FULL LIST: Bayern To Play Barcelona In Champions League, Liverpool Face Ajax

In this file photo, the UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Bayern Munich were placed in the same section as Robert Lewandowski’s Barcelona in Thursday’s draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage in Istanbul, while Erling Haaland will face his former club as Manchester City were paired with Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern and Barcelona will also come up against Inter Milan in Group C, which is completed by the Czech champions Viktoria Plzen.

Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in a one-off quarter-final in Lisbon in 2020, while the Catalans also lost 3-0 twice to the Germans last season as they were eliminated in the group stage.

Lewandowski, 34, signed for Barcelona during the close season for a fee that could reach 50 million euros ($49.9m) after scoring 344 goals in eight years at Bayern.

“Only football writes such stories,” said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

“Barcelona have got stronger. ‘Lewy’ is there. They’ve done a thing or two in the transfer market. There will be some exciting games.”

Haaland left Dortmund for Premier League champions City in the close season. Those sides will also face Sevilla and Danish champions FC Copenhagen in Group G.

City and Dortmund last met in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2021, with Pep Guardiola’s side advancing 4-2 on aggregate. City also beat Sevilla twice in the group stage in 2015/16.

 Liverpool Face Rangers

Last season’s beaten finalists Liverpool will play Ajax, Napoli and Rangers in Group A, while reigning champions Real Madrid will face Celtic as well as RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F.

It is the third season running in which Real and Shakhtar have been placed in the same group.

With war continuing to rage in Ukraine, Shakhtar will play their home games in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side faced Ajax in the group stage just two years ago, while the Anfield outfit came up against Napoli in 2019.

Meanwhile, Rangers are back in the group phase of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 12 years — in the 2010/11 season they held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford but in 2012 they were demoted to the Scottish fourth tier when mounting debts forced them into liquidation.

After reaching last season’s Europa League final, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side knocked out PSV Eindhoven in the play-offs on Wednesday to reach the group stage.

“The first thing to say is this is a proper, proper challenge,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“We did not ask for any favours and we have not been given any but this is not a competition where you can look for easy ways through because the standard is always unbelievably high.”

PSG Among Favourites, Again

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain — who again start among the favourites to win a trophy that has continued to escape them since the Qatari takeover of more than a decade ago — will meet Juventus as well as Benfica and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group H.

Chelsea, winners in 2021, will take on Serie A champions AC Milan as well as Red Bull Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb in Group E, while Tottenham Hotspur will face last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt along with Sporting Lisbon and Marseille in Group D.

Porto and Atletico Madrid meet for the second season running in Group B, which also features Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian champions Club Brugge.

This season’s group stage will begin with the first round of games on September 6 and 7.

The match calendar is expected to be released following the draws on Friday for the group stages of the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

All six matchdays will be played in the space of nine weeks, finishing much earlier than usual on November 1 and 2, with UEFA needing to complete the group stage before the World Cup begins on November 20.

The final will be played on June 10 next year at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which was supposed to host the final in 2020 and again in 2021 — on each occasion, UEFA moved the game to Portugal due to pandemic-related restrictions.

See the full features below: 

The draw for the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage, made in Istanbul on Thursday:Group A: Ajax (NED), Liverpool (ENG), Napoli (ITA), Rangers (SCO)Group B: FC Porto (POR), Atletico Madrid (ESP), Bayer Leverkusen (GER), Club Brugge (BEL)

Group C: Bayern Munich (GER), Barcelona (ESP), Inter Milan (ITA), Viktoria Plzen (CZE)

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (GER), Tottenham Hotspur (ENG), Sporting (POR), Marseille (FRA)

Group E: AC Milan (ITA), Chelsea (ENG), Red Bull Salzburg (AUT), Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)

Group F: Real Madrid (ESP), RB Leipzig (GER), Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR), Celtic (SCO)

Group G: Manchester City (ENG), Sevilla (ESP), Borussia Dortmund (GER), FC Copenhagen (DEN)

