It was the defining moment of Cristiano Ronaldo’s career. Barely able to walk due to his thigh strain, he stepped up and scored the decisive penalty that gave Real Madrid its record eleventh European Cup.
The defeat was so cruel once again on their cross city rivals, Atletico. In 1974 they came within minutes; in 2014, against Real Madrid, they came within seconds. At the San Siro on Saturday night they came within a penalty kick of this trophy. Juanfran, so excellent in the game, was their fall guy hitting the post on Atletico’s fourth penalty, allowing Ronaldo his moment in the spotlight.
It was excruciating to watch Atletico miss out again, having beaten Bayern and Barcelona to get to the final, and with their commander in chief, Diego Simeone, managing to hold his own on a fraction on the budget of his opponents.
Yet once again on the big European stage, Real Madrid do what they know best and that is win and transform a season which threatened to be awful into something memorable.
When Zinedine Zidane took over from Rafa Benitez in January, Real were playing poorly and in third place in the table. But Zuzu was able to tell Florentino Pérez to stop interfering with team selection, inserted Casemiro into the midfield and dropped James Rodríguez. The result was a second half of the season that saw Real push Barcelona all the way to the final day of the season, and then win a record breaking 11th European Cup. What will you do for an encore Zuzu?
Derby’s are rarely the most enjoyable games for neutrals to watch and this game was no exception. Real went ahead n the 15th minute when Toni Kroos’s free kick was flipped on by Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos bundled the ball home from three yards out.
For the next 15 minutes Atletico seemed shell-shocked and barely strung two passes together. But they managed to get to half-time down only 1-0. Simeone is a master of half-time adjustments and this was the case again, as he got his team’s heads back in the game.
Two minutes into the second half and Pepe came through the back of Fernando Torres and referee Mark Clatternburg gave a penalty. But as he did in the derby at the Vicente Calderón Stadium early this season, Griezmann missed, this time hitting the bar.
That looked to have been Atletico’s best chance to get onto level terms, especially when Benzema had a chance to make Real’s lead comfortable on 70 minutes, when he raced in from the wing, but Oblak stopped his shot.
Ronaldo, largely anonymous for most of the game, had his best chance to score in the 78th minute, when he tried to back-heel the ball in, but Oblak again rose to the challenge, and Bale’s effort from the rebound was cleared off the line by Savic.
But then Atletico countered just a minute later, when Gabi lofted a ball down the right side for Juanfran, whose cross found substitute Yannick Carrasco for the equaliser as Lucas Vazquez was pulling him down.
Neither side created a chance of significance and we headed to penalties where Ronaldo had the opportunity to be the Real Madrid hero, and as expected he took it with gusto.