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— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 28, 2016
Real Madrid are crowned Kings of Europe for a record extending 11th time after once more breaking the hearts of Atlético in the Champions League final.
Two years ago in Lisbon a header by Real’s captain Sergio Ramos in the dying seconds of the final forced extra time and saw Atléti humiliated with three more Los Blancos goals.
This time Atlético paid the ultimate penalty for missing two as Diego Simeone’s men wilted when it mattered most in Milan.
REAL ARISTOCRATS OF EUROPE
Real translates as ‘royal’ and Madrid are the undisputed aristocrats of European football – their 11th Champions League crown being more than the total won by pretenders Manchester United, Juventus AND Barcelona combined.
Only 22 clubs have won ‘Old Big Ears’ – the nickname for the trophy given its shape – since the competition’s inception in 1955. Real won the first five competitions with a stellar side that included the likes of Argentinean Di Stefano and Hungary’s Puskas, a run that means they have always been the most successful side in Europe. Following their 1955-60 period of total dominance, Real won their sixth in 1966 but had to wait more than 30 years before adding a seventh in 1998. Wins in 2000 and 2002 – the final in which current coach Zinedine Zidane scored the winner – set up La Decima, the cherished 10th won in 2014 against their city rivals.
Atlético have not won any.
In the final, experience counted. The Real players have been there, done it, won it and their penalty success met they added yet more medals to their collections and silverware to the glistening trophy room at the Santiago Bernabéu.
ZIZOU’s TOP BUT PEREZ IS ENIGMATIC
Zizou – the affectionate moniker given to the Real coach – became only the seventh man in history to win the European Cup as both player and coach, taking his place among the list of legends Miguel Muñoz, Giovanni Trapattoni, Johan Cruyff, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola.
Zidane scored the winner in the 2002 final for Madrid and such is the extent of the transformation his short rule has overseen at the Bernabéu, fans will be expectant of more trophies and titles.
However, such is the idiosyncrasy of Real that even Zizou may be dispensed with by enigmatic club president Florentino Pérez, the man who instigated the Galácticos era, and who famously sacked Vincente del Bosque in 2003 despite him having just won Real their 29th La Liga title.
RAMOS MAKES HISTORY
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Ramos became the first defender in history to score in two UCL finals by getting the opener in the 15th minute as Madrid converted early pressure into a lead. Their dominance lasted just ten more minutes as Atlético got more into the game. Simeone introduced Yannick Carrasco at the break and Belgian’s impact was immediate. Within a minute Los Rojiblancos were awarded a penalty only for Antionne Griezmann to see his effort bounce back off the cross bar.
Fittingly, Carrasco got the 79th minute equaliser – celebrating by running to his girlfriend and sharing a kiss – and though Real created further chances, Atlético were clearly the stronger, more determined and dominant team. With extra time the match turned into the ‘Cramp-ions’ League final with players showing the effects of their exertions, yet Atléti couldn’t make their superiority count – setting up the drama of the shootout.
Lucas Vázquez, Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Ramos all scored from the spot – and all in the same corner. Antoine Griezmann, Gabi and Saúl Ñíguez replied with equal aplomb for Atlético but Juanfran saw his spot kick rebound off the post to give Ronaldo the chance to claim the glory.
CRISTIANO CRITICISED BUT VISION IS REAL
Cristiano was lampooned on social media during the match for his peripheral display, but it will matter not a jot to Ronaldo because ultimately it was he who smacked home the decisive kick for the personal fairy tale ending to reiterate his heroic status and condemn Atlético to a third final defeat.
— Hussein I.Gebi (@dgebis) May 28, 2016
“I had a vision,” said a jubilant Ronaldo to the on-pitch interviewer. “I knew that I would score the winning goal… I told Zizou that and to let me take the fifth and that’s how it turned out.
Cristiano may have been the subject of scorn and ridicule on social media for his lack of influence on the final but as one fan wrote:,”…let’s face it – if any of us looked like him, earned like him and played like him, we’d all be that smug about it.”
“My third Champions League,” chirped Ronaldo, the competition’s all time record goal scorer with 93.
Atlético’s DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT
Atlético’s disappointment will be deepened by the facts and stats of the final that they dominated and deserved to win.
Firstly, Ramos’s 15th minute goal was offside and Pepe should have seen red for at least two disgraceful counts of play-acting when trying to get Juanfran and Carrasco sent off. Captain Ramos should also have picked up a second yellow.
Secondly, Atlético dominated the game from the 25th minute and despite having run an extra 9.5km in normal time than Real, their players still looked stronger, more determined and more likely to win in extra time.
Los Rojiblancos can only wonder what might have been had Griezmann not missed the penalty at the start of the second half.
SPAIN’s DECADE OF DOMINANCE
Spain’s decade of European club football dominance has seen Spanish clubs win six Champions League and seven Europa Leagues since 2006 – a period where sides from the self proclaimed “greatest league in the world”, the EPL, have won just two UCLs (Man Utd and Chelsea) and one Europa League (Chelsea).
The national team has been equally impressive with one World Cup and two European Championship titles since 2008 giving football tipsters and punters much to ponder ahead of this summer’s tournament in France.
By: Joe Cahal