Real Madrid won their record 12th Champions League title on Saturday night when they beat Juventus 4-1 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. The goals came courtesy a brace by Cristiano Ronaldo and were followed up by Casemiro and Asensio even as Mario Mandzukic had levelled matters in sublime fashion (watch highlights here) in the first half. Here are the assessments and conclusions from the Champions League final and the last game of the season.
Ronaldo is set for another Ballon d’Or
As Real Madrid lifted the trophy, president Florentino Perez spoke to the media and said, “Cristiano should win his fifth Ballon D’Or now, nobody can argue with that, his end of season has been spectacular.” And you can’t really disagree with him. He scored 25 goals in the league and 12 goals in the Champions League and finished with over 40 goals (42 to be precise) for a seventh straight season. In the Champions League, he once again finished as leading goal scorer and finished things off with a double in the Final. He’s won four Ballon d’Or Awards (including two in the newly christened FIFA Ballon d’Or format) and there is little reasoning or competition in someone getting the fifth. Over the course of the past 12 months or so, Ronaldo has led Portugal to European Championships, won La Liga and Champions League with Real Madrid (double by club after 59 years) – and then there are some at the Bernabeu who have the nerve to whistle him!
Cristiano Ronaldo’s greatest achievement is that he makes you doubt whether Lionel Messi is the greatest player of the modern era.
— Sam Pilger (@sampilger) 3 June 2017
How very good is Zinedine Zidane?
Zinedine Zidane was appointed Real Madrid manager not with fanfare but under clout of poor performances after Rafa Benitez was sacked. But in just 18 months, Zizou has won two Champions League titles, ended the club’s hunt for league title last month, won a UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. On Saturday, he created history by becoming first manager to take a club to two consecutive Champions League crowns. Plenty of credit for it goes to the Frenchman. Firstly by managing Ronaldo very well in the latter half of the season. The Portuguese didn’t play each and every game which meant he remained fresh for games that mattered – final week in the league and Champions League knockout fixtures.
On the night itself, the second half tactical change saw Luka Modric move to the right, Toni Kroos stayed central and Isco shifted to the left. This decision undid all the planning Juventus had done and how well they had contained Real Madrid in the first half.
Where did Juventus disappear in the second half?
Juventus were the better side for the most part in the first half. They started brightly and despite Ronaldo’s opener, didn’t hold back. They were duly rewarded by an acrobatic Mario Mandzukic effort. From then on, The Old Lady built attack after attack, even if it came to nothing, but that attacking intent had Real Madrid pegged back.
The whole thing turned on its head in the second half. Juventus opted to defend, sit back and hopefully soak in all the pressure – which they did for 15 minutes. Massimiliano Allegri and Gianluigi Buffon both couldn’t find words to describe the way they played in the second 45 minutes. “In the first half, we played beautifully. In the second half, we were too static. We managed to defend for 15 minutes. As you know, football can be a nightmare. [Miralem] Pjanic’s shot was deflected wide, Casemiro’s shot was deflected into the goal,” said Allegri. Meanwhile Buffon was unaware of why the side played more passively in the second half. “I cannot explain why we played like we did in the second half. Real Madrid deserved to win in the second half. They showed their class and the attitude needed to play in this kind of game,” he stated.
Juventus defence finally found out
Juventus had conceded just three goals the entire Champions League group stages and knockouts but in the Final, they conceded four in 90 minutes. The defensive wall had finally crumbled and the ‘BBC’ had no response. The first goal itself highlighted that as Ronaldo found room to get a comfortable shoot into the far post. The third goal broke the camel’s back with Juventus defence leaving Ronaldo totally unmarked at the near post and the Portuguese captain making no mistake to beat Buffon. Even Casemiro’s goal, albeit off a huge deflection, was a result of a turnover by Dani Alves and an easily interception for Modric to latch on and resume Real’s attack.
Sergio Ramos theatrics uncalled for – FIFA/UEFA need to fix
18 minutes after coming on as a substitute, Juan Cuadrado was walking back to the team dugout. And it wasn’t because he was injured or subbed off, but because he was red carded. And the red card was a result of some disappointing playacting from the Real Madrid captain Ramos. The slightest brush of the hands and a possible touch of the foot and Ramos was down on the ground holding the bottom of his foot and writhing in ‘pain’. The complete theatrics of it all was good enough to impress referee Felix Brych who gave the Colombian a second yellow card. To make it even more ridiculous is the fact that Real were already 3-1 up and Juventus posed little to no danger to their goal. This is where FIFA and/or UEFA need to act and clamp down on the whole culture of playacting.