By Demola Ojo
Real Madrid on Saturday confirmed their status as aristocrats of the European game by winning their 11th European Cup/Champions League, defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid 5-3 on penalties after normal time and extra time finished a goal apiece in Milan.
Portuguese striker, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning penalty after Atletico’s Juanfran hit the post with his team’s fourth spot kick. It was Madrid’s second title in three years after beating the same opponents 4-1 in the 2014 final in Lisbon.
Yesterday’s game started with Real Madrid applying the early pressure by taking advantage of their aerial prowess. Within ten minutes, Atletico keeper Jan Oblak was called upon to save off the line with his left foot. On fifteen minutes, Real drew first blood via a set piece. Toni Kroos floated in a free kick which was nodded on by Gareth Bale before Sergio Ramos scrambled in from close range.
The goal was deserved despite suspicions of offside from Ramos. Replays also cast doubts on who scored the goal with no visible touch from Ramos but Real could care less.
However Atletico got a foothold as the game progressed and by the half hour mark were the more dominant team. Against all expectations, Atletico – who got to the final averaging 30 per cent possession in their previous four matches – bossed possession as Real were content to sit back, soak up pressure and counterattack.
The second half started with Atletico manager Diego Simeone using one of his trump cards by throwing on Belgian winger, Yannick Carrasco, in place of defensive midfielder Augusto Fernandez. The substitution paid immediate dividends as Atletico started the second half on the front foot and within three minutes, Fernando Torres conned Real’s Pepe into conceding a penalty.
However, Atletico’s standout player of the season, Frenchman Antoine Greizmann, thumped the spot kick against the crossbar to the relief of Real fans at the 70,000-capacity San Siro stadium.
Not long after, missed Stefan Savic somehow missing the target from six yards after Diego Godin and Griezmann had kept a corner alive.
Real should have made sure of victory when Benzema was thwarted by Oblak after Luka Modric had impressively sent him through on goal.
They came even closer when the otherwise quiet Ronaldo was denied by Oblak twice in quick succession, with Bale’s goal-bound attempt from the rebound cleared off the line by Savic.
Atletico kept pressing on though and with ten minutes left of normal time, Carrasco finished off a smooth Atletico move by converting Juanfran’s cross.
Extra time followed, with Atletico keeping the ball better but Real looking very threatening on the break. Thirty minutes of extra time couldn’t separate the two teams, so it was down to the lottery of penalties to decide of Real won their eleventh European trophy or Atletico their first.
Real chose to play first and Lucas Vazquez, Marcelo, Bale and Ramos were successful, while Greizmann, Saul NIguez and Gabi all converted for Atletico before Juanfran’s miss handed Ronaldo the chance to win it for Real with the final penalty.