into.
“Perhaps our football wasn’t extraordinarily beautiful on an aesthetic level, but playing out from the back to incentivise their pressing wasn’t a great idea. We had a few more long balls, then we got to control the ball more, especially in the second half.”
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Real Madrid produced a textbook counter-attacking performance in the final, weathering a period of Liverpool dominance in the first half before Vinicius scored the winner just before the hour mark from Federico Valverde’s cross. The Brazilian’s goal came from one of two shots on target for Real Madrid on the night, whereas Liverpool registered nine.
It was no surprise to see Thibaut Courtois named man of the match after the Belgian goalkeeper made a number of sublime saves to preserve his clean sheet. The pick of these saw him deny Sadio Mane in the first half and Mohamed Salah in the 83rd minute as the Reds pressed for an equaliser.
Real Madrid’s triumph saw them complete a double of the Champions League and La Liga, while Ancelotti pulled clear of Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley by winning Europe’s premier competition for a record-breaking fourth time to cement his place as one of the greatest ever managers.