The gamble of playing leading striker Diego Costa from the start of the match constituted a failure for manager Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone as his team were eventually beaten 4-1 in extra time by Real Madrid in the Champions League final played in Lisbon. Costa only lasted eight minutes which entailed an early substitution for Atletico during a match contested at such a pace that fresh legs in attack would have been helpful in the latter stages.
Atletico actually claimed the lead just before half-time when defender Diego Godin headed the ball over the marooned goalkeeper Iker Casillas who was unable to prevent the ball entering the net. The red and white striped team from Madrid had been marginally the better team during the opening period with their pressing tactics and the ability to prevent the ever dangerous Real counter-attacks.
As the second half developed, the attacking potency of Real Madrid became more of an influence as Gareth Bale, in particular, wasted a host of chances. Striker David Villa was more of a passenger in the Atletico attack as his ageing legs were unable to summon the energy to threaten the Real defence.
The final twenty minutes of normal time became a desperate rearguard action for Atletico as they were unable to offer any threat at the other end of the field with Costa and the injured Arda Turan absent in attack. Just as it appeared that they had withstood the Real Madrid onslaught, Sergio Ramos headed home a corner in the second minute of added time to enforce extra time.
During the extra thirty minutes, the Atletico Madrid players visibly wilted as the inability to use any more substitutes plus the efforts of the preceding week, when they clinched La Liga title at Barcelona, ensured that the cracks appeared within their ranks. Real always seemed the likely winners during this period, and goals from Bale, Marcelo and a penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo sealed the 4-1 victory for Real Madrid.
For Real Madrid, this was their tenth triumph in Europe’s premier club tournament and their first since 2002, but there was no doubt that Atletico’s early tactics had troubled the eventual victors. Defensively and in midfield, the work rate of the Atletico team won many admirers but perhaps they lacked the guile to really worry their opponents in the final third of the field. Without a fully fit Costa and Turan, they faced an uphill battle especially when extra legs were needed in the closing stages.
Perhaps Diego Simeone will rue the inclusion of Costa at the start of the match and so limit his substitutions during the second half. Yet it can also be argued that overall, Real Madrid were the better team and maybe it was just one game too far for Atletico.
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