By SAM BORDEN
LISBON — Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti was in the midst of
giving a calm, measured response to a question about his team’s tactics
when the door to the news conference room burst open. Suddenly, seven of
Ancelotti’s players were on the dais with him, jumping around, singing
and spraying Champagne.
Ancelotti laughed. In some ways it was fitting: A news conference
invasion was the perfect ending to a bizarre but magical evening that had
a miraculous goal, a memorable kiss and a rich finish from the sport’s
most expensive player as Real Madrid won the first intracity Champions
League final by beating Atlético Madrid, 41, after extra time.
“Real Madrid fans are extremely happy,” Ancelotti said, “and that’s
why we are happy, too.”
Even a placid Italian like Ancelotti would acknowledge that was
putting it lightly. At the final whistle, while his Real teammates skipped
around the field, Gareth Bale put his hands to his face as if in disbelief. He
was surely not alone — the twists and curves at the Estadio da Luz onSaturday came so fast as to be unbelievable, with Bale’s goal in the 110th
minute allowing Real to finally claim the club’s coveted 10th European
title — La Decima.
The swollen final score belied the drama. Atlético, the scrappy second
team of the Spanish capital with a payroll about a quarter the size of its
neighbor’s, was seconds away from winning its first Champions League
trophy only to have it ripped away when Sergio Ramos’s desperate header
found the corner of the net in the 93rd minute.
Moments later, at the end of regulation, Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas
— whose mistake had helped Atlético take its lead — wrapped his arms
around Ramos and kissed his sweaty cheek.
During a television interview after the match, Ramos said that
Casillas told him, “You are the chief,” including an expletive for emphasis.
“I would have liked Ramos’s goal a bit earlier,” Real’s president,
Florentino Pérez, said, “so as to avoid a heart attack.”
Atlético Manager Diego Simeone tried to rally his players after the
letdown, screaming at them in the huddle before extra time. But without
their top attacker, Diego Costa, who was replaced after just nine minutes
because of an injured hamstring, there was no way back for the redand
whitestriped Rojiblancos, who were seeking an unlikely double after
winning the Spanish league.
Real dominated the extra periods, and appropriately enough it was
Bale — who went to Real for a record $124 million transfer fee last
summer — leaping to head home a rebound that sealed the victory for
soccer’s richest club and sent the fans behind the goal into hysterics.
“The equalizer was just tragic,” said Gabi, Atlético’s captain. “We
tried to keep fighting and battling, but they took advantage in extra time.”
Real’s victory capped a fevered few weeks in Madrid, where the match
was a citywide obsession. Marca, one of two sports newspapers based in
Madrid, proclaimed the game to be an “eternal” battle.
Inside, the paper had reams of coverage previewing the match from
every angle, including articles about the teams’ flights to Lisbon. It wasonly after more than 50 pages on soccer that a story about the Spanish
tennis star Rafael Nadal, who is competing at the French Open, finally
Fans of Atlético and Real bantered with one another in the days
leading to the match before descending upon Lisbon, turning the city into
a mixture of stripes and solids by Friday night. It was estimated that some
15,000 cars and 600 buses — carrying as many as 90,000 people — made
the 385mile trip between the Iberian capitals.
The Atlético fans seemed determined to enjoy themselves. This was
only the club’s second appearance in a European Cup final, and the last
one, in 1974, was largely forgettable as the team was blasted by Bayern
Munich, 40, in a replay after blowing a onegoal lead with six minutes to
play in the first game. The shock of losing the title in such a wrenching
way led Atlético fans to give themselves the downcast nickname of Pupas,
or jinxed ones. After Saturday’s finish, that name figures to stick for a
Real, on the other hand, has had a fascination — some would call it a
damaging obsession — with the Champions League since the club won
three titles from 1998 to 2002. Over the next 12 years, it spent well over $1
billion on players even as it failed to reach another European final until
This season, however, Ancelotti — who won two previous Champions
League titles with A.C. Milan and became just the second manager to win
three titles — mixed and matched his lineups enough to overcome
inconsistency in the league and push Real back to the final.
Much of that success was led by Cristiano Ronaldo (he scored a record
17 goals in the tournament this year), but on Saturday, Atlético’s stout
defending mostly kept him from asserting himself. Without Xabi Alonso,
Real’s indispensable midfielder, who was suspended, Los Blancos lacked
flow through the early part of the game.
Bale, too, struggled early on and wasted several chances, including
one in the 32nd minute when he badly skewed a shot wide after making animpressive run from midfield. That miss looked worse when Atlético
responded by taking the lead after Casillas was caught in no man’s land
following an Atlético corner kick, allowing Godin’s header to loop over him
and bounce so, so, slowly over the goal line.
“Sometimes you make mistakes; sometimes you do well,” Casillas
said. “I cannot complain, as despite my mistake, we did it in the end.”
They did, pushing themselves in the second half (Angel Di Maria was
at the heart of many attacks) and moving Atlético deeper and deeper.
Simeone took the blame for wasting one of his three substitutes early, and
Atlético’s fatigue showed by the end of the game. Ramos’s goal was
crushing; Bale’s, which came 10 minutes before penalty kicks would have
begun, was debilitating.
Marcelo added a third and Ronaldo capped the game with an easy
finish from the penalty spot, though by then Simeone had been sent to the
tunnel by the referee for storming onto the field. Most of his players did
not have the energy to do much more than stare.
“This is bigger than being world champions,” Casillas said afterward.
“We have been waiting so long.”
© 2014 The New York Times Company
By SAM BORDEN