Champions League final: Real Madrid 4 Atletico Madrid 1 match report - Gareth Bale finds that bit extra to make history for Real
Atletico’s grim determination to hold off their rampaging city rivals after taking a surprise lead is finally broken in extra time as the Welsh winger leaps to nod Real ahead and open the floodgates
Estadio da Luz
Saturday 24 May 2014
Finally, the perfect 10th. History was made in Lisbon last night as Real Madrid beat local rivals Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League in their most meaningful ever derby. And it was Gareth Bale who made it for them.
The competition’s most successful ever club have now finally won their 10th trophy after a 12-year wait, while Carlo Ancelotti has become the first manager to match Bob Paisley’s three European Cups at Liverpool.
The long-awaited Decima has at last been delivered. The club that consider the Champions League their rightful property above anyone else took over the Stadium of Light and overcame Diego Simeone’s much-admired side.
It was such a long time coming. Bale could have settled the match in normal time, had he taken one of the chances that came his way but persistence paid off. With 10 minutes of gruelling extra time left to play, Angel Di Maria was set free on the left side of the penalty by Alvaro Norat, and let fly. Thibaut Courtois in the Atletico goal could only pary and Bale was at the far post to leap and nod home.
The Welshman’s goal broke Atletico and Marcelo rifled in a third with his left foot two minutes from time.
It wasn’t exactly the most blistering beginning, but that only reflected the nature of this unique Madrid derby. Tension was high, chances were rare, and mistakes were frequent – right down to the opening goal.
The first error, surprisingly, came from Simeone. The entire situation surrounding Diego Costa’s injury was bizarre, right down to the Atletico manager’s decision to start the striker just a week after limping off in the Spanish title decider against Barcelona.
Hamstring problems like that tend to keep players out for longer than seven days and, duly, Costa was taken off after just nine minutes.
Beyond anything, it meant Simeone only had two subs left for at least 81 minutes of a match that was always going to prove so taxing. One of Atletico’s strengths has been working to the point they look like they have an extra man but, here, they initially left more spaces open than usual.
With the running of Angel Di Maria, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, Real were beginning to find space in the opposition half. One of those breaks brought the first flashpoint of the game, but it wasn’t a chance. With Di Maria suddenly set to burst through, Raul Garcia cynically scythed him down with a foul that might have forced a red card from another referee. The Atletico midfielder only received a yellow, but so did Sergio Ramos after running 70 yards to confront him.
The pressure produced even more mistakes as, on 33 minutes, Tiago awfully misplaced a pass to send Bale through. The world-record signing did exceptionally to simply glide into the box with so many Atletico players trailing him but, once there, did awfully to put the ball just wide of Thibaut Courtois’s goal.
The anguish on his face was clear. It was a feeling that soon spread to the other end of the pitch for Real.
Because, after a period in which it looked as if Ancelotti’s side might claim the lead from the type of break so typical of them, Atletico opened the scoring with a goal so characteristic of their campaign: a set-piece.
Moreover, it came from the hero of Camp Nou, Diego Godin. That, however, was courtesy of a remarkable error from the player with more experience of games like this than anyone on the pitch: Iker Casillas. With the ball bouncing around the box, the goalkeeper came wildly off his line, allowing Godin to loop a header just over the line.
It may not have been the most beautifully constructed effort, but it put Atletico into the perfect situation: a goal up, and set up to sit back against a Real team so much better running into space on the break.
It was at that point up to Ancelotti’s big players to step up.
On resumption of the second half, however, there was no sign of Real revving up. They still looked a little startled, a little reticent.
It was Atletico creating the chances, but also continuing to destroy so emphatically. Di Maria finally went on another of those surges a few minutes into the second half, only for Miranda to this time take the yellow card for a foul. It was more of Simeone’s intelligent design, even if it was so inherently malevolent. It was also not without some negatives for Atletico.
For one, it only increased the amount of time the ball spent in their half, and the amount of pressure on their goal – not least given the free-kick capabilities of Ronaldo and Bale.
Two, it extended the amount of injury-time. That proved costly.
The Real siege only grew in strength, even if their anxiety followed suit. Bale kept missing chances, Ronaldo couldn’t find his range.
Then, the equaliser arrived. It wasn’t one of Real’s big stars but one of their big characters. Sergio Ramos plundered the equaliser from a set-piece.
A shot at history was back on for Ancelotti and his team, Atletico were reminded of the painful past. In their only other European Cup final, 40 years ago against Bayern Munich, they suffered an equaliser when just a minute from victory.
Here, it felt like they only had enough left to play for a penalty shoot-out. Momentum was with Real, even if the search for the equaliser sapped some of their energy. There was still enough in the game for decisive drama.
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao (Marcelo, 59); Modric, Khedira (Isco, 59), Di Maria; Bale, Benzema (Morata, 79); Ronaldo.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis (Alderweireld, 83); Raul Garcia (Sosa, 66), Gabi Tiago, Koke; Villa, Diego Costa (Adrian, 9).
Referee: Björn Kuipers (Holl).
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