Real Madrid beats Atletico in penalty shootout to win Champions League title

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Real Madrid beats Atletico in penalty shootout to win Champions League title
Real Madrid beats Atletico in penalty shootout to win Champions League title

Perhaps there just is no karma in sports. Because sometimes amends are never made, no matter how cruel the fate suffered, how grievous the wrong. Atletico Madrid lost the 2014 UEFA Champions League final to cross-town rivals Real Madrid after giving away the lead in the final seconds. And on Saturday, Atleti lost to Real again in a rematch for the biggest prize in club soccer, faltering 5-3 in the penalty shootout.

[ Real's biggest winner | Match statistics | Real vs. Atletico as it happened ]

Like two years ago, it was central defender Sergio Ramos who would torment the Mattressmakers. Back then, his 93rd-minute equalizer sent the game to extra time, wherein Real ran away with the game 4-1. This time around, his 15th-minute scramble on the goal's doorstep put Real ahead for more than an hour in the 1-1 tie. Antoine Griezmann would miss a second-half penalty for Atletico, but young Yannick Ferreira Carrasco got a 79th-minute equalizer.

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Juanfran missed Atletico's fourth penalty in the shootout, though, after a scoreless extra time was played, pinging it off the post. Whereupon Cristiano Ronaldo sealed Real Madrid's 11th European title – four more than any other club.

Here's another cruel sort of thing: in their last 10 head-to-head games, Diego Simeone's stout defensive machine had lost to Real just once while winning five times.

Predictably, and as ever when the stakes are this high, two teams that know each other through and through produced an unattractive game. Atletico's defensive specialists against a Real side which, since Zinedine Zidane was installed as manager in January, has not played expansive soccer. Instead, Zizou eschews the flair his enormously talented squad is capable of summoning in favor of tactical rigor and results, happily ceding the initiative to the opposition when it behooves the outcome.

It was a war of attrition – physical and stunted and slowed by the many fouls. The teams tried to intimidate one another from the first whistle, and then turned on referee Mark Clattenburg, who did a remarkable job of keeping the violence in check early on.

The game was hardly a classic. Perhaps Atletico's plan was to prevent real soccer from being played, as it is in all its big games. But it took Simeone's men a long time to realize that all this falls apart when you concede an early goal.

Real Madrid forged a few chances early on. Bale drove in a low free kick, which Casemiro redirected. But Oblak parried it comfortably.

After a quarter of an hour, Toni Kroos whipped in a long free kick from the flank. Gareth Bale headed it on, and Ramos beat goalkeeper Jan Oblak to the tap-in from a yard or so out. Perhaps he was a fraction offside on Bale's head-on, but it wasn't called. Because there probably is no karma in sports.

That made Ramos just the fifth player and the first non-striker to score in two Champions League finals. Other than Ramos's goal, however, neither goalkeeper had much else to do until the intermission. Atletico didn't begin attacking earnestly until late in the half, when Antoine Griezmann managed to get off a pair of shots, neither of which troubled Keylor Navas.

Yet within a minute of the restart, Pepe bundled over Fernando Torres in his own box on Griezmann's clever pass. Clattenburg rightly pointed to the spot, but the Frenchman smashed his penalty kick off the crossbar. More cruelty.

Atletico kept toiling for an equalizer, uncharacteristically pushing the play when Real wouldn't – which sat cynically deep, absorbing pressure. Stefan Savic poked a half-chance wide. Saul Niguez scorched a volley just off target. At the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo was mostly invisible, Bale much diminished in the second half and Karim Benzema anonymous until he finally had a look in the 70th minute – when he really should have laid off for Ronaldo.

Atletico seemed to stretch itself too much in pressing for an equalizer, leaving room for Ronaldo and Bale to take shots. But Real failed to put several chances away. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Carrasco equalized at the other end.

As Atletico's push for an equalizer looked increasingly futile, Juanfran sent in a sharp cross and Carrasco beat several Real defenders to it and stuck it home. And then he ran off to kiss a blonde in the first row who might well be his girlfriend or wife.

Fortune seemed to have turned at last. Pepe soon blocked a wide-open header by teammate Bale in front of Atletico's goal. But like in Atletico's two only other finals of the Old Continent's top club cup – in 1974 and 2014 – this one would go to extra time, too. Atletico mostly continued to have the better of the play, pinning back a ragged Real, which had burned up its subs early and was slowed further by a semi-fit Ronaldo and a cramping Bale.

Penalties, however, would favor the whites, who put away all five of their shots cleanly.

For the unsightly methods employed in Real's victory, consider the magnitude of its achievement, winning two titles in three years after winning three in five at the turn of the millennium. For all its struggles dethroning Barcelona domestically, the world's richest club remains imperious in Europe, reaching the final four six seasons in a row.

Also spare a thought to Atletico, the ugly ducklings among Spain's big three, who scrap and claw out results anyway, achieving in spite of the burden of inferior resources and revenues. Simeone is quite literally a miracle worker, even winning La Liga in 2014.

But winning the big one, that handsome cup with the long, swooping handles, also takes a little luck. And of that Atletico hasn't had enough. On Saturday, its karmic deficit was not repaid.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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