Madrid win Champions League final amid crowd chaos

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Madrid win Champions League final amid crowd chaos

PARIS (AP) – Another Champions League title for Real Madrid, the undisputed king of Europe.

Another European flagship football game marred by chaotic crowd problems and disorder.

Madrid became European champions for a 14th time – twice as many as any other team on the continent – after beating Liverpool 1-0 in a final that started 37 minutes late on Saturday due to disturbing scenes outside the Stade de France . It brought back memories of the violence that overshadowed the EM final at Wembley Stadium 10 months ago.

Brazilian winger Vinícius Júnior was the match-winner, scoring in the 59th minute after a shot from Federico Valverde went over the goal from close range, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois drew equal praise with stunning saves from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

“Today nobody would stand in my way,” said Courtois. “I definitely wanted to win a Champions League.”

It gave Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti their fourth European Cup title, the highest ever for a manager in the history of the competition, and completed the Champions League-La Liga double for a Spanish giant whose culture is rooted in winning the title.

And this time, it didn’t take a rousing comeback for Madrid to slip past Paris Saint-Germain, holders Chelsea and Manchester City in the knockout stages. It could be the most grueling title fight in the long history of the competition

“We are the best,” said Madrid striker Karim Benzema. “It was a very difficult competition for us and we deserved to win this final. With all the history of this team, we have shown everyone that we are always here.”

Liverpool’s players ended a season that promised so much – a week ago they were battling for an unprecedented quadruple in major trophies – with only the two domestic cups in England to show their efforts. They lost the Premier League title by a point last weekend and the Champions League to a Madrid side who had a shot on goal in the final.

In his 64th game of the season, Liverpool just couldn’t find a way past Courtois, who tipped Mane’s shot off the post in the first half and made an even better save to ward off Salah’s attempt in the 81st.

It’s unfathomable that Liverpool, who possess one of the most devastating attacks in world football, have failed to score a single goal in their three cup finals this season. The Reds won the FA Cup and League Cup on penalties after drawing 0–0 after extra time.

“No one in the dressing room feels like it’s been a great season at the moment,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool’s players stayed on the field to watch Marcelo, Madrid’s streak of trophies, who didn’t even play a minute in the final, was given the honor of lifting the trophy against a backdrop of fireworks and confetti.

Marcelo is one of many Real Madrid players to claim a fifth Champions League title, just one short of the record set by Francisco Gento, a Madrid great from the 1950s and ’60s.

For many, particularly Liverpool fans, pre-game crowd problems overshadowed this final and will surely be the focus of an investigation by UEFA and the authorities in the coming days.

Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters who were forced to wait in long lines to get into the club’s biggest game of the European season, the kick-off of which has been postponed.

UEFA blamed the chaos on people trying to get into the stadium without valid tickets.

“In the run-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end were blocked by thousands of fans who bought counterfeit tickets that didn’t work in the turnstiles,” UEFA said in a statement.

Some fans climbed fences surrounding the stadium to get inside. Others pushed past security and sprinted onto the concourse before being wrestled to the ground.

Riot police officers with batons and riot shields ran from gate to gate to prevent crowds of fans from entering the stadium.

“I have really bad asthma and have been tear gassed twice,” Liverpool fan Angela Murphy told The Associated Press through a fence. “I really fight.”

A delay was announced about 15 minutes before the scheduled kick-off at 9 p.m. local time. It was greeted by Johlen at the stadium.

Liverpool said it was “very disappointed” by its fans’ safety concerns, reminiscent of last summer away from Wembley ahead of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. This was mainly because England fans were aggressively trying to get into their home ground.

“I know families have had real problems getting into the stadium,” said Klopp. “We’ll let the investigation figure it out… Obviously, it’s been pretty tough out there.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas can be reached at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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