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Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
A wonderfully competitive first half in the Champions League final gave way lớn a dominant slugfest of a second half, with Real Madrid coming out on top in a 4-1 win over Juventus. Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace gave Madrid their 12th Champions League title in club history, and a remarkable and historic third win in four years.

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The opening stages of the match were a delightful trò chơi of counter-tactics. Juventus started out the match with a right-leaning defensive cài đặt meant as a direct counter lớn the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo on Real Madrid’s left. About ten minutes into the match, Zinedine Zidane switched his formation to lớn a đá quí midfield with Ronaldo as the right-sided forward of the two up top to give him more space. Other small changes back and forth showed that both Zidane & Juventus boss khủng Max Allegri were willing lớn throw whatever it took at each other lớn win, & Real Madrid came away with the first major advantage.

That advantage came in the form of a 20th minute Cristiano Ronaldo goal, played as a sort of give-and-go with Dani Carvajal. Ronaldo had drifted in from the right to receive the ball at the edge of the box, then slid it out to Carvajal as Juventus’ defense collapsed onto him, who quickly centered it back up for Ronaldo. The Portuguese striker had found a pocket of space while the ball was away, & it was a one-touch finish with a slight deflection off Leonardo Bonucci from there to lớn give Madrid the early lead.

That advantage wouldn’t last long, though, with Juventus surging ahead & seeming lớn catch Real Madrid on the back foot. A sequence of Juventus knocking around a ball in the air in & around the penalty area lead lớn Gonzalo Higuain chesting the ball up for Mario Mandžukić, who chested it back up for himself — then, while facing away from goal, flipped up and over for a lobbed bicycle kick that beat Keylor Navas & leveled the scoreline.

That sparked off a desperate sequence of play from both teams, with some hard fouls and anxious misses along the way. The pace of the trò chơi was high, but both teams kept making little adjustments along the way lớn try & find an advantage — Real Madrid swapping midfielder placement, Juventus adjusting the positioning of their front three, Madrid pushing their fullbacks higher lớn press, Juventus narrowing their own midfield lớn take advantage of the space inside — và it made for a scintillating run lớn the halftime whistle.

The second half started with a lot of physical play from both sides, with trainers from both teams getting busy several times in the opening stretch of the half. Madrid had the better parts of the attacking play in that time, but couldn’t take advantage of that khổng lồ find a way to score -- at least until a hopeful lob from range by Casemiro caught a fortunate deflection and beat Gianluigi Buffon for a 61st minute goal.

That shocking goal caught a lot of people off guard, và seemed to lớn take a lot of the wind out of Juventus’ sails. Real Madrid took full & lethal advantage of that, with Dani Carvajal & Luka Modric combining on a run down their right side to lớn set up a near-post goal for Ronaldo lớn make it 3-1. The dying minutes saw them score one last goal, with young rising star Marco Asensio converting a Marcelo cross from about eight yards out to lớn make it 4-1, completing the second-half humbling of a Juventus team that had fought so hard in the first half.

Juventus lost a lot of their poise and composure after going down two goals, struggling to find their way back into the match despite their best efforts. That led khổng lồ a lot of frustration in the Italian team, typified by Juan Cuadrado getting sent off for picking up two yellow cards with senseless fouls in just 17 minutes on the pitch after coming on as a substitute. It was a disappointing kết thúc to what had been an excellent season for Juventus — but they’ll be back and hungrier than ever next season.

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The win for Real Madrid is historic for several reasons — not only is it their 12th title, a record they already held after winning last year, but their successful defense of their Champions League title makes them the first to lớn win two in a row since AC Milan won their second straight in 1990. It’s also their third win in four years, a remarkable và almost unprecedented achievement, needing khổng lồ go all the way back khổng lồ the 1970’s when both Bayern Munich & Ajax won three in a row during a very different era in the sport.

Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli (Juan Cuadrado 66’, red 83’); Alex Sandro, Miralem Pjanic (Claudio Marchisio 70’), Sami Khedira, Dani Alves; Paulo Dybala (Mario Lemina 78’), Mario Mandžukić; Gonzalo Higuain

Goals: Mandžukić (27’)

Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Raphaël Varane, Dani Carvajal; Casemiro, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos (Alvaro Morata 89’); Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema (Gareth Bale 77’), Isco (Marco Asensio 82’)

Goals: Ronaldo (20’, 64’), Casemiro (61’), Asensio (90’)

Three things we learnedJuventus & Real Madrid really are the two best teams in the world right now

This match showed that there was no fluke in who made the Champions League final — the way these two titans of the thể thao went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow all throughout the first half cemented the fact that, right now, there are no teams better anywhere in the world.

Neither team is perfect, obviously, but in the biggest match of the season both teams came to lớn play at a high level và did exactly that. This was the best Champions League final in recent memory — heck, probably the best final in any major competition in the thể thao in the last few years — for the sheer unique and competitive evenness of it, with both teams forced to lớn pull out all the stops khổng lồ gain any advantage they could. It was utterly fantastic to lớn watch, & was exactly the kind of trò chơi we always want to lớn see in a major competition final lượt thích this.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still a sublime big-game performer

Ronaldo is getting older and slowing down, but he still knows how lớn turn it on when the games really count. To that end, his performance in this final was one of the best we’ve seen from him in a long, long time, with a brace of goals và a sublime performance that cements his legacy as one of the best players not just of the modern era, but of all time.

And it wasn’t just the goals that made this such a good trò chơi for Ronaldo. He was a constant creative force as well, trying lớn make things happen during times when Juventus’ defense was dominating some of his teammates. His runs & passing and even at times just his presence on the ball helped mở cửa things up so much for Real Madrid, và a lot of Madrid’s dominance in the second half was largely because of Ronaldo’s influence. It was a phenomenal performance, and one worth celebrating.

Juventus lost their edge because of one missed adjustment

Juventus had been going blow-for-blow with Real Madrid brilliantly thanks to a series of in-game tactical adjustments, but it was one missed adjustment from Max Allegri that cost them the game. Very early in the second half, Real Madrid shifted their formation to push the fullbacks high và overload on the wings, getting constant two-on-one battles against Juventus’ wide defenders. Allegri never really did anything to lớn try to counter that, & that lack of adjustment allowed Real Madrid khổng lồ take control of the match.

Both of Real Madrid’s early second half goals came because of those matchups, with the loose ball Casemiro pounced on coming from the left flank with Marcelo và Isco working over Andrea Barzagli, then the second coming from Modric and Carvajal putting Alex Sandro in knots on the right. If Juventus had kept up in the tactical chess match, they may have kept things even, but that one missed move cost them dearly.