One team confronts Real Madrid and their gelled maestro, stays in the battle for 45 minutes – and then falls at the galaticos sword.
We have seen it time and time again.
A purple patch for the men in purple, as has been the case so very often. The night Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 600th goal characterised by two moments of genius from the four-times Ballon d’Or winner. A cherry on top – leapfrogging Lionel Messi to announce himself as the competition’s leading scorer for the fifth season running.
But what really mattered on the night was being part of a Real Madrid side which has now lifted European football’s most coveted silverware three times in four seasons.
For Juventus however, bitter sorrow. Their seventh defeat in nine UEFA Champions League finals.
And rarely have we seen a team capitulate so dramatically as the Italians on a European night. Liverpool 2005 perhaps comes to mind, where AC Milan played the losing role.
1-1 at the break, and a team raring to go – looking like a side ready to break their duck. Buffon and co. had dominated the first half, making their defensive style look easy against a team known for its attacking prowess. In fact, Juventus appeared far more comfortable in their boots, interesting considering the fact that Real Madrid had been here so many times before.
What a difference 15 minutes can make.
Casemiro. Ronaldo. Asensio.
The goals flowed like champagne on ice, Juve conceding more in one game than they had in the entire competition.
A full on collapse.
Yet arguably the greatest moment came from Juventus. Still in it at this point, and dominating the first half – cue Mario Mandzukic. Indeed, has there ever been a better goal in a European final? His sensational 27th-minute effort might even edge Zinedine Zidane and the infamous 2002 volley, given that it involved the ball going between four different players without touching the floor. Alex Sandro’s cross to pick out Gonzalo Higuaín was a beauty, before Higuaín controlled the ball on his chest and flicked it towards Mandzukic. Finally, it was the big man’s turn – teeing himself up and agonisingly twisting his body to launch himself at the ball. Stunning.
But it was of course all in vain.
The less glamorous goals were what did it for Real Madrid, enough to kill off any hope of an Italian comeback.
A red card to Juan Cuadrado followed, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos writhing on the ground like a puppy who hadn’t seen his owner in years. Only difference being: Ramos remained, and the supposed owner was off for an early shower.
Funnily enough, questions are still being asked regarding the win – would Real Madrid have been so dominant without Cristiano Ronaldo? Was he really the difference?
The answer is one resounding no, and a big fat yes.
Originally published by Spalk as ‘Ronaldo = simply the best.’