The Juventus players looked on with dejection and thoughts of what might have been as Sergio Ramos lifted his third Champions League trophy in four years. With Real Madrid’s two deflected goals turning the tide of the final, the Old Lady will feel a tinge of bad luck, but the truth of the matter is the Spanish giants were ruthless in a second-half performance that simply blew their opponents away.
A Tale of Two Halves Reveals Real Madrid’s Ruthlessness
Juventus started the game brightly and were by far the better team in the first half, passing the ball neatly in tight areas and forcing Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas into making several decent stops. Yet, even in a period where the Italian outfit had the better of the game, it was the Spanish giants who took the lead.
Cristiano Ronaldo ran at Juve’s defence before passing to right-back Dani Carvajal, who darted into the box and relayed the ball back to the Portuguese international to strike into the bottom corner of the net, taking a deflection off Leonardo Bonucci on its way.
From this point on, you would be forgiven for fearing the worst for Juventus. However, the goal didn’t faze them as they stuck to their gameplan and took the match to Madrid. And it paid off, with Mario Mandzukic equalising for the Bianconeri with what will surely go down as one of the greatest Champions League goals of all time.
It’s not often that high-intensity finals produce such moments of magic. A 50-yard pass from Bonucci found Alex Sandro, who kept the ball alive in the air before Gonzalo Higuain’s deft touch set up Mandzukic to make it 1-1. The Croatian chested the ball with his back to goal and unleashed a superb kick to beat Navas. It was a moment of beauty.
From there it felt like Juventus could go on to win their third European Cup. History hadn’t been on their side, with them losing six of their previous eight finals, but Allegri’s men had a certain verve to their play – the signs were looking promising. Although real attacking moments with intent were few and far between in the remaining minutes of the first half, the Italians were the better team as the clubs went into the break at 1-1.
The second half told an entirely different story, and whatever words were said at half-time by Real manager Zinedine Zidane, they certainly had the desired effect. And to Zidane we go – a manager who has won La Liga and the Champions League twice in just 18 months of management. It might be Ronaldo or any number of their high-profile stars who receive the plaudits for Madrid’s record-breaking win, but Zidane’s effect on the club cannot be underestimated.
Despite Los Blancos’ lavishness in the transfer market over the years, this is a team who have won only their second La Liga title in nine years, while making a profit in the transfer market this season. Zidane’s tactical flexibility, ability to get the team working as a unit, rather than relying on individual brilliance, and adding a killer edge to their play has been instrumental in Real’s recent rise.
And that ruthlessness was on show during a second half where Juventus were swept aside. To put Madrid’s display into context, Juventus had only conceded one goal in six knockout ties prior to this game. Madrid went on to put four past them in 90 minutes.
Although, Juve can feel unlucky by what was arguably the most important goal of the game. Midfielder Casemiro’s strike took a heavy deflection off Sami Khedira and managed to find its way into the tightest of spaces between the post and Gianluigi Buffon. After that, it seemed implausible that Juve would get back into the match.
Three minutes after taking the lead, Madrid made it 3-1 after Ronaldo slotted home from Luka Modric’s cross, a goal which all but sealed the trophy for Madrid and consigned Juventus to a night of despair.
Things went from bad to worse for Juve when substitute Juan Cuadrado was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 84th minute. Madrid substitute Marco Asensio then sealed the win for Madrid, making it 4-1 in stoppage-time.
Real Madrid have now won the trophy an unprecedented 12 times, and are the first team since its Champions League inception to win it twice in a row. For Juventus, it was the seventh defeat in nine Champions League finals, and while they can feel slightly aggrieved by the deflected goals Madrid scored to make it 1-0 and 2-1, there is no doubt they were swept aside by the better team in the second half.
Madrid’s ruthlessness has made them worthy champions of Europe and arguably the best team in the world. Ronaldo might grab the headlines, but Zidane is the one who deserves the credit for Madrid’s glories.