NCAA Football

Thibaut Courtois saved Real Madrid again in their Super Cup win over Valencia.

Thibaut Courtois saved Real Madrid again in their Super Cup win over Valencia.

It was Valenciafifth penalty in the series and Real Madrid were one step away from the Spanish Super Cup final after a 1-1 draw after extra time. Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored four penalties and Valencia missed one, so their captain Jose Guya had to make an effort to keep their side’s hopes alive. Again, an imposing figure Thibaut Courtois turned out to be decisive.

At 6ft 7in (or a touch over 200cm), the Real Madrid goalkeeper hardly needed to move from the center of the goal. He held his nerve, dived to his right and kicked away Guy’s shot, leaving the Valencia left-back to rue his misfortune. Madrid’s players, meanwhile, ran up to embrace Courtois – they were used to such performances from the Belgian player, who has gradually become one of the cornerstones of Ancelotti’s team.

It’s been almost eight months since League of champions final in Paris, when he produced the leader of the match to help Madrid to victory Liverpool. Courtois has maintained that form this season, even after the disappointment World Cup in which he was thrown out Belgium in the group stage.

He is already back to his best with Madrid, arriving in Qatar recovering from a back injury which meant he was accompanied by a physio from a club he trusts.

“After the World Cup, I recovered from all my problems and now I’m at full strength,” Courtois said after the Super Cup semi-final against Valencia.

He is not wrong. Against The real Valladolid in La Liga, he curled in a brilliant left-handed corner kick to keep the score at 0-0 before Madrid won 2-0. Against Villarrealhe held firm in a one-on-one with Jeremy Pinault and was perhaps the only player to get credit in the 2-1 defeat.

This continued in Riyadh, where the Super Bowl is held. He stopped the shot on target Edinson Cavani, showing excellent reflexes to reach out and deny the Uruguay striker when he looked certain to score. It was soon flagged for offside, but Courtois was not to know.

The Madrid goalkeeper looked comfortable both when defending his goal and when playing from the back. Despite being pressed hard by Gennaro Gattuso, he showed little signs of discomfort as he passed out with his feet, a skill he has perfected since his move to Madrid.

Samuel LynnValencia’s goal after a marking error with Lucas Vasquez was the only blemish for Courtois, who also saved Madrid from going behind at 1-1 when he kept out a dangerous shot Hugo Hard shot Then he proved his worth again in the penalty shootout – even though Ancelotti claimed in the build-up to the semi-final that his team were not prepared for such an eventuality.

Courtois, however, was more than prepared – as in every encounter that could go to penalties, he analyzed potential players (including Guy) on his own and with goalkeeping coach Luis Llopis.

“From time to time, some teammates ask to take a penalty after training and we do,” Courtois said. “But from my side, it’s more about watching the last (attempts) of the opponents. Lately I’ve seen Cavani take a lot of penalties from the right side so I went there… with Gaia I saw him miss the last ball against Sevillerecently he missed some others and I realized I could stay in the middle.’

That analysis paid off as the goalkeeper led his team to victory and a place in the finals, which could be his eighth title in four years in Madrid. In five years, he has already won two La Liga titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups.

Despite his personality, it is not surprising that he is considered one of the leaders of the team along with Karim Benzema, Luke Modrich and Vinicius the Younger. Only injuries kept him out of four League and two Champions League games this season — prevented him from playing more.

At 30, Courtois is still keen to continue adding titles to his coffers and emulate his great idol Iker Casillas. If he keeps it up, he has every chance of doing it.

(Top photo: Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images)


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