The new champions of Europe for the tenth time are Real Madrid! It was an excruciatingly boring game but it eventually came to an end as Cristiano Ronaldo slotted home a 120th minute penalty to put the final nail in the Atletico coffin and make it 4-1.
It is so often the case that finals aren’t great games and this year’s final was no exception to this rule. I wrote a preview of the match and talked about how if Atletico scored first it could kill the game and that is exactly what happened. I had Real from the start of the tournament but I thought that Atletico would have won this game because of their ability to stagnate, they were so close to doing it but in the end they couldn’t hold on.
If you’re an Atletico fan then you have to be disappointed, only two minutes away from winning your first European Cup and you concede a goal to Real from a set piece, it’s very disappointing. You could see it after 70 minutes Real who hadn’t been in the game as an attacking force all of a sudden were constantly threatening. I think Atletico will look back at two mistakes they made which have cost them the Champions League; firstly the draw against Malaga forcing them to play a highly competitive match a week before the final, when Real had a meaningless match where they could rest players, and secondly the choice to select Diego Costa in the starting line-up, what was Simeone thinking? A hamstring doesn’t heal in a week, I don’t give a shit how many placentas you eat or how many jaffa cakes you have, a hamstring injury doesn’t heal that quickly. Nine minutes into the game Atletico had to waste a sub which could have been the difference between them winning and losing the title, imagine if Atletico had an extra sub when their midfield began to get gassed, it would have had a huge effect giving much needed legs for those vital final moments. I can’t sit here and say that starting Costa cost Atletico the game but it certainly didn’t help.
Simeone was an embarrassment at the end of the game; he should have lost with dignity. His complaint seemed to be that there was 5 minutes of injury time but there would have been at very best 4 minutes and Real scored in the 93rd minute so I don’t really know what he can complain about.
Real Madrid on the other hand will be so chuffed with themselves, they were the team in the match who actually came out and played football, they were the team who had the spirit to stay in the game when it looked lost and they are the deserving champions. I thought Di Maria played out of his skin tonight and was easily the best attacking player on the pitch. Disappointed with Ronaldo who didn’t look fully fit to be fair, Benzema was a non-event and Khedira doesn’t look fit (no surprise considering he’s 6 months removed from an ACL tear). Didn’t think Bale had a good match either as he wasted about three really good chances, but to be fair he scored the decisive goal (did his best to miss it) and I’m sure Real would gladly pay £85 million again knowing that he would score that goal. Ramos’ goal was very well taken; Marcelo’s goal was a classic example of a team which has lost its legs and Ronaldo’s penalty put the icing on the cake with a stonewall penalty. 4-1 was harsh on Atletico but by the end of the game Real were rampant and Atletico couldn’t get the gloves up.
Ancelotti showed why he is such a sought after manager, his team was not performing and he made two big subs to bring Isco on for Khedira (giving Real a more attacking edge through the middle) and Marcelo on for Coentrao (giving Real a more attacking edge out wide), those two subs changed the tie in Real’s favour. Ancelotti is now the joint most successful manager in European Cup history (with Bob Paisley), although Ancelotti managed to do that with two different clubs which is more impressive in my mind.
I think when all is said and done almost everyone will agree that Real deserved to win the tournament, they played well throughout and then were the best team in the final. Atletico winning would have been the nicer story but there is a reason they are called fairy tales. I don’t see Real being the first team to retain the Champions League because in reality they are a one man team (Ronaldo), ironically he didn’t actually play well in the final, go figure. I think Atletico will struggle heavily next year in both the league and Europe as their squad inevitably gets ripped to bits and they replace them with cheap alternatives. Maybe I’m wrong about both of these things but I don’t see either of these teams recapturing this season’s glory.
So there you have it the last game of this year’s footballing season and it wasn’t what I’d call a classic but overall it was a good Champions League year. What did you think of the final? Was I overly harsh or was it a dreadfully dire game? Leave a comment and share your feelings.