Group H: Paris Saint-Germain (FRA), Juventus (ITA), Benfica (POR), Maccabi Haifa (ISR)

Dates:

Matchday 1: September 6-7

Matchday 2: September 13-14

Matchday 3: October 4-5

Matchday 4: October 11-12

Matchday 5: October 25-26

Matchday 6: November 1-2

AFP

 

Ronaldo Blasts ‘Lies’ Over Man Utd Future

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo (L) reacts after conceding their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Brentford and Manchester United at Brentford Community Stadium in London on August 13, 2022. (Photo by Ian Kington / AFP)

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the “lies” surrounding reports about his future at Manchester United.

The Portugal forward missed United’s pre-season tour to Thailand and Australia due to personal reasons as speculation swirled over whether he would be leaving Old Trafford.

It has been reported Ronaldo wants to play Champions League football, but United maintains the 37-year-old is not for sale and remains an integral part of the plans of new boss Erik ten Hag.

The former Real Madrid star played the full 90 minutes of United’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford on Saturday, which left them bottom of the Premier League.

In a reply to a fan account on Instagram that referred to a report linking the United frontman to Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo said fans would “know the truth” in a couple of weeks, adding: “The media is telling lies.”

“I have a notebook and in the last few months of the 100 news I made, only five were right. Imagine how it is. Stick with that tip.”

Manchester United will seek to kickstart their Premier League campaign when they host fierce rivals, Liverpool, on Monday.

United’s owners, the Glazer family, have come under fire following the team’s terrible start.

Former United defender Gary Neville has warned the club could finish in the bottom half of the Premier League if they do not address their “horror story” recruitment strategy.

Manchester United supporters’ group ‘The 1958’ is planning a protest march outside Old Trafford against the club’s owners ahead of the Liverpool match.

In a statement, the group said the ownership was “systematically starving and killing the greatest football institution in world football, for greed”.

“We appreciate emotions are running high,” it added. “We must keep it legal, we must keep it peaceful…. Bring the heat, bring the noise, bring the passion. Let’s show the Glazer family that this time it will not blow over.”

Billionaire Elon Musk sparked a social media frenzy on Tuesday evening when he raised the prospect of buying United from the Glazer family.

The Tesla CEO made the comment in a tweet, then later clarified his position by saying he had no intention of buying a sports team and that it had been a “long-running joke”.

Benzema, Courtois And De Bruyne Nominated For UEFA Award

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on May 11, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
In this file photo, Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on May 11, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Real Madrid pair Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne were on Friday shortlisted for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.

The European body of European football said that a jury made up of journalists and representatives of clubs playing in European competitions voted for the trio from a list of 15.

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski was fourth on the ballot and just missed out.

The award will be presented on August 25 during the draw for the Champions League group stage.

Real won the Spanish Liga and the Champions League.

Benzema was named Champions League Player of the Season after scoring 15 goals in the competition, including three in Real’s semi-final victory over Manchester City.

When he scored Real’s second goal against Frankfurt on Wednesday in the European Supercup, Benzema became the club’s second-highest scorer in history with 324 goals, behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Courtois was spectacular as Real edged Liverpool 1-0 in the final and was named player of the match.

De Bruyne made the shortlist for the third straight year after inspiring City to the Premier League title.

Jorginho won the title last year after winning the Champions League with Chelsea and the delayed Euro 2020 with Italy.

UEFA also announced the three nominees for coach of the year

They are Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, Man City’s Josep Guardiola, and the man they had to beat to win their biggest titles last season: Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp.

AFP

Rivers United Win First Nigerian League Title

Rivers United line up for a game. [email protected]__

 

Rivers United were crowned Nigerian league champions on Sunday after closest rivals Plateau United lost 2-1 at Akwa United to give the Port Harcourt side an unassailable lead with three rounds of matches still to play.

