Real Madrid's legend grows after trademark win


Borussia Dortmund will be wondering how it happened but they need only ask Bayern Munich. Manchester City might provide a sympathetic ear too. The beaten finalists are just the latest to find themselves sucker-punched by this Real Madrid team.

Bayern made it to the 88th minute of the second leg of their Champions League semi-final in the Bernabeu still believing they were bound for Wembley. City had 33 shots in the second leg of their quarter-final but still succumbed on penalties.

For Dortmund, the moment came and went during the opening 45 minutes of this Champions League final. Edin Terzic’s team had seven of the eight shots from inside the box. “We could not manage to score,” said Terzic afterwards. “That is the key.”

Two opportunities, in particular, will haunt them. Karim Adeyemi tried to go around Thibaut Courtois but that only made the chance more difficult. Niclas Fullkrug did beat the goalkeeper but not his far post. They were three minutes in which history passed them by.

It is a strange feeling when every Dortmund near-miss only increases the conviction that Real Madrid will win. Such is the hold that they have over the mind, such is the grip that they now have on this trophy. Champions of Europe for a fifteenth time.

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Sky Sports’ Gail Davis and Kaveh Solhekol discuss Real Madrid’s stunning performance as they become European champions for the 15th time.

No other club has lifted the trophy even half as many times. Only AC Milan, in their entire history, have won it more times than they have in the last decade alone. Dortmund will rue their finishing. But it was Madrid who made certain that they would.

They had appeared passive for long periods, Dortmund’s early enterprise carving openings in the Madrid defence. It would have unnerved other teams. But even conceding is unlikely to have sapped their belief. That Dortmund could not proved decisive.

They say finals are to be won not played and there are enough hardened winners in this Madrid team to maintain that focus on the prize even as pressure mounts. That Dani Carvajal walked away with the player of the match award felt particularly appropriate.

Paco Gento’s six European Cup wins were the stuff of legend, a mythical total seemingly beyond reach when a quarter of a century passed without a team retaining this trophy. There are now four players in this Real Madrid squad to have won it six times.

Two combined for the opening goal. Toni Kroos, in the final club game of his career, crossed for Carvajal to head in. The 32-year-old full-back last scored in this competition nine years ago. But this group of players have a habit of picking their moments.

Toni Kroos celebrates after Real Madrid's Champions League final win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley
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Toni Kroos celebrates after Real Madrid’s Champions League final win

Consider Courtois. This was his first Champions League appearance of the season, thrust back into the spotlight after four appearances – and four clean sheets – since recovering from a serious knee injury. He was impeccable and unbeatable again.

Jude Bellingham toiled for much of the match, the muscle stretches indicating that he was less than fully fit. But he went on to provide the assist for the second goal, sinking to the ground in tears of joy. He would go on to call this the best night of his young life.

Jude Bellingham
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Jude Bellingham described Real Madrid’s Wembley win as the best night of his life

At 20, he may already rank as the greatest English footballing export, a player of the year in both Germany and Spain, and now a Champions League winner after the debut season of all debut seasons. It helps, of course, that Vinicius Junior is there for company.

The Brazilian scored the only goal of the 2022 final against Liverpool. Here, his second ended any hope of a Dortmund comeback. Like Bellingham, he was not at his best but he was ruthless. “The momentum turned around and you see why they are champions,” said Terzic.

Both were substituted before the end, accepting the adulation of the crowd. The pair are among the first rank of heroes now in a European football landscape shorn of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Ballon d’Or surely beckons for Vinicius.

Luka Modric had already won one. Here, at 38, he became the oldest man to appear in a Champions League final since Paolo Maldini won the competition with Milan in 2007. The manager of Milan that day 17 years ago? Carlo Ancelotti, of course.

What is there left to say about a coach whose understated style continues to be at odds with his oversized accomplishments? Now a seven-time winner of this trophy, twice as a player and a standalone record five times as a manager, he keeps finding a way.

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Watch Real Madrid fans celebrate their Champions League victory at the Bernabeu

A team of winners led by the ultimate winner? An intervention was required this time. A subtle tactical tweak at the interval was all it needed to help shift the momentum of the match his way. “At the end of the first half, we were quite calm,” said Ancelotti.

“I did not need to get angry. I needed to clarify a few things. It was clear how Dortmund wanted to play. We lost our balance and had to manage their transitions better. We thought changing the system would be better for us, with more players in midfield.”

A set-piece goal here and a stray Dortmund pass there was all it took to bend another final his way. The result is that Sir Alex Ferguson remains the last manager to defeat Real Madrid in a European final – with Aberdeen over 40 years ago now.

Terzic came up just short, his Dortmund team came up just short. Their supporters had unveiled a banner before kick-off. It read: “We’re back in town to steal the crown.” But the kings of Europe endure, Real Madrid’s place on the throne never more clear.



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