Cristiano Ronaldo struck home the winning penalty to give Real Madrid an unprecedented 11th European Cup Saturday while breaking the hearts of Atlético Madrid fans for the second time in three seasons. In what was otherwise a shootout of perfectly struck penalties, Juanfran hit the post with Atlético’s penultimate kick, leaving Ronaldo, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner, as the one to step up with a chance to win the trophy.
The Portuguese player, who also hit the winner when Real Madrid beat Atlético Madrid in the final in extra time two years ago, showed nerves of steel to find the net, then ripping off his shirt in what has now become a trademark Champions League final celebration.
Ronaldo now has three European Cups to his name, having also won the 2008 final, when his miss in the penalty shootout did not prevent Manchester United from winning the trophy. And Saturday also marked the third time coach Zinedine Zidane has been able to get his hands on the trophy, all with Real Madrid.
A Ballon d’Or winner as a player, the former French great struck the winning goal in the 2002 final to hand Real Madrid their ninth European Cup. Later, Zidane was assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti when they won their 10th in Lisbon. Now, less than six months after beginning his first top-level coaching job, he became just the seventh person to win the top prize in club soccer as both player and coach.
However, the wait goes on for Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid. And they have again been denied in agonizing circumstances. In a reversal of events two years ago, when Sergio Ramos’ late equalizer denied Atlético victory and forced extra time, this time it was the Real Madrid captain who struck early before Atlético leveled late.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Ramos bundled in from close range after Gareth Bale flicked on Toni Kroos’ free kick. And the goal was allowed to stand, despite Ramos being in an offside position. With the comfort of the lead, Real Madrid was happy to sit back and challenge an Atlético side famed for its defensive strength to break them down.
For the rest of the first half, Atlético Madrid struggled to make any inroads. But a halftime switch, bringing on Belgian winger Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco for defensive midfielder Augusto Fernandez, made Atlético far more dangerous.
Antoine Griezmann should have leveled just three minutes after the restart. But, after Pepe brought down Fernando Torres in the box, Atlético’s top scorer this season blasted his penalty off the underside of the crossbar. Atlético would get their equalizer, though. And fittingly it was Carrasco who provided it, sliding in at the back post to turn Juanfran’s cross into the roof of the net 11 minutes before the end of regulation time.
With Ronaldo and Bale both struggling physically and Real Madrid having used all three substitutions, it appeared the game was there for the taking for Atlético Madrid in extra time, as it was for Real Madrid two years ago.
But Simeone kept his final two substitutions in his pocket, using them instead for like-for-like changes for cramping players. And Atlético opted against pushing for a winner, maybe not having the energy to do so or perhaps fearing a late sucker punch once again.
As it was, the agonizing blow was to come in the shootout. Atlético Madrid has now lost all three European Cup finals it has been involved in, all in painful fashion. In 1974, it was a last-gasp Bayern Munich equalizer and defeat in a replay, before 40 years later Real Madrid inflicted a similar outcome. Saturday, it was the most painful way to lose of all: a penalty shootout.
Worst of all, it has again come at the hands of their city rivals, who continue to rein over them and all of Europe.