Rivers United, who play away at Nasarawa United later Sunday, have 71 points from 34 matches, 10 points clear of Plateau United, who have played 35 matches, while Remo Stars are a distant third on 53 points.

Winning the league earns United a place in next season’s CAF Champions League.

It is the first major honour for Rivers United since they were formed following a merger of Port Harcourt’s two top clubs – Dolphins and Sharks – in 2016

They are owned by the oil-rich Rivers State Government, who have made them one of the best-run clubs in Nigeria.

The club nicknamed “The Pride of Rivers” feature the league’s joint leading scorer Chijoke Akuneto, who has 16 goals, and winger Ishaq Kayode, who has netted 15 goals.

Last season, Rivers United were runners-up to another club financed by an oil-rich government, Akwa United.

AFP

UEFA To Investigate Champions League Final Chaos

Liverpool FC's supporters light flares near Place de la Nation in Paris on May 28, 2022, prior to the Champions League football match final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid. Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP
Liverpool FC’s supporters light flares near Place de la Nation in Paris on May 28, 2022, prior to the Champions League football match final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid.
Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP

 

UEFA announced on Monday it was opening an “independent report” into the security chaos before the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris.

European football’s governing body said the report would “examine decision making, responsibility and behaviours of all entities involved in the final”.

UEFA have appointed Portuguese politician Tiago Brandao Rodrigues to oversee the report on a pro bono basis on the completion of which they will decide upon a course of action.

READ ALSO: Kano Pillars Extend Unbeaten Run At Handball Premier League

“Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties,” UEFA said.

“The findings of the independent report will be made public,” it promised.

Brandao Rodrigues has served as Portuguese Minister of Education, was a member of the World Anti-doping Agency and was Portugal’s Olympic attaché during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

France on Monday blamed “massive” ticket fraud for the chaotic scenes that marred the Champions League final on Saturday which saw Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0.

But the French government has faced a barrage of criticism from press and politicians in Britain over the policing of the match.

Champions League: Liverpool Fans Confident Reds Will Bounce back

Egyptian fans of Liverpool react while watching the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at a cafe in the capital Cairo on May 28, 2022. Real Madrid won 1-0.
Ahmed HASAN / AFP

 

Disappointed Liverpool supporters drowned their sorrows in a pub near the club’s Anfield home after Real Madrid pipped them to the Champions League title on Saturday — but after winning two trophies this season, they were confident even more success lies ahead next season.

The reverse in Paris came a week after Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title, with Manchester City hanging on by just a single point.

Up until then, Liverpool had been eyeing an unprecedented quadruple of trophies in a single season but had to settle for lifting the FA Cup and English League Cup in a gruelling campaign where they played every possible match.

Fans watching the final on television at the Arkles pub next to Liverpool’s home ground were confident the team would bounce back under manager Jurgen Klopp.

“My Dad’s been watching the football for 80-odd years. We always keep on dreaming and we always keep on believing,” one supporter told AFP.

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane reacts after losing the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

“We’re disappointed now but we’ll get over it, and we’ll go again next season, and with Jurgen Klopp in charge anything is possible and that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Liverpool lost 1-0 at the Stade de France with Vinicius Junior scoring the only goal for Real as the Spanish giants were crowned kings of Europe for a record-extending 14th time.

“Unlucky, you know. We did everything but put the ball in the back of the net. They scored one goal out of two shots. What can you do?,” said another crestfallen fan.

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen, who also played for Real Madrid in his career, insisted the Reds were still the “best team in Europe” despite the defeat.

But Owen, now a BT Sport football analyst, said: “I still think (Liverpool) are the best team in Europe.”

British Fans, Politicians Condemn Champions League Final Chaos

Real Madrid supporters celebrate in Cibeles square in downtown Madrid, at the end of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022.
Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

 

 

British politicians and fans on Sunday condemned the treatment of fans around the stadium before Saturday’s Champions League final when French police sprayed tear gas on Liverpool supporters.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News on Sunday: “It is concerning to see that people either didn’t get into the stadium or were … treated with a very aggressive approach.”

