...because up against Real were Atlético
Real Madrid's win was all about that ability they also possess to dig deep for victory, one that rises to the fore on the crunch occasions, such as last night in Milan. It's something that goes back to the depths of their past, something that Alfredo Di Stéfano instilled in the club and that's been passed down from generation to generation. They didn't play well, but the way they kept going and even finished strongly despite having half the team fighting cramp, merits high praise. So too do Atlético, who battled back wonderfully after going behind. Two years ago they took Real right to the limit, to the 93rd minute. This time they took them further still, to the fifth spot-kick in the shoot-out. But...
Many years ago, before the Spanish Civil War, a journalist by the name of Acisclo Karag wrote something which went along the following lines: Atlético are a side who always lose when they play badly, and sometimes also lose when they play well; Real are a side who always win when they play well, and sometimes also win when they play badly. This leapt to mind as soon as it was all over at the San Siro. Is there something that transcends the passing years that makes it an unbreakable constant? The assistant referee's mistake and Antoine Griezmann's penalty against the bar (how easily his kick nestled in the back of the net in the shoot-out!) only served to lend credence to Karag's assertion.
Either way, the Undécima is now headed for the Bernabéu trophy cabinet, further elevating the club's legendary status. Zinedine Zidane took the helm just in time to steer a project that was losing its way back on course. His guts in going with a somewhat less glamorous player, Casemiro, to provide balance to Real's constellation of stars, has been rewarded with this magnificent triumph in his first season as coach. He managed to push Barça right to the wire in LaLiga, and now he's overshadowed their domestic double with this Champions League win, an ace of diamonds that trumps all else. What a start for the Frenchman. The outlook now appears very different for him and for Real Madrid.
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