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Real Madrid 4 Atlético Madrid 1, Champions League final 2014: match report
Read a full match report of the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid at the Stadium of Light, Lisbon, on Saturday, May 24, 2014
For Gareth Bale this was the most glorious end to an astonishing season for him in the white of Real Madrid following his world-record £86 million transfer.
A Champions League triumph, the fulfillment of his dreams and the man who delivered the elusive Decima – a 10th European Cup – to Real with a simple nod of his head. It ended in ugly scenes with Atlético coach Diego Simeone astonishingly storming onto the pitch.
For Atlético the undoubted gamble of starting with Diego Costa, after a week of intense and controversial treatment, involving the massaging of horse placenta, to ease his damaged hamstring did not work. The striker was withdrawn inside nine minutes and jogged straight down the tunnel having been unable to sprint and clearly in discomfort in the opening exchanges.
Real had tried to impose themselves with Luka Modric prominent as they moved the ball quickly forward only for the Atlético midfield to finally stabilise itself. They pressed and harried and the pattern of the game was set with Simeone’s side planning to strike on the counter-attack and certainly not intending to be cowed.
That early Real impetus blew itself out. They were knocked out of their stride – quite literally – with Atlético maintaining their aggressive, aggressively-borderline approach, particularly towards Cristiano Ronaldo.
They overstepped the mark when Fabio Coentrao was bundled over but Modric curled the free-kick straight into Thibaut Courtois.
The contest was descending but then, finally, it opened up for Bale who had until then been struggling to gain any involvement. A woeful pass by Tiago was intercepted by the Welshman and he ran at the heart of the Atlético goal. Defenders desperately attempted to cover but Bale feinted, the opportunity opened up – but then he sent his low shot narrowly wide. What an opportunity.
And what a price Real then paid. Raphaël Varane conceded a corner, under pressure from the excellent David Villa, and it was only half-cleared with the ball headed back into the penalty area by Juanfran.
Real were reeling – and disorganised. Another corner was needlessly conceded and this time Adrian met it only for his header to fly over.
Bale, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were marginal presences, isolated too far up the pitch and a sense of panic began to spread within Carlo Ancelotti’s side. There was an ominous precedent also for Real – Atlético had won all six Champions League ties this season in which they had been leading at half-time.
If Atlético could maintain their intensity, their pressing and their aggression it was going to take something special for Real to work their way back. They had special players but the haunted look on Ancelotti’s face in the dugout betrayed the enormity of the task especially as Atlético seized the initiative and seized their opponents with Miranda then cautioned for pulling back Di María as he again ran at goal. There is undoubtedly a cynical edge also to Simeone’s side.
Twenty-five yards out and it represented a chance for Ronaldo but Courtois punched his deflected free-kick over. Ancelotti had seen enough and rolled the dice with two changes. He needed something to happen. And quick.
Again Real pushed. This time Ronaldo teed up Bale but once more he was wayward – steering his shot wide. Again he held his head in his hands before Bale ran at goal once more only to prod his shot agonizingly wide once more.
Atlético were pinned. Surely Marcelo would score? But Juanfran’s boot beat his head to the ball and then Courtois was stranded from a low cross. It carried on with the ball pin-balling around the Atlético area as they defended ever deeper and ever more frantically.
As the final whistle blew as extra-time was headed for Casillas held his defender’s head as he talked into his ear. There was no need to hear what his head. His expression said it all.
Atlético appeared spent; appeared to be holding on for penalties and Simeone, anxiously prowling, knew it. His anger boiled over in extra-time, confronting the referee Bjorn Kuipers, furious at the added minutes but Atlético could not hold on.
One more run, this time from Di Maria, cutting in from the left and his shot was palmed by Courtois. But there was Bale to jump and squeeze the ball into the net to find the vindication,
the glory and win the trophy. Marcelo’s late strike simply sealed it before Ronaldo stroked home a penalty after being tripped by Godin.