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Decimals to Decima: Triumph for Real Madrid

May 26 2014, 10:53 IST
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Cristiano Ronaldo holds aloft Real Madrid’s 10th Champions League title. (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo holds aloft Real Madrid’s 10th Champions League title. (AP)
SummaryReal Madrid won the first intracity Champions League final by beating Atlético Madrid, 4-1, after extra time.

was Bale — who went to Real for a record $124 million transfer fee last summer — leaping to head home a rebound that sealed the victory for soccer’s richest club and sent the fans behind the goal into hysterics.

Real’s victory capped a fevered few weeks in Madrid, where the match was a citywide obsession. Marca, one of two sports newspapers based in Madrid, proclaimed the game to be an “eternal” battle.

Fans of Atlético and Real turned Lisbon into a mixture of stripes and solids by Friday night. It was estimated that some 15,000 cars and 600 buses — carrying as many as 90,000 people — made the 385-mile trip between the Iberian capitals.

Historic, either way

The Atlético fans seemed determined to enjoy themselves. This was only the club’s second appearance in a European Cup final, and the last one, in 1974, was largely forgettable as the team was blasted by Bayern Munich, 4-0, in a replay after blowing a one-goal lead with six minutes to play in the first game. The shock of losing the title in such a wrenching way led Atlético fans to give themselves the downcast nickname of Pupas, or jinxed ones. After Saturday’s finish, that name figures to stick for a while longer.

Real, on the other hand, has had a fascination — some would call it a damaging obsession — with the Champions League since the club won three titles from 1998 to 2002. Over the next 12 years, it spent well over $1 billion on players even as it failed to reach another European final until this year.

This season, however, Ancelotti — who won two previous Champions League titles with A.C. Milan and became just the second manager to win three titles — mixed and matched his lineups enough to overcome inconsistency in the league and push Real back to the final.

Much of that success was led by Cristiano Ronaldo (he scored a record 17 goals in the tournament this year), but on Saturday, Atlético’s stout defending mostly kept him from asserting himself. Without Xabi Alonso, Real’s indispensable midfielder, who was suspended, Los Blancos lacked flow through the early part of the game.

Bale, too, struggled early on and wasted several chances, including one in the 32nd minute when he badly skewed a shot wide after making an impressive run from midfield. That miss looked worse when Atlético responded by taking the lead after Casillas was

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