Real Madrid lost to cross-town neighbours Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the second leg of their UCL Semi-Final, but advanced to the Final on an aggregate score of 4-2. Isco’s goal was enough to cancel out the effect of Saul and Griezmann’s goals for the home side.
Atletico began the match with a bang, storming into a lead with only 11 minutes on the clock. Saul Niguez scored a bullet header from Koke’s corner. Navas got a hand to the ball but was unable to prevent it from going into the net. Atletico then scored another goal just 4 minutes later, when Varane tripped Torres in the box, resulting in a penalty to Atletico. Griezmann made no mistake as he slotted the ball home, amid forlorn memories of having skied his penalty in the UCL Final a mere 12 months ago. The two quick-fire goals gave Atletico a glimmer of hope of making a Barça-like comeback, but Real then bagged a crucial away goal to maintain a two-goal cushion on aggregate. Benzema skillfully dribbled past three Atleti defenders, made a perfect pass to Kroos whose brilliant shot was well saved by Oblak, but Isco reacted first to slot the rebound past the outstretched keeper.
The second half was also entertaining and saw both teams create many chances. However, neither of the two teams managed to score a goal in the eventful half. The best chance fell to Atletico, who were denied by a superb double save from Navas. Carrasco cut inside the box, beat Varane and unleashed a curling shot which was well saved by Navas, and Gameiro’s header from the rebound is parried away by Navas from point blank range. Then Real had a goal unfairly disallowed, as Modric’s shot was scrambled into the net by an apparently offside Ronaldo. He claimed that he didn’t touch the ball, but that didn’t matter as Savic appeared to have played him onside. Benzema then missed the target as his diving header from Marcelo’s cross was agonisingly wide. He looked to have beaten Oblak, but the ball missed the net by a few inches. Atletico then slowed down both in play as well as in intensity, as the result was inevitable. Real had dispatched their cross-town rivals yet again, in their last ever European match at the Vicente Calderon.
Here are the Talking Points from the Match-
Madrid out to Create History
Real Madrid have now reached the UCL Final for the second season running, but till date no team has successfully defended their title. So will they be able to do it and go down in history as the greatest team ever? Or will the high-flying Juventus slay their opponents this time around. Juve, unarguably, are on a roll and are somewhat the favourites for the final, particularly after their supreme showings this year. Only time will tell what happens next.
Isco-Bale Dilemma for Zidane
Isco has shown his quality whenever he’s been called upon, and he was exuberant again tonight. He’s not only leading Real’s second string team but also carrying the hopes of the full strength side. He scored the all important goal tonight, and with the way he’s played over the two legs, it would be simply impossible to not start him in the Final on June 3. However, Gareth Bale, another Real superstar, whose injury gave Isco the added run in the team, would most probably be fit for the showcase event. And since he’s an automatic starter, would Zidane risk his wrath by not starting him? Or would he be unfair to Isco and not reward him for his scintillating form? Or would he opt for a unique system to include both together? The dilemma Zidane’s facing is mammoth, and we hope that he’s able to choose whatever he hopes would be the best for his side.
Keylor Navas Saves Real Madrid
It’s surprising why Real Madrid are targeting De Gea when they have a superb goalkeeper of their own. Keylor Navas has looked unfazed by the uncertainty of his future and has given brilliant performances time and again. His save from Koke in the first five minutes was brilliant, but his double save from Carrasco and Gameiro in the 65th minute was simply breath-taking. His save from Gameiro in the first leg also helped his team keep themselves in the tie. He is undoubtedly an underrated keeper, and if Real decide to offload him next season, there won’t be a shortage of clubs interested in him.
Benzema justifies Zidane’s faith
Benzema has had an underwhelming season by his standards, while Morata has been in sensational form, averaging a goal every 90 minutes. So the criticism Zidane has been facing for fielding players based on reputation and not on merit has been somewhat fair. However, Benzema has a knack of showing up in the most crucial situations, and he managed to create a goal for his team, which was on the verge of a sensational collapse. The way he skillfully dribbled past three defenders and then completed a pinpoint pass was just exceptional. Who knows what could’ve happened had they not scored that goal?
Emotional Farewell to the Calderon
However difficult it seemed to be, Atletico began the match trying to overturn the deficit. And with the help of the huge home support, they had a dream start to the match, scoring two and needing just one more to force extra time. But then came Real as the villains, by scoring a goal and dumping their opponents out of the competition in the last ever European match at their fortress. Towards the end it started raining heavily in the stadium, with many Atleti fans later claiming that even the “Skies were crying for them”. And even though they won their last ever European match at the Calderon, they couldn’t manage to give a fitting result to their fans, who were absolutely brilliant all night. It was raining both around and inside the hearts of the Atleti supporters.