Ever since Real Madrid won the first leg of this Champions League semi-final 3-0 it seemed as though the outcome of this tie was a forgone conclusion but for 41 minutes of this game it seemed anything but before Isco’s close range brought the score back to 2-1 to give Real a 4-2 aggregate victory and send them through to their second final in a row.
Atleti roared out of the blocks showing the kind of fury and controlled aggression that has brought them such success in the Simeone era, how they must wish that they had brought that kind of game to the Bernabéu last week. Real couldn’t deal with them. The away side had more of the ball, completing many more passes than their city rivals but that wasn’t what Atleti were about last night.
They were going for it from the off, free kicks were taken quickly, throw in were quickly gathered and fired long down the line giving Real’s defenders little time to settle and anytime their players received the ball there was an Atleti player there too, harassing and nipping at their heels, creating doubt any time they tried to dictate the pace of the game.
Atletico were rewarded for their efforts after just twelve minutes when Carrasco shot from distance was blocked and sent wide for a corner. the resulting dead ball was hit hard towards the near post where Saul Niguez met it with a fine header that rocketed in to the top corner, it seemed as though we might have a game here after all.
The home side continued to harry and soon they had doubled their lead. Torres, released into the area by a Carrasco though ball tumbled over the outstretched leg of Varane to win a penalty. Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann stepped up and though his spot kick was weak, it still managed to creep in despite Navas’ best efforts. 2-0, fifteen minutes gone, and the Vicente Calderon was rocking.
This was thrilling stuff it felt as though we were watching history happening, 3-0 down from the first leg and a Atletico were still going to do it? Against their hated rivals too? Tempers started to flare, tackles started to get nasty and as the game neared half time it looked as though we might be in store for a sensational second 45 until..
A moment of magic from Benzema. That’s the thing about this Madrid side, they’re not actually a great team but they do have some of the most brilliant individuals in the game in their squad. Benzema found himself isolated down by the left corner flag, surrounded by three Atleti players, things looked ok for the home side but then somehow, he utterly bamboozled the trio, leaving them all for dead as he tiptoed down the byline, he pulled the ball back to Kroos whose shot was well saved by Oblak but Isco was on hand to turn in the rebound. 2-1 Real and their travelling support went nuts and really, that was it. Atleti now needed 3 to go through.
Both sides had chances to score in the second half, Navas pulled off a remarkable double save in the 66th minute and Ronaldo had a goal incorrectly chalked off for offside in the 69th but at that stage it was a procession. Real were happy to see the game out while Atleti, who never gave up, became increasingly desperate.
The rain was pouring down as the game ended, Real’s players celebrated wildly, Simeone’s men had won the game but Ronaldo’s hat-trick a week earlier had done the damage and he and they march on in search of back-to-back Champions League titles.
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