Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored an injury-time equaliser against city rivals Atletico, as Sergio Ramos’ towering header cancelled out Diego Godin’s opener. With Atletico’s resistance finally broken, Real went on to win 4-1, Gareth Bale getting the vital second goal after a difficult match for the Welshman. Cue wild celebrations for Real and broken hearts for Atletico, who can at least console themselves with a remarkable Liga crown.
The victory completed Real’s famous ‘Decima’, their 10th European Cup title. But, after spending half a billion Euros on ‘galactico’ players since their last Champions League in 2002, this really should have happened sooner. Barcelona’s dominance under Pep Guardiola did not help, but the Madrid board’s lack of patience – and conviction that you can just spend your way to glory without considering coaching stability and team spirit – certainly hindered them. Despite this historic achievement, it has not been a particularly bright season for Real, who have been very inconsistent and quite negative at times. Their poor performance in La Liga has not gone unnoticed.
Atletico, meanwhile, will be wondering if they are cursed in this competition: in the 1974 final against Bayern Munich, they also conceded an equaliser in the final seconds. Bayern won the replay and it would be 40 years before Atleti got that far again. But their incredible season, which is not an isolated event, proves that money is not everything, and that major titles can be won with a few good players, an incredible team ethic and an inspirational coach.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Ancelotti – a serial European champion – was brought in for one thing and one thing only, to complete La Decima. But the cautious, counter-attacking style will not please Real’s notoriously fickle fans in the long-term. Carlo is expected to stay for at least next season, but his side will have to show more verve, particularly given the talent they have at their disposal. There is talk of adding another galactico – such as Luis Suarez – to the front-line, which would surely mean Karim Benzema is on his way out.
For Atletico, Diego Costa is likely to be sold, but given the amount of cash that will raise, they will replace him, as they did with Radamel Falcao and Fernando Torres in the past. It is essential that Atletico hang on to Diego Simeone, who is clearly a master of his craft. That is their main challenge moving forward.
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
Sid Lowe (Guardian Spanish football correspondent): “(Bale) sprinted to the corner flag and skidded to his knees. Madrid knew now that they were European Champions. Bale’s season had ended in an extraordinary triumph; the world’s most expensive player winning the world’s greatest club prize. For so long here, that had seemed impossible. For so long, Bale must have wondered if his lasting memory of this final would be a lament… In the dying minutes of a dramatic final, he was there again. He headed in the goal that made Real Madrid the European champions. That is what he had come to Spain to do.
Paul Hayward (Telegraph): “Bale's first season in Spain has been a roaring success with a crowning moment. He was worn his ridiculous price tag with equanimity and added tactical awareness and vision to his game. He has played the role of understudy to Ronaldo without allowing himself to be subservient. This final, though, was another kind of baptism. It introduced him to the psychological pressure of representing the game's most illustrious club as it pursued its obsession with a 10th European title. Bale's measure as a player – and the marker for the future – is that missing two chances failed to break his resolve to thrive in probably the most pressurised football environment of all. He wears that price tag like a feather.”
WHAT THE FANS SAY
- Sports & Recreation
- Gareth Bale
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Real Madrid