Real Madrid rally to win UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid’s quest for ‘La Décima’ finally ended as they won a pulsating final against neighbours Atlético Madrid in Lisbon, extra-time goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo settling a match that had looked set to end in an Atlético triumph.
Having already become the first side apart from Madrid or FC Barcelona to win the Spanish title since 2004, Atlético took a 36th-minute lead when Diego Godín – whose goal clinched the Liga title last weekend – headed over the stranded Iker Casillas following a corner.
It seemed that would be enough when the final moved into added time but with two of the five additional minutes remaining Sergio Ramos nodded the equaliser to take the match into extra time.
There Madrid ran away with it after Bale’s 110th-minute header, Marcelo and Ronaldo’s penalty crowning a memroable fightback.
Diego Simeone, who was sent from the touchline after the fourth goal, included Diego Costa in his starting lineup despite a hamstring injury, but the gamble backfired before ten minutes had elapsed, the striker limping off.
His replacement, Adrián López, barely got a look-in early on as Madrid did the majority of the pressing, the alert Thibaut Courtois reacting sharply to deny Bale and Karim Benzema.
The goalkeeper was exposed when Bale cut out Tiago’s wayward crossfield pass and bore down on the Atlético net, however; Miranda came to the rescue, sliding in and the Welshman’s shot flew a metre wide.
Four minutes later, that proved even more crucial as Juanfran sent the ball back into the penalty area after Madrid had partially cleared a corner; Godín beat Casillas to it and his looping header bounced over the line despite the goalkeeper’s efforts to claw it away.
The Madrid captain had warned of Atlético’s set-piece prowess but his team were nearly undone again from the same route, Adrián meeting another corner only to head too high. That suggested the game was opening up, and so it proved.
Within minutes of the restart – after Madrid again failed to properly clear a corner – Adrián had a shot deflected wide, while Courtois pushed over Ronaldo’s free-kick before the Portuguese flicked on a Ramos cross; Benzema was centimetres from connecting.
With Atlético threatening on the counter, Madrid continued to press, Luka Modri? and Ronaldo setting up Bale from a fierce shot three metres past the post.
Another Ronaldo pass then set Bale clear of Godín but, from a tight angle and with Courtois advancing, again his could only prod wide of the near post.
It looked as if Madrid would be denied before Ramos came to their rescue, heading from a corner deep into stoppage time – having also scored twice in the semi-final second leg.
Atlético’s sole previous final appearance, in 1974, had featured a last-minute equaliser conceded.
Then they lost the replay to FC Bayern München and there was more heartbreak in store this time.
Ángel Di María did the legwork for Madrid’s crucial second goal, wriggling clear down the left; though Courtois made another fine stop, Bale was first to the rebound to head in.
With the Madrid fans still celebrating, Marcelo broke through direct a low shot under Courtois, before Ronaldo was brought down by Gabi and got up to convert the penalty himself – his 17th goal of this season’s competition, making him the fourth player to score in two UEFA Champions League finals.
Madrid, with Carlo Ancelotti emulating Bob Paisley in winning the trophy three times as a coach, could start their ‘Décima’ party, with Atlético left to reflect on how close they came once again.
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