Saturday’s Champions League Final had plenty of hype to live up to, and it somehow managed to exceed expectations. The second Madrid derby in three years on the biggest stage in club competition had everything that you could want from a match: goals, drama, and penalty kicks. For Atlético, it was the chance to win their first every European crown. For Real, this would be the extend their record number of Champions League titles to 11. Which side of Madrid would be celebrating after the match?
Real had the first big chance of the match after just five minutes. A wide angled free kick from Gareth Bale weaved its way right in front of Jan Oblak. Casemiro fought his way through the crowded penalty area and looked to have applied the finishing touch to Bale’s cross. Sadly, for the Brazilian midfielder, his close-range shot was expertly denied by a kick save from the Atlético keeper.
Ten minutes later, another free kick from Real caused problems in Atlético’s penalty area. This time, Toni Kroos’ set piece was flicked on by Bale into the six-yard box. Sergio Ramos, who may have been offsides after the flick, battled his way past his defender and applied the lightest of touches. It ended up being just enough as the ball trickled through Oblak’s legs as Real took the first lead of the match.
It was all Real Madrid to start the match, with Atlético struggling to impose themselves on the match. It wasn’t until the 34th minute that Keylor Navas was forced into his first save of the match, a fairly routine catch from Griezmann’s shot from distance. Two minutes later, the French striker hit a ferocious volley that stung Navas’ palms, but it was all for nothing as the official had his flag raised for offsides.
Diego Simeone would’ve been hoping for a more inspired performance from his side in the second half, and just three minutes in they earned themselves a penalty kick. As Fernando Torres waited to receive a pass from Griezmann inside the 18-yard box, Pepe rashly knocked down the Spanish striker from behind and gifted Atlético their first real scoring chance of the match.
Griezmann, Atlético’s leading scorer of the season, stepped up for the spot kick, and most fans would’ve bet their house that he would’ve scored. He hit a powerful drive down the center of the goal, but it just kept rising and smacked the underside of the bar. Real just barely hung on to their one-goal lead.
The momentum from Griezmann’s miss was soon zapped, however, as Daniel Carvajal, arguably Real’s best player on the day, was forced off through injury. As the fullback limped off the field, you could see tears in his eyes as this injury not only ruled him out for the rest of the Champions League final, but potentially for this summer’s Euros as well. Could Zinedine Zidane’s men keep their composure and close out the match?
In the 54th minute, Atlético again came within inches of equalizing. A collection of mishits in the penalty area after a corner kick eventually saw the ball fall to Stefan Savic on the edge of the six-yard box. The defender just couldn’t get the contact right, though, as his weak effort bounced just wide of Keylor Navas’ goal.
As the second half dragged on, it became clear that Real were happy to just defend their slim lead. Atlético were the only team forcing the issue, and it looked like just a matter of time before they found an equalizer. Despite the lack of attacking pressure from Los Blancos, Karim Benzema actually found himself with a partial one-on-one against Oblak in the 70th minute. Unfortunately for Real fans, the French striker couldn’t find the back of the net as Oblak once again came up with a vital save.
The real drama came in the 78th minute. A quick attack from Real first saw Cristiano Ronaldo nearly slot home past Oblak, only for the Slovakian keeper to come up with another big block. The rebound kept the danger alive for Real and Gareth Bale eventually found himself with the ball. After weaving past Oblak, all the former Tottenham winger had to do was hammer home past the defenders, but Savic was on the line to clear the danger.
Less than a minute later, Atlético were on the attack. A whipped in cross from Juanfran on the right wing wasn’t dealt with by Real, and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco was at the far post to hammer it home. This marked the first time that a Belgian had scored scored in the final, and the winger celebrated by running to the sidelines and kissing what we can only assume was his girlfriend or a very lucky fan. Either way, Atlético now found themselves level.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 28, 2016
Neither side was able to find another goal in the final ten minutes, and the match was sent into extra time. Last time around, Atlético’s tired legs caught up to them as Real hammered in three goals in the second period to seal a 4-1 result. Could they change things this time?
Other than a Ronaldo header, and an ambitious free kick from Griezmann, neither side really tested the keeper in the first period of extra time. The last 15 minutes didn’t really see any chances either, and it would take penalty kicks to decide the best team in Europe. From a neutral standpoint, this was the dream outcome, but for fan bases on either side this must’ve been torture to watch.
The first three shooters for both sides easily slotted home their shots from 12 yards, and neither keeper ever came close to getting a hand to one. Juanfran, who provided the assist in regulation time, stepped up for Atlético’s fourth kick. He tried to place it into his left corner, but went just a little bit too wide as his shot smacked off the woodwork. Now, Madrid had their chance to end the match, and win the cup. Who else but Cristiano Ronaldo was going to step up for this decisive kick?
The last time CR7 was involved in a penalty shootout in the final, it was way back in 2008 when Manchester United dramatically beat Chelsea. He actually missed his kick that day in Moscow, but I don’t think that was running through his head at all during this one. He ran up and sent Oblak the wrong way to win Madrid their 11th European title and his third.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 28, 2016
Ronaldo wasn’t really involved in the play for the majority of the match, but all that matters is that his side won. The win means that Zidane is the first ever French manager to lead his side to a European title and he’s just the seventh to win the historic tournament as both a player and manager. Congratulations to Real Madrid on a historic result, and also to Atlético for yet another barnstorming European campaign.