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Dublin: 1°C Sunday 7 March 2021


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Good evening, everyone. This promises to be pretty good, right? On one hand, Real Madrid are looking to become the first team since AC Milan to win this tournament in successive seasons. On the other, there’s Gigi Buffon. And the fact that The Old Lady are trying to avoid losing a seventh final. They were last here in 2015 and were beaten by Spanish opposition that day too.

Let’s get straight to the team news.

The big news is that Gareth Bale starts on the bench for Real Madrid with Isco preferred to the Welshman in the starting lineup. Still, not a bad replacement to have in reserve.


There is one change from their last game - Dani Carvajal is in for Danilo at the back.

Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Isco, Kroos, Benzema, Ronaldo.

It’s as you were for Juve with no late fitness concerns. It’s the same XI that started against Monaco in their semi-final clash.

Look at that back-five. Outstanding. And a firm handshake to Max Allegri for turning big, uncompromising unit Mario Mandzukic into a wide-man.


Juventus: Buffon, Alves, Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli, Sandro, Khedira, Pjanic, Mandzukic, Dybala, Higuaín.

Interesting stat here. The Juve team has an average age of 30 years and 336 days. That’s the second-oldest in Champions League history. That record is held by the 2007 AC Milan side, by the way. They had an average of just over 31.

This was a drab and lifeless affair, settled by a sloppy goals. Hopefully tonight’s clash will be a little better.

Here are the ‘highlights’ of that 1998 final. What a great chance Edgar Davids missed to level things in the second half.

So, because the BlackEyed Peas (yes, I know) are currently on the pitch telling everyone to ‘Get it started’ (see what they did there?), kick-off may be delayed by a few minutes. Ah, football.

Quick start to this. A couple of hefty challenges from both sides and Higuain evaded a couple of challenges before testing Navas from distance with a low, thumping drive that the keeper couldn’t hold but gathered at the second attempt.

Flag 7Mins

CHANCE! Juventus have started really well here and they go close to an opener through Pjanic. Alves gets down the right and whips in a dangerous cross but it evades everyone and is picked up on the far side. When the cross isn’t properly cleared, it drops to Pjanic, who settles himself and drives the right-foot shot towards Navas’ near post. But the keeper gets down and beats it away with a strong hand.


Wonderful possession from Juve. They seem very comfortable and composed here while Real are taking longer to find a rhythm. Dani Alves and Alex Santos have been involved quite a lot already.

Flag 12Mins

BOOKING! Juve cheaply cough up the ball after a misplaced pass from the back and Dybala chasing down Toni Kroos before desperately and cynically fouling him. He goes in the book and it’s a very early card.


Here’s that save from Navas. Good strike from Pjanic but the keeper did well to beat it away.


We haven’t seen Ronaldo yet. That’s pretty ominous. But so far so good from the Juventus defence. Real have settled in the last few minutes and have been able to get some decent passes together.


And that’s just devastating. He’s been absolutely invisible for the opening 20 minutes and then, just like that, he waves the magic wand and puts his side in front. It’s a really well-worked strike. Carvajal gets down the right and sends it perfectly into Ronaldo’s path and he just casually rolls the shot to the net. It takes a slight touch off Bonucci on its way but Real in control here now and that Juve defence has already been breached.





I was just in the middle of explaining that this was a rip-roaring, end-to-end battle when Mandzukic conjured one of the finest goals I’ve seen in a final. Basically, the ball doesn’t hit the ground for a while as the cross from the left is expertly controlled by Higuain and teed up for the Croatian. He takes a touch but is the wrong way round to get a shot on goal. So, instead, he throws himself in the air and sends a glorious overhead kick to the net, leaving Navas scrambling.

Flag 32Mins

BOOKING! Sergio Ramos has seemed pretty irritable for a while and after his latest heavy challenge, he goes in the book. Real understandably rocked by that Mandzukic equaliser.


Dybala has been lively and shown some lovely, sweeping movement – taking players on and beating them. He crashes into Luka Modric after one such run and gets the free-kick.

Flag 42Mins

BOOKING! Mandzukic is having another terrific outing here. He gets back to help out defensively and tries to get away from Carvajal, who brings him down and picks up a yellow. Real players are not happy, neither is Zidane on the touchline.


There’s a lovely battle taking place between Dani Alves and Marcelo as they each try and give their respective sides an edge.


Well, take a breath.

