Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus
Zidane leads Los Blancos to consecutive titles
First team to do so since 1990
No team collects European trophies as ruthlessly as Real Madrid.
On a wonderful evening in Cardiff, the Spaniards did it again – beating Juventus 4-1 in the Champions League final to collect their 12th European Cup and become the first team in 27 years to retain the trophy.
Indeed, Real are the first to win back-to-back titles since the competition morphed into the Champions League.
Captain Sergio Ramos had called the match a “date with history” and his team responded by creating new chapters in the annals of European football’s biggest club competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, taking his career tally to an extraordinary 105 Champions League goals, while he is also the first player to find the net in three Champions League finals. His first-half effort was his club’s 500th in the competition. Another record.
In his 18 months as Real manager, Zinedine Zidane has now won five titles, including the Champions League twice.
The Frenchman described his team’s season as “spectacular.”
“They made history, for sure,” he told reporters. “Nobody has done it, and now we have. Today is a historic day for all Madridistas, for the players, for me, for all our family.”
Although it was Real who opened the scoring through four-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, the first half belonged to Juventus and, specifically, Mario Mandzukic, whose stunning overhead strike leveled the match. It was a goal which will be remembered as one of the most spectacular in Champions League history.
But treble-chasing Juve’s hopes were killed off after the break as Real rose to the occasion to complete their first league and cup double in 59 years and a third European Cup in four years.
Casemiro’s deflected long-range strike put the La Liga champions ahead once again, while Ronaldo and substitute Marco Asensio made sure of the victory.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said his team played “beautifully” in the first half, but admitted his opponents “pressed the accelerator” in the second half.
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A match like no other
The match was being played amid heightened security following the Manchester terrorist attack which killed 22 people and injured many more just under a fortnight ago.
Two-thousand police officers, including 200 armed officers, patrolled the streets of Cardiff on matchday as South Wales Police carried out what they had described as the “biggest single sporting security operation in the UK.”
Major roads in the city center had been shut since midnight and would not open until 03:30 BST Sunday, while fans zones had been sectioned off with barriers, and water travel along the River Taff banned.
The stadium’s roof was also closed – to prevent the possibility of a drone strike – making it the first Champions League match to effectively be played indoors.
However, such visible security precautions did not dampen the mood.
The Welsh capital’s streets were a river of humanity throughout the day as up to 170,000 people – almost half the city’s population – helped create an astonishing atmosphere.
Street merchants selling memorabilia had sold out of scarves six hours before kick-off as traders enjoyed a bumper day like no other in a city which is accustomed to hosting grand sporting occasions.
Cardiff was the host city for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and matches were held at the national stadium during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
But as South Wales Police assistant chief commissioner Richard Lewis told CNN before the match, this was an occasion of a “different magnitude”.
Brilliant atmosphere, brilliant goals
It was a contest billed as attack versus defense. Real – who have scored in every game this season – had to crack the miserly Italian champions, whose defence had conceded just three goals in their 12 Champions League games to this final.
What evolved, however, was a brilliantly attractive, inventive game, adorned by a sublime first-half goal.
The Italians started the better, justifying Zidane’s warnings that his former side was the complete outfit.
Twice former Real striker Gonzalo Higuain tested goalkeeper Keylor Navas in the opening five minutes.
But despite Juventus’ dominance, it was Real who took the lead. With his first strike on goal, the ruthless Ronaldo found the bottom-left corner to score his 104th goal in the competition.
Juventus responded quickly through Mandzukic when, 18 yards from goal, the Croat found the top-right corner with a breathtaking kick, setting off roars which were loud enough to uproot trees.
But the second half belonged to Real. They controlled the match through the metronomic Luka Modric and struck twice in quick succession to ensure the Italians would suffer a fifth successive European Cup final defeat.
With 30 minutes remaining Casemiro’s long-range strike deflected off former Real player Sami Khedira to wrong-foot Gianluigi Buffon in the Juve goal and Ronaldo provided the knockout blow, guiding home Luka Modric’s cross from an acute angle.
The Portugal captain, who has now scored 11 more goals than great rival Lionel Messi in the competition, ended the match as the Champions League’s leading scorer for a fifth season. It was an evening in which he could also celebrate scoring his 600th goal of an incredible career.
“This is one of the best moments of my career, but it seems I am able to say that every year,” said Ronaldo, now a four-time European Cup champion.
“People won’t be able to criticise me because the numbers don’t lie.”
A comeback was made even more unlikely when substitute Juan Cuadrado was sent off for a second bookable offense just 18 minutes after entering the field.
Juventus were made to suffer again on football’s grandest stage. Having already won a record sixth consecutive Serie A title and the Italian Cup, they were bidding for the treble but, instead, lost for the seventh time in a European Cup final.
For 39-year-old Gianluigi Buffon, who will retire after the 2018 World Cup, it was likely his last chance to win European club football’s premier prize.
But the brilliant goalkeeper, who would have become the competition’s oldest winner had his team won, could do little about Real’s goals. It was not to be the “perfect finale” he had talked about in the build up to the match.
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“I cannot explain why we played like we did in the second half,” said the goalkeeper.
“Real Madrid deserved to win in the second half. They showed their class and the attitude needed to play in this kind of game.”