Die Meister, Die Besten!
There are very few events as looked forward to as the UEFA Champions League Finals; the anticipation, the pomp, the pageantry, and the culmination of the numerous emotions football brings. Two final teams looking to win one more battle, and in the background, one of the most iconic anthems ever composed.
The Champions League Anthem was composed by Tony Britten in 1992, based off Handel’s Zadok the Priest, composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727. You only need to hear the first few notes before you would find yourself swearing fealty to the League, football fan or not. Last night, when the Liverpool and Real Madrid players walked out of the tunnel at the Stade de France in Paris, to that anthem and 75,000 people screaming for blood, not minding the billions doing the same in front of screens worldwide, they must have known they had to put on a show. They did not disappoint.
After several delays due to logistics and a Camila Cabello performance nobody honestly cared much for, Liverpool legend, Ian Rush and Madrid legend, Raul, walked the trophy out. The footballing world let out a collective breath as the most anticipated match of the season got underway.
Right away, the pace at which the match was going to be played was established. It was a frantic start with both teams sizing the other up and looking to land the first blow. Real Madrid had a good deal of possession in the opening minutes, with Liverpool looking to hit them on the counter. Quickly, the tides changed and the Real Madrid players had to direct their efforts towards not conceding a goal. On and on, this see-saw of a match went. Fans of both teams were being put through an emotional wrangler repeatedly while neutrals basked in the tension, throwing in a jab or two at intervals.
In the 15th minute, an Alexander Arnold cross was met by Mo Salah and a Liverpool goal was well in the works. However, Thibaut Courtois got down low and fast to deny the Egyptian. Six minutes later, Courtois made yet another brilliant save to deny Sadio Mane’s dancing feet. It was quickly becoming clear that the Belgian shot–stopper would have a profound impact on the outcome of the match as he pulled super save after save to keep the ball out of the Madrid net.
The ball did end up in the Liverpool net in the 42nd minute, bouncing kindly for Karim Benzema after a moment of confusion from the Liverpool defense. The striker in form buried the ball, only to turn around to a raised offside flag. A lengthy VAR review confirmed that the first half was to end goalless.
The second half picked up from where the first half left off. Liverpool looked the more menacing side, with Luiz Diaz running directly at the Real Madrid defenders, and Mane, Salah and Alexander Arnold causing trouble elsewhere. But Los Blancos did not win 13 European titles by cracking under pressure. The team showed the grit and doggedness that characterized their champions league run. They defended and waited for their chance.
The moment of magic came in the 59th minute and it started with Luka Modric twisting and turning deep in the Madrid half. With one pass, the Ballon d’or winner took the Liverpool midfield out of the equation. It was simply a matter of Fede Valverde running down the right wing and releasing a low cross to the far post where Vinicius was arriving, to side foot it home. Goal! Simple, direct, classy: Carlo Ancelloti’s Real Madrid.
From there, Thibaut Courtois ran the show. The ex-Chelsea player had a point to prove and he filled his goal like a brick wall. With only a few minutes to full-time, the Liverpool team kept piling pressure on their opponents, but Ancelloti’s side stood firm until the end to win an impressive 14th European Cup. Hala Madrid!
In the end, by beating the Liverpool team 1 to nil, the Real Madrid team showed both fans and foes that while they may share the “Les grandes équipes” title with their opponents, they alone were Die Meister, Die Besten,The Champions!