What an outstanding half of football. A real throwback, to be honest. Juventus began brightly and Pjanic tested Navas from distance They were composed and comfortable on the ball and it took Real time to find their feet. But, they have Cristiano Ronaldo and after basically being anonymous for the opening 20 minutes, he turned up to give his side the lead after a one-two with Carvajal.

But what a response from Juventus and Mandzukic conjured one of the best Champions League final goals we’ve seen in a long time. The ball didn’t hit the ground as the cross came in from the left, Higuain took it down and carefully teed it up for the Croatian. His body position was awkward so he just flung himself in the air to whip a remarkable overhead kick to the net.

Here’s to more of the same in the second half.


Isco races down the left and almost gets in behind but a superb last-ditch tackle leaves him frustrated this time.

Flag 56Mins

Just a few tasty challenges in the last while and Toni Kroos went in the book for a foul on compatriot Sami Khedira. Meanwhile, Luka Modric tested Buffon but it was a comfortable stop from the goalkeeper and Real have stepped up here and they’re on top. Gareth Bale is warming up too.


I was just in the middle of describing Casemiro’s long-range effort and how, at first glance, it seemed like another absolute gem but it actually took a substantial deflection off of Sami Khedira.

And then I glanced up to see Luka Modric race down the right side, clip in a superb pass to the near post and Ronaldo dart towards it and make it look so easy from close range.

3-1 to the Spaniards and Juve are in big trouble.

Flag 68Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Cuadrado (on) – Barzagli (off)

Change in system for Max Allegri and he really has to go for it now.

Flag 71Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Marchisio (on) – Pjanic (off) 

And a second change for Juve. Fresh legs in midfield with 20 minutes to go.

Flag 72Mins

BOOKING! Caudrado picks up a yellow and this will suit Real perfectly. Game constantly being interrupted and Juve frustrations growing.


Juventus are out sync here, being asked to chase a game is not something they’re used to. A change in shape doesn’t help and they seem completely out of ideas and reduced to cheap fouls. Allegri really needs a masterstroke here. This game, rather limply, is just ebbing away from them.

Flag 77Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Bale (on) – Benzema (off) & Lemina (on) – Dybala (off)

Changes for both sides here and Bale does get a taste of the action. You could see him scoring, to be honest. Juventus are a long way from that resolute, relentless defence right now.


For all of you wondering about Ronaldo, hat-tricks and history. Never been done in the Champions League era.

Flag 81Mins

CHANCE! Bale is close to finding the net as Ronaldo bursts down the right and sends in a terrific low cross. Bale is there…but so too is Bonucci who makes a terrific challenge.

Flag 82Mins

CHANCE! And at the other end…my word, that’s close. The free-kick from Alves picks out the head of Alex Sandro and he floats the header towards the far post…but it’s about three inches wide of the upright. That could’ve given them some hope…

Flag 86Mins

RED CARD! Dear me. Sergio Ramos. That is absolutely disgraceful. But why are we not surprised? He’s such a great player so why does he feel the need to do this stuff repeatedly? He makes a magnificent sliding challenge on Cuadrado and as the Juve player goes to take a throw, he brushes against the Real captain. Ramos dramatically dives to the ground, feigning injury and Cuadrado – inexplicably – gets a second yellow card and he’s sent-off.


A fourth for Real as the substitute rolls to the corner of the net after good work down the left side. Juve just fell apart after the break here and haven’t put a glove on the Spaniards in this half.


And that’s back-to-back Champions League titles for Real Madrid – the first club to achieve that since AC Milan in 1989/1990.

Juventus lose a seventh final and Gigi Buffon continues to ponder what he needs to do to be crowned a European champion.

The first half led us to believe that this was set to be a hugely entertaining battle after the break but Casemiro’s deflected effort changed things dramatically. Juve just couldn’t get close enough to them and with Modric controlling things alongside Kroos, they just played the space so well. They had the Italians exactly where they wanted them and it was game over when Ronaldo grabbed his brace.

It will be missed in the celebrations and the headlines but worth pointing out that Sergio Ramos will lift the trophy here, despite an embarrassing display of cheating that got Juan Cuadrado sent-off late on. It deserves to be raised. With the game done and dusted, he still felt the need to cheat.

Some will say it’s the sign of a warrior and someone who wants to win at any cost but that’s a sorry excuse.

Anyway, another triumph for Real. More glory for Ronaldo. Thanks for staying with us this evening and plenty of coverage still to come on the site.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan