Uefa Champions League (UCL) is a club football competition that hosts clubs from all over Europe. Few have won it, recent winners include Chelsea(England), Bayern Munich(Germany), Real Madrid and Liverpool(England).
It’s so competitive that we’ll often have local league winners head to head to win the title.
The most successful team in the competition has been Real Madrid (14), with AC Milan trailing with seven titles.
There are only 22 teams who’ve ever won this title. Naturally, whenever a club is rebranded under new owners and revitalized, its primary objective is to win the Champions League.
Recently, several super teams have developed in the game who’ve tried everything in the book, yet the title evades them.
The competition starts with 32 teams with eight groups of 4 teams. The top two from each group qualify for round 16, while the 3rd goes to Europa League.
The knockout stages are where the real competition ignites with two-legged ties with one leg played at each team’s home ground.
The final score over the two legs is aggregated to announce the winner. The final is a single match played at a ground announced before the start of the competition.
Previously only the local league champions qualified, but now there are multiple entrants from each league. The strongest ones, such as English Premier League, provide four teams.
Road To Final: Liverpool
In a single look, out of their 13 matches, Liverpool won 10, drew 1, and lost 2, including the final. Their group included AC Milan, Porto, and Athletico Madrid.
They breezed past these 3, winning all 6 of their group stage matches. Their round of 16 was set against Inter Milan.
The Italian champions could not withstand Liverpool’s long-ball football and lost 2-1. The quarter-finals saw them bouted against Benfica from Portugal.
A dominating away win of 3-1 in the first leg more or less sealed the tie. The second leg still saw a goal fest with both sides scoring three goals each.
The unexpected test from the Spaniards
Liverpool’s semifinal proved to be an interesting one. They had a 2 goal lead going into the second away leg. But Sevilla couldn’t go down without a fight.
The Spanish team was pressing up and high in the first half. The second half saw a completely different story.
The tight press meant Sevilla was tired, who let three goals in 12 minutes to end their brilliant resistance. Liverpool went into the final with Mo Salah as their top scorer with 8 eight goals.
Road to Final: Real Madrid
While Liverpool dominated their way to the final, Real Madrid had a somewhat more exciting campaign.
Dubbed the most challenging title win, Real Madrid won 8 out of their 12 matches before the last, posting four losses.
They were led bravely by a duo of Benzema and 21-year-old Vinicius, with the former ending as the top scorer of the competition with 15 goals in 12 games.
Real Madrid cruised past the group stage with 15 points, but this included an embarrassing home loss to Sherif.
Real Madrid was far from being the favorites to win. Critics dubbed PSG with the inclusion of Messi, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, defending Champions Chelsea, and the finalist Liverpool to win.
An incredible knockout stage run saw Real Madrid taking out 4 out of these 5. They faced PSG in the round of 16, Chelsea in the quarters, and Man City in the semifinal.
A Bernabue Hatrick
Before the knockout stage, Karim Benzema had five goals, but his heroics single-handedly took Real all the way, where he scored 10 in the last six knockouts.
They faced PSG in the round of 16. PSG owned Real Madrid in the first leg but could only score one via Kylian Mbappe.
The second leg saw Mbappe double the lead in the first half of the match. The tie was already over.
At the turn of halftime, Real Madrid completely changed the outlook of the match. Karim Benzema slotted past Donnuruma in minutes 61,76, and 78 to complete a second-half comeback to put Real Madrid through to the Quarter Final.
The North Londoner’s persistence
Benzema netted another hattrick in the first leg of the quarter versus Chelsea. Chelsea could only score 1 in reply at their home in the first leg.
This was the first back-to-back hattrick in the champions league since Cristiano did it for Real Madrid in 2017 against Bayern and Athletico.
What was supposed to be a cruising win in Bernabeu to sit the lead out became the opposite as, one by one, Chelsea climbed back the deficit to put three past Madrid with goals from Mount, Rudiger, and Werner. Madrid was on the brink of elimination.
Then Modric sent a pass to Rodrigo from outside his foot, which Rordygo slotted to equalize the tie with 4-4 on aggregate. Then in extra time, Benzema scored off an assist from Vinicius to win for Real Madrid.
Gourdioula and his henchman
It was impossible how Real Madrid had made it to the semifinal. But things looked tough onwards, given that Manchester City had a dominating season in EPL.
The dominance showed as they owned Madrid in the first tie. While City was the better side, they couldn’t capitalize on most of their chances, giving them a slight lead of 1 goal in the next leg.
Real Madrid was a bit more clinical than City, which meant the score was 4-3 in favor of City.
As it had been happening all campaign, the stage was set for another Benabue comeback. But Benzema and Vinicius found it challenging to break through the City’s defenses.
In the 73rd minute, Riyadh Mahrez scored for the City, giving them a 2-goal lead with 17 minutes of play left.
A miracle arrives in the form of Rodrygo Goes. A youngster from Brazil who had scored a brace the week before came on as a substitute.
The Brazilian scored a tap-in from Benzema’s pass in the 90th minute and a header from Carvajal in the 91st to equalize the tie miraculously.
A stunned City side could no longer cope with the momentum and gave away a foolish penalty.
A chance that Benzema took full advantage of winning Real Madrid the semifinal in the most unexpected way possible.
Real Madrid was the better side for probably the last 15 minutes over the two legs of the tie, yet that was enough for them to go through.
It took place on Parc de Paris, on the 28th of May. It was the last game of the season for both the teams, with Real Madrid bagging the league while Liverpool won the Carabao Cup.
Liverpool was starting a lineup of 4-3-3 consisting of
- Allison in goal; Konate,
- Van Dijk, Alexander Arnold, and Robertson in defense;
- For midfield Fabinho, Alcantra and Henderson;
- the strikers included Mane, Luis Diaz, and Salah.
Real Madrid had,
- Courtois in goal;
- Alaba, Militao, Carvajal, and Mendy in defense;
- Modric, Kroos, Casemiro, and Velvarde in midfield;
- Benzema and Vicious were up top in a 4-4-2 formation.
The match started with Liverpool taking shots left, right, and center. Madrid looked to escape every time as their Goal Keeper made crucial saves to keep them in the game.
Benzema scored in the 42nd minute, but VAR ruled it offside. The match was in line with the pre-game expectations as Real Madrid dropped deep with Courtois, and the goal frame was the only thing keeping the scores at nil-nil.
Around the hour mark, Velvarde sent a blistering cross across the face of the goal, a ball that Vinicous tucked in to give Real Madrid the lead.
A lead that Real Madrid did not give away. With changes coming from both ends, Real Madrid only fortified their defenses more, allowing them to see the 1 goal lead until the full-time whistle.
When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, no one would remember that City was 17 minutes away from the final; nor would anyone remember that a 23-year-old Mbappe clowned Madrid for 135 minutes; nor that Chelsea scored three at Madrid’s home.
The fact that mattered was that Real Madrid persisted through every test and challenge threw their way. They were the champions for the 5th time in 8 years—their first UCL in the post-Ronaldo era.