Cristiano Ronaldo it was. Cristiano Ronaldo it had to be. The twinkle-toed Portugal captain swept Real into the lead and then buittressed their lead after Casemiro had made it 2-1 and Asensio completed the formalities.
Touted as the team with the best defense, events did not know what hit them.
They could keep the Barcelona trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez at bay in the quarters. But Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and the rest proved to be from a different planet.
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Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his defenders Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli barely moved as Real pummeled them with four splendid goals. Of course Casemiro pile-driver deflected off Sami Khedira’s heel. But then a goal was in the offing any moment all through the game.
Real’s ploy was simple – stretch play on either flanks, switch them at will and draw out the defense wide before poking the centre. It worked admirably as Juve refused to play deep and allowed Real the space to move the ball square, back and then forward with amazing precision and speed.
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They Juve midfield too contributed to their downfall by functioning more in the middle rather than spreading wide to deny Real the space they so easily managed to create.
Tony Kroos, Luka Madrid and Isco did just that as the Juve attack hers were starved off passes. Saddled with more defensive duties, the Juve midfield failed to create chances with the result that Dybala or Mandzukic, who scored their only goal with a splendid back flip, had to drop back often. This eased the pressure on the Real defense allowing them to also join the attacking more often.
All this ensured that Real Madrid dominated the game and made repeated forays into the box. But for some hurried finishing, the scoreline might well have been mistaken for a French Open set result.
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In any case, Cristiano Ronaldo’s class and quality was apparent all through. When he scores early on in any game, Ronaldo is a different player. When he does not, frustration gets the better of him and he tends to make mistakes. But this was his final as he delighted the Cardiff Stadium with some dazzling runs and effective passing. He eschewed his fancy footwork to make sure that he isn’t injured. It was the right approach to adopt and he made ‘real’ history for himself and his famed club.
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For once, there were no refereeing howlers and German Referee Felix Brych did an excellent job all along though the second booking and consequent sending off of Juventus substitute Juan Cuadrado was uncalled for. Sergio Ramos had feigned injury and fooled the official into that decision. But by then Real were safe and secure.
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Line-ups: Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Rafael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Toni Kroos (Asencio), Luka Modric; Isco (Alvaro Morata), Karim Benzema (Gareth Bale), Cristiano Ronaldo.
Substitues: Kiko Casilla, Nacho, Gareth Bale, Mateo Kovacic, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata, Danilo.
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Alex Sandro, Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira, Dani Alves; Paulo Dybala (Claudio Marchisio), Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain (Juan Cuadarado)
Substitutes: Neto, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mehdi Benatia, Kwadwo Asamoah, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Lemina, Juan Cuadrado.
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany).
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RECORDS IN BRIEF
Real Madrid recorded their 12th triumph in the European Cup/Champions league and third in four seasons.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane became the second coach in history to win back-to-back Champions League titles after Italian Arrigo Sacchi did so with AC Milan in 1989, 1990.
Cristiano Ronaldo has a mind-boggling tally of 105 goals in 140 Champions League games. He scored 12 in just 13 games in 2017.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in three different Champions League finals (2017, 2014 and 2008), more than any other player.
Ronaldo scored his 600th goal in all competitions for club and country
Real Madrid became the first team in Champions League history to score 500 plus goals. Their total is now 503.
Juventus have now lost five Champions League finals since they last won it in 1996.
Watch Champions League 2017 Final Highlights here,
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