Thibaut Courtois relished the opportunity to make a difference as his solid goalkeeping performance helped Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final on Saturday.
At the Stade de France, Madrid’s backs were against the wall from the start, as Liverpool tried as many shots on target in the first half (five) as they had combined in their previous two Champions League finals (two in 2018 and three in 2019).
In the first half, Courtois made two excellent saves, one against a close-range Mohamed Salah attempt and the other against a Sadio Mane drive, but the Belgium international kept his best for the second half.
In the second half, Courtois made three excellent saves, the last of which was particularly spectacular as he dove to his right to tip the ball away, with Vinicius Junior putting Madrid ahead at the opposite end.
Madrid’s defence held firm to seal a 1-0 victory and a record-extending 14th Champions League trophy. Courtois made nine record saves in the competition’s final since Opta began tracking statistics in 2003-04.
This season, Courtois has led the way among goalkeepers in the competition, making the most saves (59) and boasting the highest save percentage of goalkeepers to make five stops or more (80.56).
The 30-year-old, speaking after the game, reflected on a productive outing on both a personal and team level.
He told BT Sport:
“I said yesterday in my press conference when Madrid plays finals, and they win it.
“And I’m on the good side of history, and I saw many tweets coming that I will get humbled today, and it was the other way round.
“I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work, to respect my name – I don’t think I have enough, especially in England.
“I saw a lot of criticism even after a great season that I was not good enough. I’m really happy and proud of the performance of the team, we stuck to it, and when I needed to be there, I was there for the team.
“We beat the best clubs in the world, together with us, you see the year City and Liverpool had, unbelievable seasons, they fought till the end in the Premier League.
“Liverpool won two cups, and today they were solid, I think I played a great game, and that was the difference – we had one chance, and we scored it.”
Aside from a dominant personal performance, Courtois believes Madrid has shown they are the best side in Europe.
He told Movistar:
“So many years, so much work, coming to the club of my life, yesterday I already said that Madrid wins and it is like that.
“Many from Liverpool and other people criticising me, but we have shown who is the king of Europe.
“I’ve felt excellent this year, I’ve managed the last few weeks well, and once you make the first stop when you’re focused, I took chances from Mane and Salah.
“Nobody could take away my desire to win a Champions League. For my loved ones who have passed, I was going to win a Champions League.”
As for his best save, Courtois added: “Especially Salah’s, I looked for it from a distance, and I knew where the ball was going. It’s crazy, and I don’t believe it.
“The referee added five minutes without anything happening, but we held on.”
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