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La Décima – Madrid always bounce back

AS AS 25/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

Real Madrid always bounce back, we have seen it so many times. Yet they struggled more than usual against Simeone’s Atlético. Just like 40 years ago, they had the trophy within their grasp, and once again it was a rival centre-back who delivered the sucker punch – in extra-time. Last night it was Sergio Ramos, his last-gasp header rendering the Rojiblancos just as stupefied as [Hans-Georg] Schwarzenbeck’s late strike did four decades ago in Glasgow. Perhaps Atlético don’t deserve to go through so much pain but there’s no question that Real Madrid deserved that goal. They had spent much of the minutes leading up to it playing well, with energy and quality. You could sense a goal coming, it just took longer than expected to arrive.

The fact is though that Madrid played a poor first half and neither did they improve much at the start of the second period. It was the second-half substitutions, when Ancelotti put all of his talent out on the pitch, that changed the dynamic of the game – a move which not only surprised Atlético, it wounded them. Marcelo and Isco were introduced just as Simeone’s side, shorn of Diego Costa (the placenta medication wore off after just nine minutes) and Arda Turan, had started to tire. They snatched an opener thanks to a Casillas gaffe – a lapse in concentration which was likely the result of a lack of playing time, then attempted to ride out the remainder of the game as calmly as they could. You have to hand it to them, because they very nearly pulled it off. They foundered right at the very last hurdle, completely exhausted.

So it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when the game was taken into extra-time. Madrid had the edge in every department: more energy, more ideas and less cramp. Atleti’s curse took a little longer to take hold, as did Madrid’s patrimony in this competition. The nine-time winners scored another three in extra-time and Paco Gento had the pleasure of seeing them fashioned on his old part of the pitch – the left wing: a mazy run from Di María which produced Bale’s goal, Marcelo’s confident burst into the box for the second and Cristiano’s manoeuvre on the same flank which yielded a penalty that he himself converted. Three goals with a nod to Gento; during an unforgettable 30 minutes of extra-time and after an historic game. Yes, Madrid also bounce back – and now they have 10 European Cups adorning the trophy room.

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