Atletico Madrid looked set to write one final fantastic chapter in an amazing story by winning the Champions League final in Lisbon, but its city rival dug as deep as it has in a long, long time to earn a flattering but fantastic 4-1 victory.
Diego Simeone’s men had gained the lead thanks to a moment of madness from Iker Casillas. The Madrid captain made the irrational decision to race out into no-man’s land as Diego Godin tussled with Sami Khedira after Juanfran returned Raphael Varane’s clearance.
But as the ball looped over the prone Spain goalkeeper and beyond the goal line, the look on Casillas’ face said it all. He knew he had handed Atleti a potentially crucial lead.
Just as they have set up a compact unit all season, the Rojiblancos saw off most Madrid attacks thereafter. At first, Carlo Ancelotti’s men were one-dimensional and lacking in artistry. On came Isco and Marcelo to spice things up, but they still needed a little something extra.
As time ran down, it appeared as though Real had come to terms with the fact that it would go down as the side which failed to bring home La Decima and handed its neighbor a first continental title in one swift motion. But the Blancos had one final ace up their sleeves.
In the end, it was the least likely of scenarios which threw Casillas and Madrid a lifeline. For once, Atleti fell asleep from a set piece as Luka Modric swung in a corner in the third minute of injury time and Sergio Ramos made them pay, slamming home a powerful header which left Thibaut Courtois with no chance.
When the full-time whistle sounded, Casillas made a beeline for Sergio Ramos, hugging and thanking his center back for pulling him out of a tight spot.
Thereafter, the Blancos played like a team reinvigorated, a group who finally believed that this was their night. While a tired Atleti foundered, Madrid rose to the moment.
First, Gareth Bale – who had wasted three great opportunities in normal time – finally found the net, heading home a more difficult chance after a magnificent run from the excellent Angel di Maria.
Marcelo grabbed another as the Atletico defense went missing, and Cristiano Ronaldo finished off the night with a goal from the penalty spot after Godin made a rash challenge on the Portuguese star.
Winning has come at a cost. It has taken Real Madrid 12 years, more than a billion euros and two world-record signings to get back on the top step of the podium. But nobody connected to the club will say that it has not been worth the wait as they finally crawl into bed in the early hours of Sunday morning.
They wanted to do it at the Bernabeu in 2010, but fell a long way short of the mark. The three years that followed brought three semifinal failures. This year felt a little bit different. They beat the best to get to the final, pummelling Bayern Munich in the last four, and while they weren’t at 100 percent on Saturday, they were worthy of their moment of glory.
It could have been so different, and Iker Casillas will be buying Sergio Ramos a few beers of thanks, but he’ll have to join the queue. Half of Madrid will want to do exactly the same.
They will be drinking to ‘La Decima’ for some time to come. History is theirs.Follow Kris Voakes on