Men’s final of this season’s UEFA Champions League between two Madrid teams, Real and Atletico was strikingly similar to the women’s, played two days ago at Reggio Emilia. In the women’s game, Lyon took an early lead against Wolfsburg, lost it to a late equalizer, followed that with a goalless extra-time and won the match in the penalty shoot-out. Real Madrid literally followed that trend on Saturday. Though record books will show Ronaldo converting the decisive penalty and Real Madrid winning the European Cup for the 11th time, the final lacked the quality expected of a summit clash between the two best teams in the UEFA Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo looked like a passenger for most part, Gareth Bale kept losing possession and Karim Benzema couldn’t be spotted. Nearly the same thing can be said of Atletico; they meandered around, missed two penalties and yielded the game to Real in a listless play. The only entertainment for spectators came, when Atletico’s halftime substitute Yannick Carrasco scored the equalizer and got a kiss from his girlfriend. Finally, when the penalty shoot-out ensued, Real Madrid converted all five; Atletico missed two and Real went through with a 5-3 win on PS.
The first half began with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos controlling the midfield but couldn’t get the ball moving further up to the Atletico goal. From the beginning, the game could not rise to the high standards of a final with players on either side looking fatigued. At the quarter-hour mark, Real Madrid earned a free-kick. The strike from Toni Kroos came flying to Bale, who had lost his marker. The Welshman head-flicked the ball towards the goal and Sergio Ramos got the faintest of touches as the ball rolled under Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Real fans went berserk as their side led 1-0. Even after the goal, the level of play remained the same. Atletico gave away two more free kicks to Real in 19th minute but they went in vain. It was not until the 25th minute that Atletico got their first chance but Juanfran’s strike ballooned over the crossbar into the stands. Two minutes before halftime, Atletico got another chance but Antoine Griezmann missed the target.
The second half began in the same manner as the first but when Atletico’s Torres was fouled in the penalty area by Pepe, the referee pointed to the spot. But the 48th minute penalty by Antoine Griezmann was sadly wasted. The Atletico striker’s powerful drive only hit the crossbar. It was the second time in the league that Antoine Griezmann had missed the target. In the Madrid Derby, Keylor Navas had saved the penalty but this time, Navas didn’t have to do anything. The match proceeded in a non-descript way until the 79th minute, when Atletico’s halftime substitute Carrasco struck cleanly after correctly judging a low cross, sent from right by Juanfran. For the next 11 minutes and 3 minutes of injury time, no more goals accrued and 30 minutes’ of extra-time had to be played.
With extra-time also failing to produce any goals, it was time for penalty shoot-out. It began with Real Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez calmly slotting the ball in the bottom right corner. Atletico reaped success next, when Antoine Griezmann atoned for his earlier miss by wrong-footing Navas. Next was Real’s Marcelo, who used his left foot to deposit the ball on the bottom right corner. It became 2-2, when Gabi’s brilliantly taken shot shook the nets on the top left corner. Next was Bale, who made it 3-2 for Real but Atletico brought parity with Saul Niguez wrong-footing Navas. Next was Real captain Sergio Ramos and he made no mistake with his strike. With Real Madrid having obtained a 4-3 advantage, Atletico shot themselves on the foot by missing their second penalty of the match. No goalkeeping skills were needed since Juanfran struck the woodwork.
Now it was time for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese doesn’t miss many chances and this was the crunch time. Ronaldo didn’t try to wrong-foot the goalkeeper and instead got the winning goal from striking just right of the center. It was all over as Ronaldo pulled out his shirt and ran in frenzied jubilation. Real Madrid had beaten Atletico Madrid 5-3 on penalties. Ronaldo had been quiet all night but did his job, when it became the most important task for his team. He led Real Madrid to their fifth UEFA Champions League title and 11th in European championships. No team has won so many times in the Champions League. Until Saturday, Real Madrid were on level terms with arch-rivals FC Barcelona with four titles but went past Barca with this victory.
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