Ronaldo has the last laugh

As Juanfran, who had a wonderful night otherwise, hit his spot-kick against the post, the stage was set for the previously non-existent Ronaldo to claim his moment in the arclight. It was an iconic moment indeed and the star delivered when it mattered the most and an ecstatic Zinedine Zidane claimed his first prize as the Real Madrid manager.

Centre of attention... Ronaldo leads the way as Real Madrid players have a good time during a victory ceremony in Madrid.   -  REUTERS

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s talismanic forward, cut an isolated figure for most of the 120 minutes of the Champions League final at the San Siro in Milan. But this was only until his latest iconic moment arrived! It was proved once again that it is virtually impossible to keep the Portuguese prima donna away from the centre of attention.

 

The 31-year-old star struggled for much of the game and was not at his satisfactory self and failed to establish his customary control on the game. Clearly far from fully fit, Ronaldo looked out of sorts and was often guilty of breaking up Real’s play, failing to provide the right support to his team-mates. But when it comes to penalties there is nobody better than him, and indeed he proved that once again that vibrant Saturday night. This magical moment of composure and cockiness brought him a well deserved third Champions League title.

I thought Atletico Madrid were terribly unfortunate and deserved so much more following a spirited fightback after going down to a scrappy goal in the 15th minute from Sergio Ramos. But, to my surprise, Diego Simeone’s men took a step back after they scored the equaliser through the very impressive Carrasco in the 79th minute.

During the second half, Atletico displayed a high powered attacking game and it seemed Real were left to just defend, a complete reversal of how games usually stack up between the city rivals. Atletico, with their support base from the poorer sections of the Spanish capital, usually sit deep, waiting to hit on the counter whenever they play against their fancied neigbours, Real.

But, here, at the San Siro, the historical ground of the two Milanese giants, Atletico were by far the better side in the second half and should have won the game but that’s football and it can be a cruel game even after such gigantic efforts.

The night started with a huge concern over Ronaldo’s fitness and it was the Wales star, Gareth Bale, who took centre stage. The former Tottenham winger was eager to leave his mark once again on a Champions League final after handing Real the victory and it’s record 10th crown in Porto a couple of years back. Atletico was again the unfortunate side there, losing out after 120 minutes of heroics.

Former Liverpool star Fernando Torres, who is back at his boyhood club, failed to complete a single constructive pass for Atletico in the first half and remained in the periphery of the game. Atletico needed Torres to fire and lead from the front in a final, where the pressure often gets the better of individuals.

All in all, the match with so many twists and turns came to an inevitable climax with a dramatic and emotional penalty shootout. After 90 minutes of fractious football, penalties were indeed needed to separate these two battle-scarred teams. And it started with six brilliant penalties as Lucas Vasquez, Marcelo and a limping Bale scored for Real, while Antoine Griezmann, Gabi and Saul responded for Atletico before Ramos made it a crucial 4-3 for Real. As Juanfran, who had a wonderful night otherwise, hit his spot-kick against the post, the stage was set for the previously non-existent Ronaldo to claim his moment in the arclight.

It was an iconic moment indeed and the star delivered when it mattered the most and an ecstatic Zinedine Zidane claimed his first prize as the Real manager.