Real the European champions again

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Another Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, another win for Real.

Real won a record-extending 11th European Cup/Champions League title on Saturday night at the San Siro when they overcame their city rivals 5-3 on penalties after an absorbing contest ended in a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

It meant Zinedine Zidane became the first French coach to win the title and remarkably, just six months after being named head coach.

Cristiano Roanldo, whose 16 goals led Real to the final, fittingly struck the winning penalty to send Real fans into raptures and leave Diego Simeone’s Atletico thinking what could’ve been.

This was the second final between the city rivals in three seasons, Real winning two years ago in Lisbon 4-1 in extra-time.

Then again, the two teams were knocked 1-1 in regulation time, Sergio Ramos’ last-gasp leveller sending the game into extra-time before Real ran riot.

At the San Siro, it was Ramos who gave Real the lead in the 15th minute, poking from close range after a free-kick by Toni Kroos had been expertly headed back into his path by Gareth Bale.

The match swung in favour of both teams from time to time and Atletico levelled matters when substitute Yannick Carrasco stabbed home ten minutes from time.

Fatigued and struggling, both teams were inseparable in extra-time before Real clinched the crown in a tense shootout.

Cristiano Ronaldo aims for the post. — Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo aims for the post. — Reuters

The kickoff was delayed by five minutes but the opening 10 minutes were breathless.

Koke flew in Casemiro, prompting Pepe to run to referee Mark Clattenburg to book him.

The Atletico midfielder escaped unscathed and had the first half-chance of the match but his scuffed shot didn’t trouble Keylor Navas.

Almost immediately after, Bale was set free and won a free-kick on the edge of the area.

The Welsh winger, who scored the goal that gave Real the decisive advantage two years ago in Lisbon, delivered a sumptuous free kick but Oblak saved superbly from Casemiro from point blank.

Real were finding their range and Atletico were stretched.

Stefan Savic was alert to head the ball away just when Karim Benzema seemed clear through on goal if he’d missed the connection and minutes later the Montenegrin blocked a shot from Kroos.

Dani Carvajal then saw the first booking of the night, taking down Griezmann and four minutes later, Real scored.

Ramos eluded his marker, slotting his shot between Oblak’s legs.

Atletico had a chance ten minutes later but Juanfran skied it before Koke curled one wide on the half-hour mark.

Greizmann then had a few sights at goal in the last 15 minutes of the first period but Navas wasn’t seriously tested and Simeone understood it was time to make a change.

The change – Yannick Carrasco for Augusto Fernandez – and the break brought immediate dividends.

Atletico started the second half with purpose and within two minutes, won a penalty as Pepe hacked down Torres who ran clear onto a forward pass from Griezmann.

Real protested their innocence but CLattenburg remain unmoved, pointing to the spot almost immediately.

Atletico players react in dispair as Ronaldo takes penalty. — AP
Atletico players react in dispair as Ronaldo takes penalty. — AP

Griezmann had scored from the spot in his double against Barcelona in the quarter-final second leg and he seemed assured.

Against Barca at the Vicente Calderon, it was the goal deep in stoppage time that sent the holders out 2-3 on aggregate.

At the San Siro though, he froze in the moment his shot bounced back off the bar as Simeone grimaced on the touchline.

The miss, however, did not affect Atletico’s fast start in the second half.

With Simeone orchestrating the Atletico fans, his players were getting close.

It was Real who now had to defend and they were forced into a substitution when Carvajal’s final was cut short after he seemingly pulled his hamstring and left the San Siro stage in tears.

The change at the back for Real spurred Atletico further on.

Near the hour mark, Savic found the side netting after a scramble from a corner and then Saul Niguez fired just wide with a volley.

But as Atletico went in search of the leveller, they left space at the back for Real to exploit with Benzema having a glorious chance 20 minutes from time.

Sent clear through, the Frenchman was denied by a superb reaction save by Oblak.

The Slovenian had kept Atletico in it and now it was the time of the forwards to respond.

Instead Real had a slew of chances to put the game to bed.

First Oblak held on to a fierce Ronaldo snapshot and after Real broke again, Bale was denied by Savic on the line.

On the touchline, Simeone was engaged in a long conversation with his assistant, looking to spark his side into life.

Carrasco, however, put an intervention from the bench on hold.

Juanfran ran onto an aerial ball down the right before crossing it first time to the Belgian to hammer home with his right foot.

Real were shocked. Maybe it was Zidane’s inexperience that Real had already made their three substitutions – the excellent Kroos had been replaced by Isco and Benzema by Lucas Vazquez after Danilo had come on for Carvajal.

Real did however have a flurry of chances, Bale going close twice but it was Atletico who closed the game stronger with Ramos being shown a yellow card for hauling down Carrasco just when it seemed the Los Colchoneros would finish the game off on their trademark counter.

The first period of extra-time went with the same momentum.

Gareth Bale nets it successfully. — AFP
Gareth Bale nets it successfully. — AFP

Carrasco, with his pace and trickery kept Danilo on his toes, although the Brazilian full-back made a crucial interception when it seemed Griezmann was clean through on goal.

Real were clearly exhausted and with Ronaldo limping, they were missing their figurehead in attack when they got the ball forward.

However, in the most notable move for Real in the first 15 minutes, the Portuguese marksman laid a perfect ball for Bale who saw his shot blocked.

Atletico fans had drained out the noise made by the Real fans and their team was responding.

The worrying sign for Real and their hopes was that Ronaldo failed to join an attack that he started, instead going off the pitch and slowly trudging back on.

Pepe was then shown a yellow card for a trailing leg on Gabi.

Real, though, were given some breathing space when Torres gave away a soft free-kick for a handball.

A delay followed with Koke going down with cramps and going off for Thomas Partey and Ramos calling on the fans for more noise.

Real wasted the free-kick but Vazquez had a golden chance at the very end to kill off the match, an intricate passing move finding him inside the box but he saw his shot blocked by Lucas Hernandez, who had come on for Felipe Luis.

Ramos won the coin toss to decide which end the penalties would be taken and immediately pointed to the section behind the goal where Real fans were seated.

Vazquez, Griezmann, Marcelo, Gabi, Bale, Niguez and Ramos all scored before Juanfran saw his effort come off the post, giving Ronaldo the opportunity to hammer home and deliver yet another Champions League title for Real.

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