Earlier the politician who oversees the sector, the Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, tweeted of “troubling reports” from the stadium.

A Liverpool MP from the opposition Labour Party, Ian Byrne, tweeted that “I’ve just endured one of the worst experiences in my life. Horrendous security and organisation putting lives at risk”.

Merseyside Police said in a statement that there were “distressing scenes at the match,” where its officers were deployed.

The force insisted “the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner”.

Liverpool players were set to take part in an open-top bus parade through the city on Sunday afternoon despite losing in Paris. Police said the city would be “very busy”.

Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson tweeted: “I know many have had a distressing time,” adding that she supported the club’s “call for an explanation into what happened before kick-off.”

Liverpool supporters’ association Spirit of Shankly wrote on Twitter that “Last night was totally shambolic & extremely dangerous – we are gathering evidence from fans & @FansEurope and will be making a statement later.”

One fan, Paul Machin said in a YouTube video that what he witnessed in Paris was “unlike anything I’ve seen at a football match before”, condemning “totally and utterly reprehensible behaviour from the French police who were an absolute disgrace”.

Another fan, Andrew Whittle, told Sky News that “Everyone was just funnelled into one place” and the crush “was a real Hillsborough sort of moment”, referring to the 1989 stadium disaster at a Liverpool match.

Former Liverpool defender Jim Beglin tweeted that after the match “organised gangs set about mugging departing fans” with “not a police officer insight”.

Another former Liverpool star Kenny Dalglish said on Twitter that “the way they (fans) were treated by authorities was an absolute joke. Nobody should ever be afraid to go to a football game.”

European football governing body UEFA blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for a 35-minute delay to the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

UEFA said French police had fired tear gas to disperse thousands of frustrated fans who were building up outside the Stade de France as a result of the fake tickets issue.

But Liverpool said they were “hugely disappointed” that their supporters had been subjected to an “unacceptable” breakdown of the security perimeter at France’s national stadium.

UEFA said they were “sympathetic” to the fans affected and would review the situation together with local police and authorities, as well as the French Football Federation.

However, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin pointed the finger at the Liverpool fans, tweeting that “Thousands of British ‘supporters’ either without tickets or with fake ones forced their way through and sometimes behaved violently towards the stewards”.

Dozens Arrested Amid Champions League Final Chaos – French Ministry

Real Madrid supporters celebrate in Cibeles square in downtown Madrid, at the end of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022.
Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

 

 

 

French police arrested dozens of people in Paris during the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was marked by scenes of chaos that delayed the kick-off.

Liverpool said genuine ticket-holders had not been able to access the match due to a security breakdown while UEFA and the French authorities blamed a problem with fake tickets.

The delay to the game and the chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France in Paris — where French police used tear gas to disperse fans — was not what the French capital wanted just two years before it hosts the Olympics.

The interior ministry said 68 people had been detained, of whom 39 were placed under arrest and remanded in custody meaning they could face charges.

European football governing body UEFA blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for the 35-minute delay to the final.

But Liverpool said they were “hugely disappointed” that their supporters had been subjected to an “unacceptable” breakdown of the security perimeter.

However, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin pointed the finger at Liverpool fans, saying “thousands of British ‘supporters’ either without tickets or with fake ones forced their way through and sometimes behaved violently towards the stewards”.

French newspaper Le Monde commented: “The party that was supposed to precede the final… was spoilt and turned into real chaos.”

“From party to fiasco,” said France’s leading sports daily L’Equipe.

In contrast to the scenes outside the stadium, Paris police noted that proceedings at two vast fans zones hosting thousands of supporters from both sides had taken place in a good atmosphere and without major incident.

Some 40,000 Liverpool supporters without a match ticket had packed into their zone in eastern Paris to enjoy the atmosphere. Despite the disappointment of defeat they left the area without any issue.

