UEFA Champions League Final

By Jack Woodard, Staff Writer

Millions of people all around the world gathered around their televisions to watch what may be the most popular even in all of sports, the UEFA Champions League Final.  Real Madrid looked to make this their second consecutive championship and third in four years.  Juventus looked to avenge the 2015 loss in the final to Barcelona.  Both teams finished first in their leagues and both outlasted the other 30 teams and made it this far.  Anything short of a win would be devastating to the fans.  

Both teams started out looking for an opening goal to gain momentum.  6 minutes in Juventus almost had their chance when a cross into the box got deflected and found itself right at the foot of Miralem Pjanic. He struck it at the edge of the box and Keylor Navas made a spectacular one-handed, diving punch away.  

Real Madrid opened the scoring 20 minutes in when Cristiano Ronaldo gave a beautiful ball into the 18-yard box to a streaking Dani Carvajal.  Carvajal slowed down and gave it right back to Ronaldo in the center of the box with no defenders near him.  All Ronaldo needed was one touch and Gigi Buffon had no chance at saving it.  The ball curved into the bottom left corner of the goal, after a small deflection, and Ronaldo and his teammates celebrated a 1-0 lead.  

Juventus would fight back, though, with what may have been one of the greatest goals in Champions League history.  27 minutes in, Alex Sandro Lobo Silva crossed a ball into the box and another beautiful pass found the ball at the chest of Mario Mandzukic.  Mandzukic bounced it into the air and spun away from the defender.  Mandzukic then let a bicycle kick fly and the ball floated perfectly into the top right corner, just out of reach of Keylor Navas.  The score was 1-1.

The game was level at half.

Real Madrid came out of the locker room hot and in the 54th minute had a great chance.  Luka Modric slipped away from a defender and fired a laser, well outside the 18-yard box on goal.  Buffon saw it from the beginning and barely had to move to stop the kick from getting in.

Real Madrid would keep the momentum and in the 61st minutes struck again.  The ball took a hop and rolled out of the box right to Casemiro.  He let it go from at least 30 yards out and it was a beauty.  The ball started toward the middle and suddenly curved.  Buffon hesitated for a slight second and the kick was impossible to save, even for a world class goalkeeper like him.  The ball dropped into the bottom left corner, just out of the reach of the diving goalkeeper.  Real Madrid took  a 2-1 lead.  

Real Madrid was not finished yet, they added insurance to the lead 3 minutes later when a great pass from Modric came into the box and Ronaldo finished less than 5 yards from the keeper.  The defense was nowhere to be found and Ronaldo added his second goal of the game, giving Real Madrid a 3-1 lead.  All the Juventus players and fans could do was watch the Real Madrid players celebrate the lead in the corner of the field.

81 minutes in, Juventus was in desperation mode when Dani Alves set up for a free kick way to the right of the 18 yard box.  Alves put a great delivery into the box and Lobo Silva came flying in with the header.  It was a little too strong on the curve and Navas saw it hook around his left bar.  Juventus needed that one.

2 minutes later the referee made a controversial call that pretty much ended the game.  Juan Cuadrado made a great tackle on Sergio Ramos and as the two got up they bumped into each other.  Cuadrado made slight pushing motion and Ramos flopped to the ground and the referee did not hesitate to pull out the second yellow of the game for Colombian, Cuadrado was out.  Juventus players gathered around the referee defending Cuadrado, but it would do no good.  It was a questionable call and now Juventus found themselves 2 goals down with only 7 minutes of regular time to go.

90 minutes in and right before the refs showed the added time, Marcelo Vieira got past a man and was streaking down the goal line.  He put the ball into the box and Marco Asensio finished it off.  This just put salt on the wound for Juventus and Real Madrid now led 4-1.  

The whistle blew and the Real Madrid fans and players went crazy.  The celebrations went all the way until the trophy presentation when the squad lifted up the trophy to the crowd in Cardiff.  Cristiano Ronaldo was rightfully named man of the match and his legacy at Real Madrid continued with them leading the world and hoisting the trophy.  This is Juventus’s 7th time finishing as runners-up and they now have a 2-7 record in the final.  This is Real Madrid’s 12th time being European champions, the most of any club.