The holders Real Madrid will face Juventus in the final of the Champions League after overcoming their noisy neighbours on aggregate despite losing 2-1 in the second leg.
On 7 February 2015, Real Madrid took a bus ride to the Vincente Calderon and was hammered by four goals to nil. And it’s for that reason that the ardent Atletico Madrid fans believed their side could overturn a three-goal deficit and make it to their third final in four seasons.
Real Madrid, cushioned by a first leg Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, had not conceded two goals in the first 20-minutes of a Champions League clash in over a decade, but that’s exactly what happened in this pulsating encounter.
The usually defensive-minded Atletico went right for the jugular, brachial, and titty twister, ransacking the Real goal peppering shots as if they were coming out of one of those tennis cannon things.
Then in the 12th minute, Koke sent the ball into the box, and Saul Niguez thumped the ball home with his bonnet. It was just the start Diego Simeone’s side needed, and it got better four minutes later when Raphael Varane sent Fernando Torres to the deck inside the penalty area, and the ref pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Antoine Griezmann.
You could feel the nervousness of the crowd, and with good measure. Not only did the Frenchman miss a penalty in the final against Real last year, but he has already missed two in La Liga this season.
Up he stepped.
His back foot gave way beneath him, and miraculously the ball floated over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net. It was a terrible penalty. Nobody cared. Least of all the Atletico fans. They had cut the deficit down to one goal. That 4-0 drubbing of 2015 seemed like five minutes ago.
But here’s the thing with Real.
In the previous 60 matches in all competitions, Real had scored at least one goal, and if they scored in this one, then Atletico would need to score three. And with over 60% possession they were always going to score. The killer goal came in the 42nd minutes when Isco finished the job after the Atletico keeper spilt a wicked shot from Toni Kroos.
The Atletico players huffed and puffed in the second half, but they couldn’t blow the Real defence down. The same is not true of the Vicente Calderon. Atletico has played their final game in the grand old stadium first erected in 1966.
So Real Madrid will face Juventus in the Principality Stadium, Cardiff 3 June. It will be a record 15th European Cup/Champions League appearance for Real, and if they can win it, they will become the first side of the modern era to win back-to-back Champions League Finals, just as they were the first side to win back-to-back finals when the European Cup was first polished in 1955-56.
Atletico Madrid 2 v 1 Real Madrid (2 v 4 Agg)
Juventus 2 v 1 Monaco (4-1 Agg)
Champions League Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Real Madrid – 125