Thursday 23 January 2020

5 things we learned from the incredible Champions League final

Real Madrid retained their title in an epic 4-1 victory.

By Zaina Alibhai

Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 to become European champions at the National Stadium of Wales.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice for Real with Casemiro and Marco Asensio also on target, while Mario Mandzukic replied with a fantastic effort.

Here, Press Association Sport examines some of the talking points from a thrilling night in Cardiff.

1. Real Madrid rewrite history again


The competitive nature of the Champions League had ensured that no side had retained the trophy since the competition was restructured a quarter of a century ago. But Real made it three wins in four seasons to become the first back-to-back European champions since Milan won the trophy in 1990.

Real’s win was a record 12th in the competition and also secured them a first LaLiga and European Cup double since 1957-58. Juventus’ own piece of history was less welcome, the Old Lady having now lost a record seven European Cup finals.

2. Ronaldo is still the main man


Write Cristiano Ronaldo off at your peril. The Portuguese goal machine might be 32 now, but he still knows the spaces to attack and how to finish. Some 13 years after he scored in the FA Cup final in Cardiff to win his first major trophy at Manchester United, he once again showed he is the man for the big stage.

Here he became the first man to score in three Champions League finals in the modern era and his second at the near post made it 600 goals for club and country. Gareth Bale, a late substitute here in his home city after injury, continues to live in Ronaldo’s shadow.

3. Super Mario puts his name in lights


Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic’s 27th-minute equaliser was one of the greatest goals in Champions League final history. Gonzalo Higuain sent Alex Sandro’s cross towards him but there seemed no danger until the Croatian produced a moment of jaw-dropping brilliance.

Receiving the ball 15 yards out on the left of the area, Mandzukic chested it up before hooking an acrobatic effort past two defenders and over the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Keylor Navas. An incredible goal which will be replayed time and time again.

4. Buffon the eternal bridesmaid


There is little room for sentiment in football and that was underlined again as Gianluigi Buffon became a three-time Champions League final loser. At the age of 39 years and 126 days, the Italy international would have replaced compatriot Paolo Maldini as the oldest player to win the Champions League had Juventus become European champions for the first time since 1996.

Buffon had conceded only three goals on the way to the final, but that total was matched inside 64 minutes as Real showed their cutting edge. Time waits for no man, and Buffon is certainly short on that commodity if he is to win the Champions League.

5.Cardiff proved the perfect host


The smallest city to host European football’s biggest game showed that size does not matter when it comes to putting on the perfect party. The 74,500-capacity National Stadium of Wales has a couple of huge selling points which makes it ideal for such events.

3 The stadium is right in the middle of the city and the two sets of fans mingled peacefully in the Welsh sunshine and made the most of Cardiff’s plentiful bars and restaurants. And the closed roof provided a unique Champions League final atmosphere which might persuade UEFA bosses to come back soon.

PA Media

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