Football can sometimes be so cruel. For Atletico Madrid to be so close to their greatest footballing night and to have it all taken away at the last minute must be heart-breaking for the supporters. The Ramos goal delivered what proved to be the knock-out blow for Atletico Madrid. It was only a matter of time before Real won as all the Atletico players were out on their feet. The final score line suggests that this was an emphatic victory for Real Madrid but it was anything close to being emphatic. To see their rich neighbours capture ‘La Decima’, must be seen as an injustice by Atletico, whose own budget dwarfs that of most Premier League clubs let alone Real Madrid.
The build-up of the game was focused on the fitness of two key men for Atletico, Diego Costa and Arda Turan. When the line ups were announced an hour before kick out, Turan was left out of the squad but somehow miraculously Costa was fit to start. During the week, Costa had visited the famous placenta healer Mariana Kovacevic in a desperate attempt to be fully fit for the game. When Costa’s name was officially named in the team it seemed that the treatment had worked. However like most hamstring injuries, Costa’s needed time to heal and realistically there was no way he was going to last long except through a miracle. After nine minutes Costa was substituted and now Atletico were down their best player and more importantly as the night developed an extra substitute which they badly needed in extra time. Diego Simeone in his post-match press conference acknowledged that starting with Costa was a mistake and stated, “It was my responsibility and obviously I made a mistake.”
Even with the loss of their influential striker, Atletico were the better team in the first half and this was duly rewarded with the first goal of the game. As the corner was floated into the box, Casillas made an error in judgement when he indecisively came for the ball and failed to clear the danger. This allowed Diego Godin to get a flick on the ball to direct it goal wards. Casillas tried desperately to stop the ball but his effort proved futile with the assistant behind the goal, confirming that the ball had already crossed the line. Before all this drama, Gareth Bale had the opportunity to put Real a step closer to ‘La Decima. He showed his characteristic surge of pace after collecting the ball from a sloppy Tiago pass, his finish however left much to be desired.
The referee blew for half time and Atletico were in the driving seat to claim their maiden Champions League. The tireless effort of the Atletico players was bearing fruit. They had nullified the effects of the ‘BBC’ with the defence snuffing out anything that Real could offer. Gabi especially was proving an excellent shield for Atletico, stopping the Real attacks before they came near the defence.
After the break, Real tried to bring their star player into the game. Ronaldo who had been an anonymous figure throughout the first half began to come into the game slightly. Ronaldo who himself was an injury doubt before the final, had an early free kick saved by Courtois who was rarely troubled by the Real attack. Ronaldo again trying to stamp his influence on the game was inches away from getting his head on a Ramos cross. After this missed chance, Ronaldo was getting visibly frustrated while the rest of the team feeling the weight of ‘La Decima’.
With Real Madrid losing control of the game, Ancelotti made a double substitution. He decided to bring on Isco and Marcelo for Khedira and Coentrao. These changes gave Real a new direction in attack with Marcelo able to provide the width that Real badly needed. With Real attacking more and more, their opportunities in creating chances increased. Bale had the best of these opportunities, the first of which went way over the bar and the second was another powerful run into the box by Bale but his finish was very timid and went wide.
With time nearly up, Atletico were still defending with great poise and resilience until the ninety-third minute when the knockout blow was delivered. Modric whipped in the corner, the cross was met by the head of a Real Madrid player and it was level and heading for extra time. The header was scored by a player who had now scored 6 goals in 7 games. It wasn’t Bale, Benzema and surprisingly not Ronaldo. It was Sergio Ramos, the talismanic leader of the defence who rose highest to head the ball past Courtois. Two minutes later the referee blew for full time and the game headed to extra time.
During extra time, the Atletico players were out in their feet and the dip in their level of pressing caused Real to create more chances. The momentum was now firmly with Los Blancos and they attacked with greater precision. With ten minutes left on the clock, Angel Di Maria (who was man of the match) went on a surging run into the penalty area and drove a shot at the Atletico goal. Courtois done well to save Di Maria’s shot but the ball came down perfectly for Bale who headed it into the back of the net. The Atletico players who has given their all and looked desperately tried. Marcelo and Ronaldo added further goals to put the game beyond doubt. Real’s emphatic victory does not tell the full story of the game and can count themselves lucky that they didn’t lose this final.
Tensions boiled over at the end of the game, with Diego Simeone coming out the pitch in the closing minutes to confront Raphael Varane. He was later sent off by the referee for his actions. As the referee blew up for full time, Real Madrid had finally won their tenth Champions League. Florentino Perez had finally achieved his aim. The hunt for ‘La Decima’ was over. The quest for ‘La Undecima’ has begun.