On their 200th appearance in the Champions League, Real Madrid finally secured their 10th European crown thanks to a spirited extra-time display which saw them beat Atletico Madrid 4-1.
Having led early in the first half, Atletico Madrid were pegged back in second half stoppage time by a Sergio Ramos header. And a final 10-minute blitz by Real meant that they secured their 10th European crown (La Decima) in typical attacking fashion.
A tight, tense, tactical game was decided by 10 minutes of absolute magic by Bale, Ronaldo and Di Maria. In the end, the score line flattered Real Madrid who knew that they were in a fight from the very first minute, as Bale was fouled within seconds from the kick off. From then on, it was all about Real Madrid dominating possession and trying to break down a dogged Atletico defence. Although the half ended well for Atletico, it didn’t go according to plan at the start as Diego Costa came off within nine minutes.
From then onward, it was the persistent pressing of Atletico against the relentless Real Madrid attack. Although there were a couple of glimpses of Real’s threat on the counter attack, more often than not, the player in possession was crowded out. Whether it was legally through sheer weight of numbers or illegally by scything down the opponent, Atletico kept the Madrid attack in check. They were also helped by the fact that every ball Real hit into the box was either mis-hit, over-hit or hit straight into the hands of Thibaut Courtois.
Right on the half hour mark, the game’s first real chance was wastefully spurned by Gareth Bale. And just a few minutes later, Atletico grabbed the opening goal thanks to a mistake by Iker Casillas. After an Atletico corner wasn’t well cleared, the ball came back into the box and Casillas’ needlessly rushed to claim but was left in no man’s land as Diego Godin, who got the goal that won them the League last week, scored with a looping header.
Once the goal went in, Real were rattled and were lucky to go into the half just 1-0 down. Even after the restart, it was Atletico who started the brighter of the two sides. And it wasn’t until a rasping Ronaldo free kick 10 minutes into the half that was tipped over by Courtois that Real could conjure up an effort on goal. After that, it was all one-way traffic. Although Atletico tried to get forward at every opportunity and looked threatening at set pieces, it was all Real Madrid up until the full-time whistle.
Los Blancos finally started to make the most of their possession as Angel Di Maria grew increasingly more threatening and penned in the Atletico defense. Marcelo and Di Maria were starting to build a devastating partnership on the left flank whipping in dangerous crosses, as the tackles came flying in. It looked like it was only a matter of time before Real scored. And, although Bale missed another glorious chance and Atletico defended resolutely, the pressure finally told as Sergio Ramos headed home from a corner deep into injury time to keep Real’s hopes of La Décima alive.
In the first half of extra-time Real continued from where they left off and Di Maria started to find large pockets of space on the left as the game started to open up. In the end, it was the Argentinian’s brilliant solo run down the left flank that created an opening for a shot that was well saved by Courtois. Having spurned all of his previous chances with his feet, Bale made no mistake with his head as he scored to give Real the lead. And with two minutes left on the clock, the substitute Marcelo scored the third, before Ronaldo scored another, from the penalty spot to give Real Madrid their first Champions League title in over a decade.
From being a goal behind for much of the game, to running out convincing 4-1 winners, Real Madrid certainly enjoyed a roller coaster of a game.
The win meant that Carlo Ancelotti became just the second manager, after Bob Paisley, to win the European Cup three times. And it was the Italian’s introduction of Marcelo that made all the difference in the end. And, whilst the score line might reflect a comfortable victory, up until the final few minutes, it was anything but that.