In one of football history’s most sensational turnarounds, Real Madrid CF literally converted a certain defeat into an exciting victory in Lisbon last night. With few second remaining in injury time, it was Atletico Madrid’s game and their fans were already celebrating. But Sergio Ramos spoiled Atletico’s party with an incredible effort in the 93th minute by heading in from a corner by Luka Modric. There was a roaring crescendo from the stands as the match went into extra time with a penalty shoot-out possibility loomed, when the first 15 minutes didn’t produce any goals. But Real Madrid scored 3 goals in the second half and finished a thrilling victory over their city rivals, who had claimed the Spanish League title last week by defeating FC Barcelona. Real might have won but Atletico played great football for most part. Even after Diego Godin put them ahead in the 36th minute, Ateltico did not allow Real any opportunity for 57 minutes. But once Real got the breakthrough, they completely bulldozed their opponents in the second half of extra time.
The long-awaited final was played in front of nearly 66000 spectators at Lisbon’s Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica. Every ticket for the match was sold out for long and the atmosphere was electric as the match featured Portugal’s national hero, Cristiano Ronaldo, playing for Real Madrid. UEFA’s Champions League is a long drawn out affair and for the 2013-14 season; the first qualifying round was played in July 2013. The League format made it mandatory for participating European clubs to play several matches and the time for the final came only after nearly 10 months. The proceedings began with a free-kick in favor of Real, when Filipe Luis of Atletico was penalized for a foul on Gareth Bale in the first minute. The first attempt on the goal was made in the 13th minute by Atletico’s Raul Garcia but his long-range shot sailed harmlessly over the bar. However, Garcia got a yellow card in the 27th minute for wrongly tackling Angel Di Maria. Ronaldo’s free-kick resulting from Garcia’s wrong tackle was superbly timed and it required a big effort from Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who saved it.
After attacks and counter-attacks by both teams, Atletico went 1-0 ahead in the 36th minute. Gabi’s corner was cleared by Raphael Varane but an alert Juanfran headed it back to the danger area for Diego Godin, who first beat Sami Khedira and then looped the ball over the head of Real’s goalkeeper, whose desperate attempt on a quick turnaround was too late. Until the next 9 minutes, the game went on a fever pitch but no side could make any real threat and Atletico maintained their 1-0 lead at half-time. While Diego Simeone was pleased with his boys’ performance, Carlo Ancelotti was not unduly concerned either.
After the break, Garcia got another opportunity in the 51st minute, when Koke sent a good cross but rather than adjusting himself properly, Garcia drove the ball first time and the shot went over the bar. In 54th minute, Ronaldo delivered an almost perfect free-kick, clearing the Atletico wall but an alert Courtois punched it away for a corner to Real. Angel Di Maria found Ronaldo at the right spot his header was cleared for another corner. On Di Maria’s second corner, Ronaldo’s header fell wide. Then Real faced two successive attacks from Koke but their defenders saved the danger. With minutes ticking away, Real Madrid found themselves in trouble, despite Gareth Bale coming close to scoring on three occasions.
It looked like Atletico’s game and the celebratory mood was evident in their camp as the game spilled into injury time. In the 93rd minute, however, an incredible drama took place. From the corner taken by Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos found a fantastic connection and he headed the ball in the bottom corner. Real fans erupted in the stadium as the score became level at 1-1. The final whistle blew to signal the extra time.
In the first 15 minutes of the extra time, Real Madrid made several attempts on Atletico goal but couldn’t find the breakthrough. In the second half, however, the game came alive. In 110th minute, Angel Di Maria forced his way in the penalty area and although his shot was saved by Courtois, the ball looped in air to a point where Bale was ready. The ever alert Welshman produced an astute close-ranged header to put Real Madrid ahead. And then in the 118th minute, Marcelo tore his way through Atletico defense and hammered a powerful volley, which brushed Courtois’s hand but sailed through to make it 3-1. The local crowd were not denied the icing on their cakes as their Portuguese superstar scored from a 120th minute penalty.
It was a thriller of a game in the end, as Real Madrid forked out an impossible victory to make it the 10th time that they have won in the Champions League final. But between the 9th and 10th, they had a 12 year wait. Atletico were sorely disappointed after having come so close, only to see Sergio Ramos spoiling their party.