Devastation for Atletico as Real take title

An exhausted Real Madrid have taken their eleventh Champions League title in Milan, defeating bitter rivals Atletico Madrid in a penalty shoot-out at the San Siro. The game was pulsating as Real scored early and Atletico equalised late, and a missed penalty from Juanfran ultimately proved costly as Cristiano Ronaldo coolly slotted his penalty past Jan Oblak to seal the deal. Atletico started the game shakily, and Gareth Bale’s work early on nearly led to a goal when Oblak was forced to act quickly to save a deflection from Karim Benzema at close range. It was not long before Real’s early opportunities led to the first goal, and it came when Bale flicked Toni Kroos’ free kick on towards Oblak, allowing captain Sergio Ramos to tap it in. Real continued to cruise, passing the ball around and generally not allowing Atletico to have a sniff, but Atletico recovered and had the momentum going their way at the end of the first half.

Atletico continued to build on their momentum in the second half, and should have levelled straight after half time when Pepe fouled Fernando Torres in the box. The ensuing penalty, taken by Griezmann, was drilled into the underside of the bar, and Real escaped with their lead intact. Atletico continued to push, and Real manager Zinedine Zidane took the foot off the gas, allowing Atletico to control the tempo and the midfield. Real nearly had a goal on the counter-attack when Benzema found himself one-on-one with Oblak, and it looked as though Atletico had petered out. Real came incredibly close to doubling their lead in the 78th minute when Ronaldo went one-on-one in the six-yard box, and Bale’s shot was blocked on the goal line by a desperate Atletico defence. It was not to be for Real, however, and Atletico levelled through the dangerous Yannick Carrasco, who took advantage of an excellent cross from Juanfran to find the back of the net from close range. Carrasco continued to look dangerous for the remainder of normal time, but Atletico eased off and Real, for all the control of possession, never looked like scoring.

Extra time began with the same sluggish tempo, and neither side really looked like breaking the deadlock as the heat and fatigue began to get to the teams. Real still controlled possession, but Atletico held firm while Bale and Ronaldo seemed to crumble, the former making some very ambitious efforts on goal and generally ending up on the ground as a result. The game was destined for a tie-breaking penalty shoot-out, and it, much like the 120 minutes before it, was an excellent contest. The first seven penalties were scored, and Griezmann managed to redeem himself, but Juanfran could not put his penalty on target, as the ball hit the post and rolled away. Oblak tried hard to save Ronaldo’s final effort, but Ronaldo was unfazed by the pressure and hit it into the back of the net with ease, sealing the Champions League for Real Madrid.

San Siro – Milan
Real Madrid 1 (Ramos 15)
Atletico Madrid 1 (Carrasco 79) (a.e.t, Real Madrid won 5-3 on penalties)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Eng)

Real Madrid: Navas – Carvajal (Danilo 52), Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Casemiro, Kroos (Isco 72), Modric, Bale, Benzema (Lucas Vazquez 77), Ronaldo.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak – Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Filipe Luis (Lucas Hernandez 109), Saul Niguez, Fernandez (Carrasco 46), Gabi, Koke (Partey 116), Torres, Griezmann.

Top 5
1. Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
Carrasco entered the game at half time when Atletico were facing an uphill battle, and his pace through the middle and on the break changed the game and turned it against Real. The goal he scored late was a just reward for his performance, and he put more pressure on the Real defence than any of his teammates.
2. Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
The work of Luis was key to Atletico gaining a foothold in the game, and the Brazilian’s work putting long crosses into the box helped put some pressure on Real in a time of dominance. His work supplementing the attack was key, and while he went off injured in extra time he left a big mark on the game.
3. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Bale’s best work was done early on in the game, but he remained a threat throughout despite limited supply. He won two early free kicks in dangerous positions early, and he provided the assist for Ramos’ goal from one of those set pieces. He was exceptionally dangerous and rounded out a solid game by slotting home his penalty in the shoot-out.
4. Gabi (Atletico Madrid)
Gabi played excellently throughout and was Atletico’s rock in the centre of midfield. He ran almost as hard as anyone on the field, and his determination to get the ball and ability to use it was a big issue for Real. He provided the ball that led to Carrasco’s goal, and was never far from the action for the full 120 minutes.
5. Casemiro (Real Madrid)
Casemiro played the whole game and was constantly plugging away for Real. He worked tirelessly in the centre of midfield, and while his forays forward were not always successful he nearly managed to set up a goal when he pinched the ball from Atletico in the centre of the park. His work-rate was excellent and he was a constant for Real for the whole game.

Stay tuned over the next few days for my team-by-team preview of UEFA Euro 2016, starting in France next month.

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