Is Thibaut Courtois the best shot-stopper in the world? His exploits in the early stages of Manchester City vs Real Madrid would suggest so.
City entered this game as slight favourites to go through, although Madrid's history in the Champions League suggested that this was far from a certainty. After all, they did pull off a snatch and grab victory in this tie at the same of the competition last season.
The home side did start the better of the two teams, bringing plenty of intensity to the game in the opening ten minutes or so. That was to become the pattern of the 90 minutes, with Pep Guardiola's City team ultimately running out decisive winners.
City were dominant and, eventually, found a way through, but in the early stages there was a certain Belgian standing in their way.
The first effort came via the head of Erling Haaland in the 13 minute, with Thibaut Courtois spreading himself well to block the shot.
HOW DID THAT STAY OUT?! 😱
Courtois saves from point-blank range to deny Haaland the opening goal of the night... pic.twitter.com/H57j9KGfUG
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) May 17, 2023
His second save a few minutes later was nothing short of sensational.
It was to deny Haaland once again, this time reaching to pluck the ball out of the corner and turn it around the post.
📸 Another great save by Thibaut Courtois. #UCL pic.twitter.com/5qf603Jr9V
— Football Talk (@FootballTalkHQ) May 17, 2023
That is a stunning piece of goalkeeping. To even react that quick defies belief, but to manage to get a firm hand on it and direct it away from goal is something else.
What made it all the more impressive were the reports which emerged post match that Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois had played vs Manchester City with a tear in his triceps.
MARCA reported that Courtois sustained the injury during the weekend game against Getafe, and that he "endured" the pain over the 90 minutes at the Etihad. Remarkable stuff.
Courtois defies believes with save in Manchester City vs Real Madrid
Viewers could not get over the save Courtois made for that second header from Haaland.
A regular human makes that Courtois save and all their fingers dislocate
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) May 17, 2023
Appreciation post for *that* Courtois save 🤯#UCL pic.twitter.com/5abJDEaSiB
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 17, 2023
That save from Courtois is easily one of the best saves of all time. Can’t think of any better other than Marcelo Grohe in the Libertadores a few years back.
— EiF (@EiFSoccer) May 17, 2023
What a save Courtois man baller
— Trey (@UTDTrey) May 17, 2023
That’s absolutely unreal from Courtois. 😱
— Karl (@KarlThyer) May 17, 2023
I HAVE NO WORDS FOR COURTOIS WTFFF
— TC (@totalcristiano) May 17, 2023
Courtois every time he’s up against English teams pic.twitter.com/Y2KL6IH1po
— Liam 💫 (@LiamMLFC) May 17, 2023
Nah Courtois is insane. My goodness. Only GK in the world who pulls that save off.
— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) May 17, 2023
Thibaut Courtois would finally be beaten by a Bernardo Silva strike a few minutes later, a shot he could do nothing about. Three more goals would follow, as Real Madrid were ultimately dismantled by a ruthless City.
Despite this, many will no doubt come away from this evening's game with the idea that they have seen the best shot-stopper in the world in action.
They probably wouldn't be far wrong.