Champions League final 2016

Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (Real win 5-4 on penalties)

Miguel Delaney, San Siro


Normal service is resumed, on the most elevated of stages.

After a season of so many shocks, the Champions League is claimed by the club that is both the most successful in its history and the wealthiest in the world. Real Madrid win a record 11th trophy, after winning a penalty shoot-out. Cristiano Ronaldo is the hero after Juanfran’s missed penalty gave him the chance to make up for a poor personal game, and Zinedine Zidane becomes an even more legendary figure in the club’s history.

The French coach – who came in for the sacked Rafa Benitez mid-season – is the seventh person in football to have won the trophy as a player and manager.

Simeone and Atletico are meanwhile still waiting for their deliverance, and the manner of this defeat would make you forgive them for wondering whether it will ever come.

They were not just beaten by their great rivals on the greatest stage again. They also had their emotions toyed with – a Sergio Ramos goal, a missed penalty, a comeback, and then psychodrama of a penalty shoot-out. That only emphasised how Real were far from at their best, but they have still won the greatest of prizes.

Right through the first half, it was as if the stage got to Atletico and they suddenly remembered that they have always been Madrid’s second club.

Simeone’s side stopped doing the things that have helped changed the club’s identity under him, and resorted to the kind of calamitous traits that used to so often scupper them. They were just so loose and error-strewn, and nothing like the compact and impressively abrasive side that had beaten Bayern Munich and Barcelona to get here.

They were still aggressively fouling Real players, but they seemed symptomatic of how the game had got to them rather than a sign of a more cynical plan. It also meant they gave up free-kicks – and chances. That was perhaps the biggest alarm of all that something wasn’t right.

Atletico are normally so tightly drilled that they barely give up any chances from set-pieces but, here, they offered up two in the space of 15 minutes.

For the first, Casemiro forced one of the saves of the game from Jan Oblak, as the Slovenian showed sensational reactions to turn the diverted ball away.

That should have been the warning. It was not heeded. On 15 minutes, Toni Kroos powered a ball at goal for Ramos to turn the ball in.

It seemed like they’re might have been a foul and an offside but that just seemed to sum up Atletico’s luck. They needed to change it.

Antoine Griezmann did more than anyone to try and force that, as his runs back began to inject a bit more energy into Atletico, while his willingness to shoot improved their impetus.

It was almost unfair, then, that it was the French player that missed the penalty. Atletico did come out with much more urgency in the second half – doubtless from a frenzied Simeone team talk – and almost instantly won a penalty. Griezmann played in a cute pass, with Fernando Torres then using Pepe’s inherent aggressiveness against him, going down for Mark Clattenburg to point to the spot. Griezmann, however, could only hit the bar.

The oddity was that Real weren’t hitting anything like the heights they should. Bale apart, their attackers were very quiet, and Cristiano Ronaldo clearly wasn’t fit. It would have been easy to forget he was playing until Karim Benzema failed to square to him on 70 minutes and then he when he attempted a self-indulgent step-over finish.

That should have been the winner.

It was instead another turning point – but one that ended up giving the match more dramatic weight.

Within 52 seconds of that Oblak save, Atletico were level, as substitute Yannick Carrasco thundered home Juanfran’s sweeping cross.

Belief coursed through Atletico again. They were a different team. Ronaldo wasn’t any different in terms of fitness, though. He could have won the game on 95 minutes, only to meekly head the ball at Oblak.

A further problem was that Zidane had by that point made all his substitutions. It left a big question as to why he left Ronaldo on, so it needed a big moment.

It went down to the most distilled of moments: a penalty.

Juanfran missed his – allowing Ronaldo to deliver for the ultimate redemption.

Normal service had been resumed.


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