8:42 PM EDT, May 24, 2014
This time Cinderella's slipper didn't fit.
Two minutes away from completing what would have been a historic double, Atletico Madrid stumbled at the finish Saturday, giving up a goal three minutes into stoppage time and then three more in overtime as Real Madrid swept by for a 4-1 win in the Champions League final in Lisbon, Portugal.
For Real Madrid, the win gave it a record 10th Champions League title, three more than any other team. But it didn't come easy, with the world's most valuable soccer team chasing its gutsy, budget-conscious crosstown rival most of the night.
Real Madrid's payroll is $189 million, three times what Atletico pays it players. And that doesn't include the record $124-million transfer fee Real paid to pry Gareth Bale away from Tottenham last summer.
But Atletico won Spain's La Liga last weekend for the first time in two decades and seemed on the verge of its first Champions League crown when it took a 1-0 lead — courtesy of Diego Godin's header in the 36th minute — into stoppage time.
At the start of the season the odds of Atletico pulling off that double was 6,560 to 1.
But Atletico simply wore out in a second half in which it was outshot, 7-1, after the 57th minute. Still, it kept Real out of the net until the 93rd minute when Sergio Ramos finally beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on a header.
And though that goal only tied the game, it ultimately proved the fatal blow.
"The hardest thing was to tie the game because it was so tough for us at that point," Real Madrid Coach Carlo Ancelotti, who won two Champions League titles with A.C. Milan, told reporters. "They suffocated the space and were doing it well. The goal gave us strength."
Added Ramos: "It's the most important goal I've ever scored."
Neither team had any substitutions left for the 30-minute overtime, and Atletico's players were clearly spent. Then things got worse when defender Juanfran twisted an ankle on a sliding tackle five minutes into the first extra period. He was hobbled from then on and Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been frustrated repeatedly in regulation, went back to work.
"I've learned from past experiences to keep going, to forget about the chances you miss and keep persevering," Bale said.
That paid off with the go-ahead goal in the 110th minute. And even then the scoring sequence involved another splendid save from Courtois, this time on Angel Di Maria, who had outrun Juanfran up the left wing and into the box. His shot bounced high and hard off the goalkeeper and went right to Bale, who headed it into an empty net at the far post for his sixth goal in his last 12 games.
Meaningless goals from Marcelo, in the 118th minute, and from Ronaldo on a penalty shot in the closing seconds, changed little but the final score. After his goal an emotional Ronaldo, playing in front of friends and family in his native country, ripped his shirt and began a lengthy celebration that drew one of 12 yellow cards handed out by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Saturday's match marked the seventh time the final of the Champions League — the world's richest, most-prestigious and most-watched club soccer tournament — went to overtime. The previous six were all decided on penalty kicks.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times