Sunday, 29 May 2016

Once Again, Real Madrid Defeats Atlético Madrid In Final

The Merengues recorded their 11th European Cup win and second against Atlético,with Cristiano Ronaldo converting the decisive spot kick. Real Madrid prevailed on penalties as they eventually got the better of Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final for the second time in three seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a quiet match by his high standards, scored the decisive spot kick after Juanfran had hit the base of the post with the eighth attempt of the shoot-out. Substitute Yannick Carrasco's 79th-minute equaliser cancelled out a first-half strike by Sergio Ramos, whose own – last-gasp – leveller against the Rojiblancos had forced extra time in Lisbon two years ago.

The contest was at odds with Diego Simeone's prediction that "the game will be very tense" as both sides went at it before fatigue took its toll, Casemiro forcing a fine reaction save out of Jan Oblak after getting on the end of Gareth Bale's inswinging free-kick from the right. On the quarter-hour mark, it was a Toni Kroos set piece from the opposite flank that proved Atlético's undoing. Bale, having lost his marker, flicked it on and Ramos manoeuvred around Stefan Savić to prod the ball under Oblak.

Atlético's purposeful start to the second period bore fruit when Pepe fouled Fernando Torres in the area. Opting for power rather than placement, Antoine Griezmann blasted his penalty against the crossbar. Madrid might have doubled their lead inside the last 20 minutes through Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale, whose shot was blocked in front of goal by Savić. Moments later, Juanfran exchanged passes with Gabi and crossed for half-time substitute Carrasco to turn in his first UEFA Champions League goal of the campaign. 

Analysis by Andrew Haslam at Stadio San Siro
Key player: Sergio Ramos

How Atlético must be sick of the sight of the Madrid captain. The defender does not get many goals – just two this season before tonight – and had not found the net in the UEFA Champions League in two years. His last European goal denied Atlético in the 2014 final, though, and he was at it again here, becoming the fifth player to score in two UEFA Champions League finals, and the first defender. 

Atlético's final heartbreak
No side had ever lost their first three European Cup finals, with Juventus and Barcelona the only other clubs to have suffered two initial final defeats. Both landed the trophy at the third time of asking, in 1985 and 1992 respectively, and Atlético must have fancied emulating them – but Madrid had not lost a European Cup final since 1981 and that pedigree proved too strong again. 

Griezmann loses out to Navas again
Griezmann missed a penalty against Madrid in the Liga in October and failed again from the spot this evening. Keylor Navas had saved that spot kick eight months ago and played a crucial role here, psyching out the French international – who had converted his other two penalties in open play this term. Griezmann had better luck in the shoot-out, yet to no avail. 

Atlético spirit shines through
Simeone's team had lost just one of their ten meetings with Real Madrid since the Lisbon final – albeit that came in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-final – and they kept their heads superbly to work their way back into this. 

Carrasco's Belgian first
Carrasco has regularly been used as an impact player by Simeone during this campaign but can scarcely have had such a significant contribution to make as here. Not only was his balance and willingness to run with the ball crucial in steadily pushing Madrid back, but he hammered in the equaliser – making him the first Belgian to score in a European Cup final. Nice celebration with his partner too. 


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