Real Madrid secured their 14th European club title with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the 2022 UEFA Champions League final in Paris, thanks to some heroics at both ends of the pitch.

While Vinicius Jr. got the match-winning goal after 59 minutes, the clear star of the show was Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who put in an incredible performance to finish off an outstanding season in style.

The Belgian was brought in by Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2018, just after the Spanish giants had won the Champions League for a 13th time. Since then, he has shone as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and his performance at the Stade de France truly confirmed his place as a global star.

MORE: Thibaut Courtois’ rise to world-class status with Real Madrid

The 30-year-old’s shot-stopping was world class throughout, but it was also his decision-making, discipline, distribution, as well as his command of his penalty area, that stood out just as much and saw him named as UEFA’s man of the match.

Here The Sporting News breaks down the saves that saw Courtois steal the show in Paris.

How Courtois proved among best goalkeepers in the world in the Champions League final 

Under constant assault from Liverpool’s attack throughout the match, Courtois maintained his focus, facing 24 shots in total, nine of which forced him to make a save.

The nine stops Courtois completed was the most in a Champions League final since at least 2004, when Opta first began recording Champions League data.

While not all nine-save performances are equal, the stats show that Courtois undoubtedly had an outstanding night. He faced a massive 2.58 Expected Goals On Target Conceded (xGOTC) — a metric that measures the Expected Goals (xG) number of a shot, while also factoring in additional things such as shot placement, defender positioning and goalkeeper positioning.

That number is by far the highest recorded by any goalkeeper in the Champions League this season who went on to keep a clean sheet.

But this was no fluke; Courtois has been fantastic all season long, facing 18.71 xGOTC in 13 Champions League games, the third-highest of anyone in the competition, yet still conceding just 14 times. That differential was bettered only by Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos, who conceded 18 goals from an xGOTC of 23.42.

MORE: Watch the goal by Vinicius Jr that won Real Madrid the 2022 Champions League final

Watch a compilation of Courtois’ Champions League final performance in the United States:

Timeline of Courtois’ saves vs. Liverpool in Champions League final

Of the nine saves Courtois made to help Madrid win the trophy, six of those came against Mohamed Salah. 

Here is a timeline of how Courtois kept the Reds at bay:

16th minute: Courtois makes first save from Salah flick

The Belgium international got his evening off to a great start with a difficult reflex save in the 16th minute. Salah tried a nifty flick, hoping to beat Courtois at the near post, and while it looked like Courtois thought the ball was heading for the far post, he still managed to redirect his body and get down to make the stop.

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17th minute: Courtois denies Thiago

Just a minute later, Courtois was required again. Liverpool midfielder Thiago hit one from distance this time, hoping to curl the ball into the top corner, but his shot flew into the waiting arms of the Belgian, who made the easiest of his nine saves.

18th minute: Courtois denies Salah again

Just a few moments later, again Courtois turned Salah away. Liverpool started the match well, and the heroics of Madrid’s shot-stopper were critical as they withstood that early pressure.

21st minute: Courtois turns Mane shot onto the post in save of the match

His fourth save of the night saw Courtois record his best stop of the final by some distance.

Sadio Mane hypnotically danced through the Madrid rearguard and hit a shot low and to the left, which seemed destined for the back of the net. Instead, Courtois flung himself to his right and got his fingertips to the ball, pushing it onto the inside of the post.

Much to Liverpool’s frustration, it then pinged almost along the goal line but didn’t cross, instead rolling harmlessly away while Courtois was able to get up and collect.

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34th minute: Courtois stops Salah for a third time

With the game progressing past the half-hour mark and Liverpool’s energetic early start beginning to fade, Courtois made his final save of the first half.

He was positioned perfectly to save a header from Salah, who connected with a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Courtois’ positioning was pinpoint to stop the effort.

64th minute: Salah once again turned away

Into the second half, Liverpool — now 1-0 down — continued their pursuit of a goal, as the Reds again pushed forward.

The subsequent chance that Salah fashioned began with just a 0.03 pre-shot xG number — indicating it seemingly had little chance of finding the net — but considering all the post-shot factors, that increased to 0.21 xGOT.

Courtois stopped it, and could reflect on one more difficult, and important, save.

69th minute: Salah denied one more time by Courtois

It just wasn’t Salah’s night. In the 69th minute, a cross from the right was met by the head of substitute Diogo Jota at the far post, with the Liverpool striker sending the ball across the face of goal as Salah waited to pounce.

As the Egyptian raced in, Courtois was able to dart back across his goalmouth to meet the shot from a very tight angle — preventing the ball from sneaking through. 

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80th minute: Jota can’t get past Courtois

With Liverpool pushing in the final 10 minutes looking for a goal to level, and ramping up the pressure, they produced a wonderful move to get Jota in for a great opportunity.

Salah’s curling ball in was deflected by Jota, but Courtois again met the challenge. This was statistically Courtois’ best save of the match, with a 0.34 pre-shot xG and a massive 0.89 post-shot xGOT. 

82nd minute: Frustrated Salah denied for a sixth time

Salah’s final attempt to find the back of the net was turned away again, as he appeared on the right-hand side of the penalty area and got past Ferland Mendy. His subsequent shot, aimed for the far-left corner, was pushed away by Courtois to make yet another great, point-blank, save.

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What did Courtois say after his man of the match award?

After the match, as Courtois hoisted his first Champions League trophy, the goalkeeper had some strong words for those who he felt had doubted him, especially in England.

“Today I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work, to put some respect on my name, because I don’t think I get enough respect — especially in England,” he said.

“There was a magazine in March that didn’t put me in the best 10 goalkeepers. I don’t know; I think that’s a lack of respect.

“I’m not saying they have to put me as number one — really, I don’t mind. Alisson is a great goalkeeper, [Edouard] Mendy is a great goalkeeper, [Jan] Oblak, Ederson —there’s a lot of great goalkeepers.

“I’m not saying you have to put me as number one. But after a season like this, they don’t put you in the first 10? It’s strange.

“Secondly, yesterday I saw plenty of funny stuff coming out of England. I guess it’s to do with how I left Chelsea. I won the Premier League twice in England and I don’t think I ever really get recognised for it — especially after my first year in Madrid it was not great, a lot of people laughed at me.

“Now, here I am as a winner, so it’s a nice comeback.”

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