Saturday, 28 May 2016
Real Madrid Edges Atlético Madrid in Shootout for Champions League Title
MILAN — The ingredients were familiar. An early goal. A frenzied rally. A grueling stretch of extra time. A crushing finish.
Familiar, too, was the result: Real Madrid defeated Atlético Madrid in the Champions League final here Saturday night, beating its crosstown rival for the continental crown for the second time in three years.
Real Madrid has now won 11 European championships, a record total — and also 11 more than Atlético, which was agonizingly close to finally tasting glory.
For all the similarities to the 2014 final, though, this match at the San Siro stadium was not a rerun.
Last time, Real Madrid fell behind in the first half, scored in the dying seconds of added time and then ran away with a three-goal win in extra time. On this night, it was Real that scored early, Atlético that leveled the score late, and the Merengues, holding off Atlético’s pushes, who barely edged to a victory, 5-3 in a penalty shootout, after a 1-1 draw.
The game ended, as so many of Real’s seem to, with Cristiano Ronaldo shirtless. Ronaldo, who was largely quiet throughout the match while playing with what appeared to be a lingering leg injury, was given the opportunity to seal the win after Juanfran missed Atlético’s fourth penalty kick. Injured or not, Ronaldo did not waver, coolly shooting the ball past goalkeeper Jan Oblak, ripping off his own shirt and waving it wildly as his teammates ran toward him.
Gareth Bale leapt in the air. Marcelo danced. Amid the celebration, Ronaldo found a moment to embrace his manager, Zinedine Zidane, a former star for the French national team who became the seventh man to have won a Champions League title as both a player and a coach.
“I had a vision,” Ronaldo said, adding that he had asked Zidane if he could take the fifth penalty kick “because I was going to score the winning goal.”
The Atlético players slumped in a heap near midfield. They were understandably battered, having come just seconds from winning the club’s first European title two years ago only to make it back to the final and be gutted again.
Diego Simeone, Atlético’s manager, looked dazed as he trudged around the field trying to console his players. He seemed to have made the right moves — his halftime substitute, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, scored the tying goal with about 10 minutes remaining in regulation — but it was not enough.
Atlético slumbered through a somnolent first half but was far better in the second and looked more likely to win in regulation. After it could not, the team was left with regrets, most notably a missed penalty kick from Antoine Griezmann just after halftime that could have changed the tenor of the game. Shooting toward his team’s fans, Griezmann bounced his shot off the crossbar as Simeone grimaced on the sideline.
“I don’t believe in excuses,” Simeone said. “To lose two finals is a failure. We must now go home and tend to our wounds.”
Real Madrid’s victory concluded a bizarre season — even by the club’s circus standards — in which its president, Florentino Pérez, fired Manager Rafael Benítez in an attempt to shake the players out of an early-season slump. Pérez then elevated Zidane, who had been coaching Madrid’s second team but had never coached in the top division, and watched as Zidane ripped through the next five months and became the eighth manager to claim the continental crown in his first season.
“When you have players of this caliber,” Zidane said, “you can achieve something big like we have tonight.”
This was the fourth European cup final to be played at the San Siro stadium, and it was similar to the last two editions, both of which had late-game drama. In 1970, Feyenoord, from the Netherlands, beat Rangers, of Scotland, by 2-1 after extra time. Thirty-one years after that, Bayern Munich beat Valencia in a thrilling penalty shootout.
Those games were classics on their own, but Saturday’s had a different feel, if only because of the geography involved. Two years ago, an estimated 90,000 Spanish fans traveled to Lisbon for the final — many of them in caravans that clogged the motorways — and while few expected a repeat of that number, the Spanish presence in the city center here was impossible to miss.
Spotless white jerseys. Red-and-white striped scarves. Countless Ronaldo shirts. A fair few for Fernando Torres.
A flock of Real Madrid fans sang, long and loud, down the street from the towering cathedral early in the morning; steps away, in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Atlético fans drowned out the noise of tourists and shoppers.
These clubs, and their fans, know each other so well that there was no novelty, no fascination to the meeting. It was simply another round between rivals that are separated by little more than a 20-minute taxi ride across the Spanish capital.
Not surprisingly, the game was played with an edge. Tacklers flew in early, and there was little early flow from either team as constant fouls bogged down play.
One of those fouls — Juanfran knocked over Bale about 15 minutes in — preceded a goal by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. With the free kick off to the right flank, Toni Kroos whipped in a cross, and Bale flicked the ball with his head before Ramos slid in and jammed it over the line. Ramos took off running, celebrating the goal, his first in the Champions League since his last-second header sent the 2014 final in Lisbon into extra time.
The Real fans roared while the Atlético fans fumed, their frustration turning to anger after they saw replays of the goal: Ramos appeared onside for Kroos’s free kick but offside for Bale’s flick; the goal should have been ruled out.
Of course, it was not. And just as Atlético did two years ago, Real fell into a shell after its opening strike, soaking up pressure and nearly making it to the finish line with a 1-0 victory before a late goal changed the story.
This time, it was Carrasco. Oblak made a dazzling save to deny Ronaldo at one end, and seconds later at the other, Juanfran sent a cross in front of the goal that was there to be finished.
Carrasco ran to the stands to kiss his girlfriend. The red-and-white-striped end of the San Siro erupted.
At that moment, it felt as if Atlético might go on and finish what it could not two years ago. Things felt different.
But they were not. The ending was just the same.