What We Learned: 5 things from the Champions League final

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during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.

Real Madrid lifted the Champions League trophy in the San Siro after dramatically beating Atletico Madrid on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes. Juanfran missed the decisive penalty which gave Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to win it and he blasted home the dramatic winner to see Zinedine Zidane lift the trophy for the first time as a manager and become only the seventh person to win the competition as a player and a manager.

 

For Real they win the big eared trophy twice in the last three years. Sergio Ramos opening the scoring inside 15 minutes as he scrambled home a Gareth Bale flick on from a Toni Kroos free kick before winger Yannick Carrasco equalised with a thumping finish from close range in the second half. French forward Antoine Griezmann saw his penalty smack off the bar in between the goals in what was another intense Madrid derby.

 

The city of Milan rocked with both sets of supporters singing loud and proud but it is the fans of Real that will sing long into the night while Atletico are left to fix broken hearts for the second time in just three years. It seems that fate does not want Atletico to win the biggest prize in club competition with them just seconds from victory in Portugal in 2014 and a post width away from going to sudden death this time around. Without further ado, here are the five things we learned from the Champions League final.

 

  1. Simeone set up wrong

In the opening 45 minutes Atletico looked overrun in midfield as Luka Modric and Toni Kroos controlled the middle of the pitch and gave their opponents nothing when they had the ball. While Madrid had the better chances in was Atleti who had more of the ball but found themselves playing square passes in midfield leaving Antoine Griezmann and in particular Fernando Torres isolated. Zinedine Zidane set up his side to frustrate the opposition in the first half and they did exactly that plugging up any holes Atletico wanted to exploit. Atletico had no creativity in midfield and Koke was often pushed wide to try and get involved. Nothing went to plan for Atletico in the first half and the entire team from the stands to the side line to the pitch looked flat.

 

  1. Penalty misses will haunt Atletico

When Yannick Carrasco scored Atletico’s equaliser there won’t have been a man in the world more relived than Griezmann. His penalty miss will now be magnified even more by the miss from Juanfran from the spot during the shoot-out. A post width stopped Atletico from putting pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty which he would have needed to score to keep his side in it had the Atletico full back been able to find the net.

 

Griezmann showed great nerve to step up in the shoot out and bury his penalty with great coolness only for him to look on in disgust as if to say “Why couldn’t I have done that earlier?”. When every other player finds the back of the net it makes the one miss even greater and one that no doubt Juanfran will never forget.

 

  1. Passions did not boil over

Two years ago the final was soured with passions boiling over prompting Simeone to gesticulate wildly on the pitch and several high intensity clashes on the pitch made the final probably the edgiest in history. Not so much this time around, sure the passion was there but it was tempered and referee Mark Clattenburg handled it expertly – something for England to be pleased about. Maybe clutching at straws with that one. It was evident that Atletico learned a lot from their loss two years ago and kept their cool even when things were going against them. It seemed we could be in store for more of the same after 47 seconds when Koke committed a foul and every jersey on the field flocked towards the fluorescent yellow stature of Clattenburg but by enlarge the final was kept in check when talking about a Madrid derby in the biggest club game of them all. After Giezmann’s penalty miss you would not have been surprised to see Atelti implode but they simply kept going. Madrid by contrast were as professional as could be – they upped their antics after Atletico equalised with Ramos committing a dangerous foul when Yannick Carrasco looked to be breaking through the Real defence.

 

  1. Zindane’s tactical flexibility

We’ve discussed how Simeone got it wrong in the first half now let’s flip the coin and half a look at how Zidane got it so right. With the Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu a lot of pressure was on Zidane to deliver a solid 90 minutes – which turned into 120 minutes – of management. He showed that he could mix it up with Madrid daring Atletico to come on to them in the first half. Atleti looked confused and did not know how to deal with having the lion share of possession and having such an attacking outfit defend so deep.

 

The game plan worked perfectly with Real Madrid making the most of set pieces and defending with 10 behind the ball every time Griezmann and company had the ball. Honestly this is not a typo – it was Real Madrid who did most of the running and defending. It was quite a shock to the system to watch such a disciplined 45 minutes. As the game wore on naturally it got more chaotic but Zidane showed he has more strings to his management bow on the biggest club stage of them all.

 

  1. Simeone learned his lesson

Two years ago the heart ruled the head and after eight minutes Diego Costa limped off with a hamstring injury forcing Simeone to use an early substitute. By the time Sergio Ramos scored that dramatic 93rd minute equaliser Atleti were out on their feet having gave their all. Simeone had no fresh legs to bring on and help his side close out the game.

 

Not the same story this time around. While his managerial counterpart had showed his hand by the end of regular time – which will have no doubt worried him when Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo required attention heading into the second half of extra time and soldiered on with Bale hardly able to run by the time penalties came round – the astute Argentine still had two substitutes to use heading into the final 15 minutes of extra time. In fact in this final Atletico seemed to get stronger as the game went on especially Carrasco who will haunt the nightmares of Brazilian full back Danlio for years to come.

 

It was a more mature display from Simeone and his team who looked composed throughout the 120 minutes. The last time these two sides met on such a stage it was more like organised chaos from the team in red and white but as the cliché goes you learn more about yourself in defeat than you do in victory.

 

Perhaps their lesson will be even more harsh this time around with the cruelty of the defeat. There was to be no redemption story for Simeone but in terms of the 120 minutes before penalties Atletico learned their lesson from the 2014.

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