After Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco cancelled out Sergio Ramos’ opener, the 2016 Champions League final went to penalties, where Cristiano Ronaldo struck the decisive spot-kick after Juanfran struck a post.
Here, we round up the talking points from the night…
It just had to be him. Cristiano Ronaldo was ineffective throughout much of the 120 minutes of the match but it’s impossible to keep the Portuguese out of the headlines. When Juanfran cannoned his penalty into the woodwork, it was no surprise to see the Real Madrid number seven striding forwards to take the fifth, crucial penalty. The shirtless celebration was predictable, too.
But, while it is easy to mock Ronaldo’s appetite for theatre and the big occasion, what can’t be ignored is his consistent ability to deliver when it matters most. The top scorer in Champions League history has now won three of his four finals in the competition.
At the age of 31, Ronaldo has just completed his sixth season in a row in which he’s scored over 50 goals in all competitions. No player has achieved such a feat. While he may not be the dynamic player he once was, his ability to seize the pivotal moment remains.
Zidane’s managerial magic
Zinedine Zidane must wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to management. In just his 27th game as a manager he’s won the Champions League, the first French coach to do so.
He has been credited with giving Real’s flair players the freedom to express themselves on the field, after the more rigid regime of Rafa Benitez. Seventeen Real Madrid goals in his first four games illustrated the point. As did Real’s revival in La Liga, which took the title race down to the wire.
Zidane does the double
But, with Casemiro holding in midfield, Real under Zidane have also proven to be a team hard to score against. Real have kept five clean sheets in his seven Champions League games in charge. They finish the tournament with the best defensive record.
While Antoine Griezmann hit the bar from the penalty spot, Real only allowed four shots on target in 120 minutes in the final – despite their city rivals dominating possession from 45 minutes onwards. Inexperienced he may be, but Zidane deserves credit.
More silverware for brilliant Bale
Two Champions Leagues in three seasons is a stunning return for Gareth Bale since his 2013 switch to Real Madrid. And, just as in the 2014 triumph, he was a key figure for Los Blancos again on Saturday.
The Welshman was Real’s best player in the first half, driving with the ball down the right channel, flicking on Toni Kroos’ free-kick for Ramos to score and working back with determination.
Twice Bale was almost rewarded for his efforts in the second period. First, Stefan Savic produced a superb block on the line to keep out his goal-bound shot, before a header from a corner looped up off team-mate Pepe and out for a goal-kick.
Cramp hindered Bale for the majority of extra-time but he found the energy to coolly convert his spot-kick. Before meeting up for Wales’ Euro 2016 campaign, he can reflect on another extremely satisfying season.
It may have been a glancing touch off the tip of his studs, but Ramos didn’t care. His 15th-minute opener put him alongside Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o as one of only three players who scored in their first two Champions League finals.
Ramos’ 2014 effort, a powerful header which forced extra-time, came on 93 minutes. Ninety-three minutes into Saturday’s Milan final, the Spaniard made another decisive action, bringing down Carrasco with a cynical challenge to stop a dangerous Atletico counter.
While his centre-back partner Pepe was busy embarrassing himself with theatrics every time an Atletico player touched his cheek, Ramos set about leading Real’s backline. He made eight clearances – more than anyone on the field – and three interceptions.
There were inevitable run-ins with Juanfran, Diego Godin and Gabi but unlike on so many other occasions in the past, Ramos kept his cool and helped his team hold out during Atletico’s sustained assault in the final 75 minutes of the match – before dispatching his penalty with precision.
Fernando Torres has revived his career under Diego Simeone this season, scoring 10 times since the start of February. There is even talk of a new contract for the Atletico hero who is set to leave his boyhood club in the summer. However, his Champions League final performance must have been one of frustration for the striker.
He touched the ball just 27 times in 120 minutes. Gabi, by way of contrast, touched the ball on 142 occasions. Of course, frontmen often have to bide their time for their opportunities but, in truth, Atletico failed to involve Torres in their play for long periods of the game.
With 70 minutes on the clock both keepers had had more touches than the forward and Torres still hadn’t completed a pass to a team-mate.
While Real deserve credit for shackling the striker, his inability to affect the game may have a bearing in the minds of Atletico’s board members responsible for dishing out new multi-million pound deals…