De Ja Vu in Jeddah. Zidane taking charge, getting to a final against Atlético, away from Spain, an Atlético penalty hitting the post, Sergio Ramos calmly putting it past Oblak. Where have we seen it before you ask? Well, we’ve seen it all in 2015-16 and in 2019-20 during a Champions League final and a Supercopa final. The outcome was the same for Real Madrid as they emerged victorious this time as well after the game ended goalless after 120 minutes. It was a tensed and gritty final but Real Madrid held their nerve until the very last moment. Let’s see how things unfolded.
Zidane and Simeone pretty much started with the predicted line-ups but Real Madrid did not anticipate that Atlético will do so well to read their game. Zidane’s advantage with five midfielders vaporized today and we only saw very little glimpses of the domination that took place against Valencia. Atlético gave no chance to pass it between the lines and Real Madrid were suffocated in the flanks.
Luka Jović was once again underwhelming as he hardly got touches in key attacking transitions. But Modric, Valverde and Carvajal were trying their best to created chances from the right flank. Atlético enjoyed possession for extended times for quite a few phases of the game. But neither team were significantly aggressive in the first half. Atlético’s primary attacking outlet was Alvaro Morata, who was having a personal battle with his former captain – Sergio Ramos. Madrid had two great chances from a couple of corners but both Isco and Casemiro were not precise enough with their headers. Felipe was the only booked player in the first half. The referee blew the whistle for half time after two teams played out a cautious 45 minutes of football.
In the second half, Real Madrid started as the better side. They were enjoying more of the possession and Jović was looking more involved in the game. The Serbian got two chances to score in the second half. He ran through almost the entire Atlético half only to confuse himself about when to strike the ball. But in his defense, he was hounded by two Atlético markers. In another sequence, Modric fed Jović with a great pass near the area. Jović did well to dribble past two players but his shot was inches wide of the goal.
Real Madrid got another golden opportunity when Fede Valverde got an open header in front of the goal. But the youngster’s header hit his own legs. Real Madrid made two changes in the form of Rodrygo for Isco, Mariano for Jović. in the second half. Modric and Mendy picked up yellow cards in the dying moments of normal time. Thibaut Courtois made a brave save right at the end of the 90 minutes from a Partey free-kick.
The game went into extra time and Thibaut Courtois did not stop being the wall in extra-time as well. He wan invincible on this near post. Alvaro Morata made two attempts, one of them was saved by Courtois’s foot and the other with a last-second dive to his right. But the real drama was just beginning. On minute 115, Marcos Llorente fed a great ball for Morata and the former Real Madrid forward rush to the box with the ball. Carvajal and Valverde were chasing him and the Uruguayan decided to sacrifice himself. He made a sliding tackle to stop Morata and saw a straight red card. Savic and Carvajal were booked in the aftermath of the event. Finally, Atlético couldn’t score from the free-kick and penalties remained as the only way to decide the game.
Real Madrid took the first shot, Dani Carvajal calmly put it past Oblak who dived the wrong way. Madrid got a lead right away as Saul’s shot hit the post, just the shot of Juanfran in Milan. Next up, it was 19-years old Rodrygo and he blew the roof the net with a fantastic spot-kick under pressure. The heroics of Thibaut Courtois were not done for the night as he guessed the right way and kept Thomas at bay. Madrid got a 2-0 lead and soon, Modric made it 3-0 in the shootout. Trippier was Atlético’s fourth penalty taker and he had to score to keep them in the game. The Englishman did his job properly and now it was upon Sergio Ramos to decide the fate of the game. The Real Madrid captain walked in, took a deep breath, made his customary stop before the shot and then scored like he usually does.
Zinedine Zidane never spent more than seven months without winning a trophy in his entire managerial career. The work he has done with a team that was very much down and out, seven months ago, is remarkable. We would also have to appreciate Fede Valverde and Thibaut Courtois. The young midfielder has been an absolute revolution under Zidane and he did what he had to do for the team He was even comforted by Diego Simeone. Thibaut Courtois’ doubters are his fans today. From being the weakest link to being the last line of defense- what a turn around from the golden glove winner of the 2018 World Cup.
Line-ups and Key events
Real Madrid XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Valverde, Isco; Jović.
Substitutions: Rodrygo for Isco (’60), Mariano for Jović (’83), Vinicius for Kroos (‘103).
Bookings: Mendy (’92), Modric (’93), Valverde (‘111,’115-red card), Carvajal (‘115).
Atletico XI: Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Giménez, Lodi; Thomas, Herrera, Correa, Saúl; Félix, Morata.
Substitutions: Vitolo for Herrera (’56), Llorente for Lodi (’89), Savic for Jimenez (’98), Arias for Felix (‘101).
Bookings: Filipe (’27), Thomas (’74), Adan (‘111), Correa and Savic (‘115).
Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez.
Man of the Match
Fede Valverde, Real Madrid.