Previewing the Champions League Final


Liverpool and Real Madrid will clash in Paris on Saturday. (Courtesy of Twitter)

After 124 matches and 379 goals scored, we are down to just two teams playing in the UEFA Champions League final. But before that, Manchester City faced Real Madrid and  Liverpool faced Villareal in the semifinals.

In the Manchester City tie, the first leg was at the Etihad Stadium. Within two minutes, City opened the scoring, courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne. With his goal in the 94th second, he scored the fastest goal in Champions League semifinal history. City then made it two with a goal from Gabriel Jesus in the 11th minute. Madrid were able to claw one back with Karim Benzema in the 33rd minute to make it 2-1 on the night. The score remained like that until the second half where City once again established a two goal advantage in the tie with a header from Phil Foden to make it 3-1. Within minutes, Madrid again pulled a goal back courtesy of Vinicius who made a run from the halfway line with the ball and slotted it into the back of the net to make it 3-2. Then in the 74th minute, City struck again with Bernado Silva. He picked up the ball at the edge of the box after a City player was fouled with the referee playing an advantage. With the advantage, Silva blasted the ball past the Madrid goalkeeper to make it 4-2. However, the night wasn’t over with Madrid getting a penalty. Benzema stepped up to take it in the 82nd minute and coolly did a panenka to get a brace and make it 4-3 on the night. 

After that first leg thriller, the second leg was more methodical. City had the one-goal advantage on aggregate and all they needed to do was prevent Madrid from scoring to make it to the final. In the 73rd minute, Riyad Mahrez scored to put City ahead 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. With very little time left in the match, Madrid made several changes in the hope that they could get themselves back into the tie. And in the 90th minute, they were given a lifeline courtesy of the substitute Rodrygo to make it 1-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. With 6 minutes of injury time, Madrid were now pressing for another goal to at least push it to extra time. In the 91st minute, Rodrygo scored his second goal of the match to make it 5-5 on aggregate. The match ended up going to extra time and within minutes, Madrid were awarded a penalty with Benzema being tackled in the box. With a trip to the final on the line, Benzema stepped up and scored the winning penalty to make it 3-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate to complete the comeback and knock City out of the Champions League, ending their goal of winning their first ever Champions League trophy.

As for the other tie, Liverpool hosted Villareal for the first leg. In the first half, Villareal stood firm with Liverpool unable to find the back of the net. However in the second half, Liverpool’s constant pressure finally broke through. In the span of two minutes, the Reds scored two goals to get a stranglehold on the tie. The first goal was through an own goal which took a big deflection off a Jordan Henderson cross with the second goal courtesy of Sadio Mane. 

As they went to the second leg, all Liverpool needed to do was control the game like they did in the first leg and they would be through to the final. However, within three minutes of the second leg, Villareal scored a goal to make it 2-1 on aggregate and reignite the tie. Villareal were aggressive as they hunted for the equalizer and were rewarded. In the 41st minute, they scored again to make it 2-0 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate. The momentum was completely on Villareal’s side as they had a huge chance to continue their fairytale run in the competition. However in the second half, Liverpool were more lively and looked better with the substitution of Luis Diaz. Once Diaz was introduced, Liverpool were on another level. In the 62nd minute, Fabinho scored a goal to put them back in front on aggregate. Liverpool’s constant pressure paid off in the 67th minute when Diaz got himself on the scoresheet to level the score on the night and make it 4-2 on aggregate. Liverpool completed the comeback on the night with Mane scoring in the 74th minute to make it 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate to seal their place in the Champions League final.

And after months of the competition, we are now down to two finalists: Liverpool and Real Madrid in a repeat of the 2018 final, where Madrid got the better of Liverpool and won their 13th Champions League with a 3-1 scoreline. With the final in Paris, this is also an exact repeat of the 1981 final, where Liverpool beat Madrid 1-0 in Paris to win their third Champions League. Heading into the final on paper, Liverpool have a better squad. But this competition has shown that Madrid are capable of beating any team, making it impossible to predict a winner. Liverpool have already won the Carabao and FA Cups and are still in the hunt for a treble. As for Madrid, they have already won La Liga for a record extending 35 times and could win the Champions League for another record extending 14th time. Both teams are no strangers to this level of the competition. This is Liverpool’s third Champions League final in the past five years and is their 10th overall. The Reds have won six Champions League in total with their most recent one in 2019. As for Madrid, this is their 17th final in this competition and they have only lost three in their history. Their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, has broken the record for the most finals appearances for a coach, with this being his fifth final. He’s won three of his previous ones, including Madrid’s 10th overall back in 2014. No matter what happens, this has been a Champions League campaign to remember as two of the most prestigious clubs battle for the most prestigious club trophies in the world.