PETE JENSON: Ancelotti moves into league of one in Champions League

PETE JENSON: Carlo Ancelotti moves into a league of ONE after winning his fourth Champions League in Real Madrid’s win over Liverpool… his faith in Vinicius Jr is one of the Italian’s greatest successes in a season of many

  • Real Madrid won their 14th Champions League title with a 1-0 win over Liverpool 
  • Vinicius Jr scored the winner while Thibaut Courtois impressed in goal 
  • Previous manager Zinedine Zidane never trusted the Brazilian winger
  • Carlo Ancelotti’s trust in Vinicius is one of his greatest successes this season
  • The Italian has moved out on his own as the only coach to win it four times 

Carlo Ancelotti stepped ahead of Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane in Paris last night — he now stands alone as the only coach to have won the European Cup four times.

Zidane was in the Stade de France to see him do it. And it was fitting that Vinicius got Real Madrid’s winning goal. The 21-year-old Brazilian is one of Ancelotti’s greatest successes in a season of so many.

Zidane never trusted him, taking him off in the second half of games to the point where at times he lost his focus off the pitch and his faith in front of goal on it.

Carlo Ancelotti is now ahead of Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley after winning his fourth Champions League as a manager after Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday

Ancelotti has backed him almost from the day he arrived from Everton to take over the team for the second time in his career and when he turned in Fede Valverde’s shot he put his manager in a league of his own in terms of European Cups won.

Before the goal Ancelotti had to suffer like never before in this season’s Champions League and that is saying something after such an extraordinary journey to the final.

He had seemed almost too relaxed in the build-up to the game. In midweek there were quips to laughing reporters about his pragmatic approach to styles and systems when he said: ‘The type of players I have always guides me. If I have a fat striker we don’t play a high press.’

He was his usual self-effacing self too, saying he would seek out the advice of his players to find out how best to win the game —they had done it more than any other group over the last decade.

Vinicius Jr sealed the victory with his second-half goal enough to win the famous trophy

‘When I get nervous I look into the eyes of my players,’ he said in his pre-match press conference, ‘they put me at ease.’

But all that calm was blown away by the way Liverpool started the game.

Early on he could be seen putting hands to head after one directionless early run out from the back from Eder Militao. That summed up Madrid’s early chaos, they were terribly ragged and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois kept them in it during the first half an hour.

Ancelotti was soon frantically asking his players to stretch Liverpool, play longer balls out of defence to take the game towards Alisson and away from Courtois. They had not troubled the Brazilian keeper before he had to save Vinicius’ cross shot on 24 minutes.

His right-back Dani Carvajal responded playing higher up the pitch for a spell but Ancelotti was still left despairing. A midfield veteran of two winning finals for Milan in 2003 and 2007, he could see Casemiro and Toni Kroos all at sea as the red tide advanced without resistance.

Zinedine Zidane had little faith in Vinicius- taking him off in the second-half regularly

Ancelotti’s faith in Vinicius  has been repaid on the grandest stage after their win over the Reds

The 62-year-old then thought his side had taken the lead but during the delay for VAR to check Karim Benzema’s eventually ruled out goal he will already have been thinking about possible changes at half time.

Plan A had not worked for most of the first period. The decision to start German veteran Kroos ahead of 19-year-old Eduardo Camavinga had left Madrid completely over run and the omission of Rodrygo Goes had robbed his team of energy in the final third where Vinicius and Benzema were toiling alone.

How soon should he make the changes that he made so effectively midway through the second half in the games against Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City? The decision was to wait and ask the same players to make sure Jurgen Klopp’s side did not start the second period as they had the first.

Ancelotti previously won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 with AC Milan then with Real Madrid during his first spell with the Spanish giants back in the 2013-14 season

But five minutes into the second half both Camavinga and Rodrygo were warming up.

For Ancelotti this was worse than the insufferable prelude that he spoke about before the game. ‘The three hours before the match are the worst,’ he said. ‘The stress, the sweating, the negative thoughts. I have suffered this season more than most and there are no pills that you can take, you just have to bear it.’

There was at least the feeling going into the break that Liverpool’s start had not brought the goal it had deserved and his side had almost taken the lead late on.

Liverpool did not start the second half as they had the first and when Vincius scored Ancelotti’s extraordinary season — in which he also became the first to win all of Europe’s top five leagues — had its perfect ending.

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