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MOTD: Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (5-3 pens)
“La Undecima” wasn’t quite as glorious as La Decima. Real Madrid were crowned champions of Europe for the eleventh time after an epic final victory over Atletico Madrid, defeating their cross-town rivals in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in Milan.
As far as glories go, though, this was a rather scrappy affair. Sergio Ramos put Real ahead from an early set-piece, but Atletico valiantly fought back in the second period and Yannick Carrasco’s strike sent the Champions League final into extra-time. If not for Antoine Griezmann’s missed penalty, Simeone’s men might have been able to complete the comeback within regulation time and although Atletico dominated the later portions of the match, Real were ultimately triumphant on penalties.
The result had a heavy air of deja vu, this being a repeat of Real’s famous 2014 final victory. Simeone’s men have now contested three Champions League finals without a single trophy, the worst final record of any team.
Real, by contrast, have triumphed in all their last five final appearances since 1998. They burst out of the starting gates, catching Atletico off-guard. Zinedine Zidane’s men were particularly dangerous on set pieces and Gareth Bale’s early free-kick was nearly deflected home by Casemiro, only for Jan Oblak to make a brilliant kick save.
Bale tore through the Atletico defense and assisted Madrid’s go-ahead goal, flicking Tony Kroos’ deep free-kick on for Ramos to poke home from close range. Although Bale faded as the match wore on, suffering multiple cramps in extra-time, he came up big in the penalty shot out with a cool, low finish.
The match seemed to represent something of a passing of a torch between Bale and Ronaldo, the latter being sloppy on the ball and unfit to the point where it was addressed in Zidane’s post-match press conference.
Real’s early goal forced Atletico to come out of their shell and Simeone’s men began to find a rhythm towards the end of the first half. Although Griezmann fired a penalty against the crossbar, Carrasco soon found an equalizer from a low cross.
The game opened up in the latter stages of the match and Koke came close on multiple occasions. Real were also dangerous on the break, with Oblak coming up big to deny Karim Benzema and Bale, and the match was sent into extra-time, mostly filled with cramps and another laughable dive from Pepe, then penalties.
The first seven penalties were all converted, only for Juanfran to hit the post for Atletico, presenting Ronaldo with the chance to win it for Madrid.
“The penalties are always a lottery, you never know what will happen,” said Ronaldo after the game. And yet, as he stepped up to the spot to take the all-important spot kick, it seemed almost inevitable that he would dominate the headlines once again, despite doing relatively little on this night.