Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrd (5-3 pens)
It was once again a case of so close yet so far for Atletico Madrid last night as they once again lost to rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League final. The game was far from the battle many had predicted with a relatively slow pace and lackluster atmosphere at the San Siro. As is the case in so many games it was one side making the smallest of mistakes that gave the other the advantage. Atletico Madrid can thank goalkeeper Jan Oblak for his heroics throughout the game and roue missed chances in front of Keylor Navas’ goal.
The sides got off to a cagey start but it was evident from the opening ten minutes that Atletico were not their usual selves, passes weren’t working and the occasion seemed to get to some of the players. Real ran rampant in the opening 30 minutes and took the lead with a quarter of an hour gone. Of all the players to score for Los Blancos it was captain Sergio Ramos- the man whose injury time header had taken the game to extra time two years ago. Toni Kross whipped in a free kick from the left flank. Gareth Bale flicked the ball from the edge of the box into the six yard box. Ramos threw his leg at the ball and nudged it past Oblak. Replays show the Spaniard was well offside but the goal stood and Ateltico looked rattled.
As the first half drew to a close Atletico began to find their feet and Diego Simeone must have emphasized this in his half time team talk because Atleti came out reinvigorated. He opted to withdraw Augusto Fernandez for the skilful Belgian Yannick Carrasco – a very important change. Just 50 seconds after the restart Atletico had a their best chance to draw level. Link up play on the edge of the box saw Antoine Griezmann swing a cross into Fernando Torres. The veteran striker who failed to complete a single pass in the first half stuck his leg out for the ball, as he did Pepe went through his standing leg. Referee Mark Clattenburg had no option but to point to the spot. Griezmann stepped up to take the spot kick. Maybe Keylor Navas’ mind games were worth the yellow card he received because Griezmann rifled the ball off the crossbar. The San Siro was stunned while Real thanked their lucky stars.
Simeone didn’t lose faith on the side line, he called over the young Frenchman and offered him some words of encouragement and sent him back out. The game was more open now with Atletico in the ascendancy. Real were forced to play counter attacking football producing the odd chance here and there but heroic defending from Diego Godin, Stefan Savic and saves from Oblak kept Real’s lead at just one goal. As Atletico cleared their lines they began to counter. An over the top through ball saw right-back Juanfran fire the ball across the face of goal where Carrasco flicked it home sending Ateltico fans into hysterics. Carrasco sprinted over to the VIP box where he shared a kiss with his girlfriend as his teammates celebrated beside him. After his goal the Belgian had 10 minutes to help Atleti find a winner but they couldn’t so the tie headed to extra time.
Atletico had the momentum now and showed that in the first period of extra time but once again they failed to find the back of the net. Cramp and fatigue riddled Real while Atleti powered ahead – Juanfran flying up and down the right-wing. Carrasco displayed his skill on a number of occasions but his teammates didn’t have the legs to stay with him. The game would be decided via a penalty shootout.
The penalties found the back of the net for both sides up until the fourth round. Ramos converted for Real but Juanfran seemed to rush his penalty. His quick run up saw him hammer the ball off the base of the left post. There could only be one man to take the final penalty for Real – Cristiano Ronaldo who was an invisible man for the previous 120 minutes popping up only on one occasion. Nevertheless he slotted home the penalty to claim Real Madrid’s 11th Champions League title. This defeat will be hard for Ateltico to accept, losing out to their cross city rivals once more in Europe’s biggest match is becoming a reoccurring theme. For Real its pure ecstasy and Zinedine Zidane is already being hailed as a mastermind in the Spanish capital.
A penalty shootout is a cruel way to end any final – death and glory from 12 yards.