The Paris fire brigade — which looks after all kinds of emergency situations — said the night had largely been calm although it had treated some supporters for the effects of tear gas as well as excess alcohol consumption.

Real Madrid Defy Champions League Odds But What Next For Ageing Team?

 

Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo lifts the The Champions League trophy after Madrid ‘s victory in the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Real Madrid may be the most successful club in Champions League history but they defied the odds all along their way to victory in this season’s final against Liverpool. The question now is how long they can continue to do so with their current team.

The Spanish champions’ build-up to Saturday’s match was overshadowed by Kylian Mbappe’s decision to turn down a move to Madrid and stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

That snub from the player Real hoped to build their next team around suggests the future looks uncertain.

For now Real can revel in winning their fifth Champions League in nine seasons, and a record-extending 14th European Cup overall, after a solitary Vinicius Junior goal decided the contest at the Stade de France.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were seen as the favourites heading to Paris, but then again Real were not expected to beat PSG, Chelsea or Manchester City on their way to the final.

A campaign that started inauspiciously, with Moldovan outsiders Sheriff Tiraspol beating Real at the Santiago Bernabeu in the group stage, has ended in familiar fashion.

Real have now won on each of their last eight appearances in the final of Europe’s elite club competition since they lost 1-0 to Liverpool in Paris in 1981.

“This Cup has been the most difficult to win, definitely. I think the fact that nobody thought we could win it helped us,” said coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was also in charge when Real won the trophy in 2014.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Beat Liverpool To Win 2021/2022 Champions League

“I have to say that it is easier to win the Champions League with Madrid than another team.

“For all that has happened down the years, given the history and the support we have. The structure of the club makes it special.”

Ancelotti has now won four Champions Leagues as a coach, more than any other coach and the same number as Casemiro and Toni Kroos have managed with Real.

Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Dani Carvajal have played in all five of Real’s final victories going back to 2014, while Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Isco featured in four before being unused substitutes on Saturday.

A team written off as too old and no longer good enough at the very highest level has won La Liga and beaten the top three in this season’s Premier League, the French champions and last season’s Italian champions en route to European glory.

“Coaching this team is easy,” admitted Ancelotti. But will Paris prove to be their last dance?

– ‘Mbappe is forgotten’ –

Modric will be 37 in September but is set to sign on for another season, while Benzema is 34.

Marcelo is the same age as the Frenchman and out of contract along with Bale and Isco, while 32-year-old Toni Kroos is heading into the last year of his deal.

Once the celebrations have died down, Madrid must plan to defend their European crown without the prized signature of Mbappe.

“Mbappe is forgotten,” Real president Florentino Perez told broadcaster Movistar+ after Saturday’s final. “Real will keep working to attract the best players.”

Saturday’s match-winner, the 21-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Junior, is such a formidable talent that they may indeed be just fine without Mbappe, while Eder Militao and Fede Valverde are not yet at their peak and Eduardo Camavinga is still a teenager.

Real are also still capable of competing economically with the giants of the Premier League and PSG.

They had the second-highest revenues in world football last season, just behind Manchester City, according to Deloitte’s Football Money League.

A study by analysts Football Benchmark last week ranked them as Europe’s most valuable club.

Yet Real were in favour of a breakaway Super League because of the threat posed to Europe’s traditional elite, in particular by PSG and Manchester City, who are both owned by Gulf states.

Those clubs have secured the services of the two most exciting young players in world football in Mbappe and Erling Haaland respectively.

Neither has yet got their hands on the Champions League and they will not give up until they get there.

Next season may be very different but Real –- with the weight of history behind them -– will not relinquish their crown easily.

