Messi wins Champions League Goal of the Group Stage award

By Sports Desk December 17, 2021

Lionel Messi's effort for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City has been voted the Champions League Goal of the Group Stage.

The strike was the 34-year-old's first goal for PSG after joining on a free transfer due to Barcelona's financial issues preventing them from offering him a new contract.

PSG were 1-0 up after an eighth-minute opener from midfielder Idrissa Gueye when Messi, in the 74th minute, played a neat one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the box. 

The Frenchman backheeled into Messi's path before the Argentine rifled an unstoppable left-footed effort into the top-right corner past a helpless Ederson in the City goal.

Messi garnered 22 per cent of the vote - over 200,00 were cast - beating out competition from Thiago Alcantara and Robert Lewandowski, who gained 14 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Thiago struck a stunning volley into the bottom-right corner for Liverpool in their 2-0 win over Porto at Anfield, while Lewandowski fired in a spectacular bicycle kick in Bayern Munich's 2-1 away victory over Dynamo Kiev.

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  • 'I played a great game and that was the difference' – Courtois revels in Champions League heroics 'I played a great game and that was the difference' – Courtois revels in Champions League heroics

    Thibaut Courtois revelled in making the difference as his fine goalkeeping performance guided Real Madrid to a Champions League final victory over Liverpool on Saturday.

    Madrid had their backs to the wall from the offset at the Stade de France as Liverpool attempted as many shots on target in the first half (five) as they did in their previous two Champions League finals combined (two in 2018 and three in 2019).

    That first-half display included two fine Courtois stops against a close-range Mohamed Salah effort and Sadio Mane drive, but the Belgium international saved his best for after the interval.

    Courtois expertly denied Salah three times in the second half, the last of which was particularly impressive as he dived to his right to tip away, with Vinicius Junior nudging Madrid ahead at the other end.

    The rearguard of Madrid held firm to secure a 1-0 win and record-extending 14th Champions League title as Courtois ended with a record nine saves in the final of the competition, since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

    Courtois has led the way among goalkeepers in the competition this season, 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.

    "I said yesterday in my press conference when Madrid plays finals they win it," he told BT Sport.

    "And I'm on the good side of history, I saw a lot of tweets coming my way 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 put respect on 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 at 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, today they were really strong, 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 have shown they are the best side in Europe.

    "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," he told Movistar. 

    "Many from Liverpool and other people criticising me but we have shown who is the king of Europe.

    "I've felt very good this year, I've managed the last few weeks well, and once you make the first stop then you're focused, and 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 distance, and I knew where the ball was going. It's crazy, I don't believe it.

    "The referee added five minutes without anything happening, but hey, we held on."

  • UEFA blames fake tickets as Liverpool call for investigation into Champions League final delay UEFA blames fake tickets as Liverpool call for investigation into Champions League final delay

    UEFA has blamed the delays which plagued the Champions League final on fans trying to use "fake tickets" after Liverpool requested a formal investigation into the disruption.

    European football's governing body announced an initial 15-minute delay before Saturday's showpiece at the Stade de France, which Real Madrid went on to win 1-0, citing "security reasons" for the hold-up in fans entering the stadium.

    Both sides had already completed their warm-ups by the time kick-off was first delayed and had made their way back to the dressing rooms in Paris.

    The two teams returned for a second warm-up at 21:05 local time before the match finally started at 21:36 - 36 minutes later than planned - after a second delay.

    British broadcaster BT Sport reported Liverpool fans had complained of heavy-handed policing outside the stadium, suggesting tear gas had been used on supporters.

    Liverpool have since released a statement on the matter, requesting an investigation into the events.

    "We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced this evening at Stade de France," the statement read.

    "This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.

    "We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues."

    UEFA later blamed the use of fake tickets for the hold-up in supporters' entries, promising to review the situation alongside local authorities.

    "In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles," a UEFA statement read.

    "This created a build-up of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kick-off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access.

    "As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kick-off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.

    "UEFA is sympathetic to those affected by these events and will further review these matters urgently, together with the French police and authorities and with the French Football Federation."

     

  • Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Vinicius strikes as Blancos become European champions for 14th time Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Vinicius strikes as Blancos become European champions for 14th time

    Vinicius Junior scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in a delayed Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.

    Kick-off was pushed back by more than 30 minutes as Liverpool fans struggled to gain entry to the Stade de France, eventually taking their places to see Jurgen Klopp's men control much of the proceedings.

    But Madrid got the vital goal in the 59th minute when Vinicius tucked away his fourth of this season's competition – from one of just four Blancos attempts.

    Premier League runners-up Liverpool were denied by a string of superb saves from Thibaut Courtois either side of that strike, and Carlo Ancelotti's side held on to lift the European Cup for a 14th time – seven more than any other side. 

    Liverpool had started in confident mood following the delay and only failed to take the lead inside the opening 20 minutes courtesy of two fine stops from Courtois.

    The Real Madrid goalkeeper got down quickly to keep out Mohamed Salah's instinctive effort, before he superbly pawed Sadio Mane's powerful strike onto the post.

    Madrid thought they had taken the lead shortly before the interval when Karim Benzema stroked home after some slapstick defending from Liverpool, yet it was ruled out for offside against the France international – the decision confirmed by the VAR after a lengthy review.

    They were not to be denied just before the hour mark, however, when Vinicius stole in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold to turn in Federico Valverde's low ball across the penalty area.

    Courtois made three vital saves from Salah inside the final 20 minutes – the last of which really caught the eye – to cap a wonderful individual display and ensure Ancelotti's men claimed a record-extending triumph.

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