It was Real Madrid once again as they overcame city rivals Atletico Madrid for their 11th Champions League title at the legendary San Siro stadium in Milan. This was their second win in three seasons against the same opponent and was achieved via penalties 5-3.
The game was expected to be tense and lived up to its expectations. Sergio Ramos who has great memories from the 2014 final against Atletico put Real Madrid ahead after 15 minutes. Jan Oblak in the Atletico goal who otherwise had a great tournament was beaten easily.
It was all Madrid in the first half as Diego Simeone men struggled to impress at both ends. Though Cristiano Ronaldo had a quiet outing by his lofty standards, Toni Kroos and Casemiro pulled the strings for Real Madrid.
But Atletico is never a side that folds up without a fight. True to their name, Simeone’s men fought back with purpose in the second half. Pepe gifted them a golden chance by fouling Fernando Torres in the penalty area. Unfortunately for Ateltico, Antoine Griezmann missed from the spot, which proved costly for them in the final analysis.
Madrid could have easily doubled up their lead inside the last 20 minutes through various chances to Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Ronaldo. Juanfran made a pin-point pass for half-time substitute Yannick Carrasco who scored his first Champions League goal of this campaign. This goal in the 79th minute levelled things for Atletico.
The game then meandered towards extra time with both sides spurning chances to earn the lead. Even in the extra time, there was nothing to separate the sides and for the first time since 2012, the UEFA Champions League was being decided on penalties.
Real Madrid was the first team to take the penalties and were successful with their first four penalties. For Atletico, the first three successful conversions kept them in pace with their bitter rivals. But, Juanfran hit the post with their fourth penalty handing Madrid the initiative. Ronaldo converted the fifth penalty for Madrid leading the team and its supporters into frenzy.
This win is Madrid’s 11th on the grand European stage having won six European trophies in the 1950s and 60s before annexing five titles once it was rebranded Champions League.
With this victory, Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane joined a select group of professionals who have won the Champions League both as a player and manager. The victory is all the more incredible for the Frenchman who replaced Rafael Benitez in January.
For his counterpart Simeone, this is a bitter pill to swallow. After coming second to his bitter city rivals in 2014, he would have expected his feisty side to come up trumps this time round.