FULL LIST: Recent UEFA Champions League Winners


The UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Recent winners of the UEFA Champions League after Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the 2021-22 final in Paris on Saturday:

2021-22: Real Madrid (ESP)

2020-21: Chelsea (ENG)

2019-20: Bayern Munich (GER)

2018-19: Liverpool (ENG)

2017-18: Real Madrid (ESP)

2016-17: Real Madrid (ESP)

2015-16: Real Madrid (ESP)

2014-15: Barcelona (ESP)

2013-14: Real Madrid (ESP)

2012-13: Bayern Munich (GER)

2011-12: Chelsea (ENG)

2010-11: Barcelona (ESP)

2009-10: Inter Milan (ITA)

2008-09: Barcelona (ESP)

2007-08: Manchester United (ENG)

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Beat Liverpool To Win 2021/2022 Champions League

Most European Cup/Champions League wins per club

Real Madrid (ESP) — 14 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2022)

AC Milan (ITA) — 7 (1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)

Liverpool (ENG) — 6 (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019)

Bayern Munich (GER) — 6 (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013, 2020)

Barcelona (ESP) — 5 (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)

Ajax (NED) — 4 (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)

 

AFP

Real Madrid Beat Liverpool To Win 2021/2022 Champions League

Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo lifts the The Champions League trophy after Madrid ‘s victory in the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Vinicius Junior scored the only goal of the game as Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris to become kings of Europe for a record-extending 14th time after a night marred by problems outside the ground that led to the kick-off being delayed by over half an hour.

Brazilian winger Vinicius turned in Fede Valverde’s enticing low cross in the 59th minute at the Stade de France and Liverpool could not find an equaliser as Jurgen Klopp’s side lost to the Spanish giants in a Champions League final for the second time in five seasons.

The Anfield side will wonder what might have been had the outstanding Thibaut Courtois not pushed Sadio Mane’s shot onto the inside of a post when they were on top in the first half, as they fell short of a trophy treble.

Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema celebrates his team's victory of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Real Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema celebrates his team’s victory of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Winners of the English League Cup and FA Cup this season, they just missed out to Manchester City for the Premier League title and were denied a victory here which would have put them level with AC Milan on seven European Cups.

Instead Real have a fifth Champions League in nine seasons to go with their Spanish title, as Carlo Ancelotti becomes the first coach to win European club football’s greatest prize for a fourth time.

Ancelotti was also in charge of Real when they won the 2014 final having also triumphed with AC Milan in 2003 and in 2007, the latter victory coming against Liverpool.

Delayed kick-off

The match kicked off 35 minutes later than the planned 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) start in the French capital after chaos at entrances to the stadium led to fans being unable to get to their seats.

UEFA said it was “sympathetic” towards those affected and put the huge build-ups of supporters at gates down to “thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles”.

Tear gas was also fired by police as a small number of people could be seen trying to scale fences around the perimeter of the groud.

The final was only moved to the French capital after Saint-Petersburg was stripped of the game following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The delayed kick-off may have been responsible for the slow start to the game itself, as it took 16 minutes before there was an incident of note, Mohamed Salah turning a low Trent Alexander-Arnold cross towards goal only for Courtois to save.

Liverpool's Guinean midfielder Naby Keita (R) and Real Madrid's French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
Liverpool’s Guinean midfielder Naby Keita (R) and Real Madrid’s French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Liverpool were seen as favourites to avenge their loss to the Spanish giants in the 2018 final in Kyiv and they began to take control of the game.

Mane came agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the 21st minute as he skipped his way into a shooting position inside the box only for Courtois to tip his net-bound shot onto his right-hand post.

Klopp’s side, with Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara starting in midfield after overcoming fitness worries, were on top but could not turn their superiority into a lead.

Outstanding Courtois

Real, meanwhile, created almost nothing in the first half with Karim Benzema quiet, but their captain briefly thought he had got the breakthrough two minutes before the interval.

The Frenchman prodded home after the ball broke back to him inside the area but the offside flag was raised.

The decision to disallow the goal was upheld after a lengthy VAR check, despite Fabinho deflecting Valverde’s touch through to Benzema.

Yet Ancelotti’s side kept their nerve and were rewarded with the goal as the hour mark approached.

Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (C) makes a save during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (C) makes a save during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Valverde drove forward down the right before firing a low ball across the face of goal for Vinicius to turn it in at the far post past his Brazilian national team colleague Alisson.

Just like in 2018, Real had drawn first blood, but this time there was no need for them to send on Gareth Bale in order to ensure victory.

Courtois was superb, flying to his right to keep out a Salah curler before two saves in quick succession late on.

First the Belgian got down low when substitute Diogo Jota deflected Salah’s effort towards goal, and then he produced a strong arm to turn a Salah strike behind.

It was Real Madrid’s night.

 

AFP

Liverpool And Real Madrid Ready For Champions League Final Rematch

In this file photo, Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Rodrygo (C) vies with Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (L) and Liverpool’s Scottish defender Andrew Robertson during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 14, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Liverpool and Real Madrid meet in the Champions League final for the second time in five years in Paris on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side aiming to end the season with a trophy treble while the Spanish giants will look to Karim Benzema to inspire them to a 14th European Cup victory.

A crowd of 80,000 will be inside the Stade de France for the final, which kicks off at 9 pm in Paris (1900 GMT), including around 20,000 supporters of each side who have officially got their hands on precious tickets for the game.

The final promises to be a fitting climax to the European season, with Liverpool looking to win a second Champions League in four seasons since losing 3-1 to Real in Kyiv in 2018 when Mohamed Salah went off injured in the first half and Gareth Bale scored twice for the Spaniards.

Victory would round off a campaign in which Liverpool won the English League Cup and FA Cup, and finished just a point behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League.

“If you are a football person you know what my boys did so far this season was exceptional,” Klopp said on Friday.

“But we all know you are judged by the colour of the medal after a game.

“I’m more than happy and proud of what we did so far, it’s really special. I will feel better if we win the game and that’s all that I am concerned about,” added Klopp, who has been boosted by the news that midfield duo Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara are fit to play.

 Seventh heaven? 

The Anfield club can win their seventh European Cup, a tally that would see them go level with AC Milan and leave only Real with more victories.

Indeed Madrid are looking to win their fifth Champions League in nine seasons and, ominously, have won on all of their last seven final appearances.

While Liverpool saw off Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal in the knockout rounds, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real produced a series of memorable comebacks to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and then Manchester City.

“It is a great success for all of us to be here. We know very well the demands at this club, the history, but for us to get here is huge,” said Ancelotti, who last year was in charge of Liverpool’s local rivals Everton.

“We are convinced that the season has already been very, very good but now we are very close to getting the big one.”

Liverpool look to have the stronger side on paper, with Alisson in goal, Virgil van Dijk marshalling their defence and Salah and Sadio Mane leading their attack.

Yet Real are pinning their hopes on Karim Benzema, the 34-year-old Frenchman who has 15 goals in the competition this season.

Eyes on Benzema 

He has scored 44 times altogether this season to lead Real to the Spanish title and is the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or.

“He is for sure one of the best players in the world, probably the best forward in the world, and I’m sure the most underestimated player maybe in history,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told AFP on Friday when asked about Benzema.

“He has more personality and leadership on and off the field now but what has not changed is his quality and he remains as humble as ever,” said Ancelotti, who won the 2014 Champions League with Real in his first spell as coach.

Ancelotti can become the first coach to win the Champions League four times, having also triumphed with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 — he is currently level on three wins with Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley.

 Fans descend on Paris

This will be the third final between the clubs, who also met in Paris in 1981, when the English side triumphed thanks to Alan Kennedy’s goal at the Parc des Princes.

This final — which will be refereed by Frenchman Clement Turpin — is only being played in Paris after Saint-Petersburg was stripped of the game following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There is some concern about the new pitch at the Stade de France which was only laid this week after the venue was used for a concert last weekend — Klopp suggested playing on a brand new surface was “obviously not the best news”.

Around 40,000 Liverpool fans without tickets for the game are also expected to be in Paris, while around seven thousand police will be on duty as part of a massive security operation.

AFP