Real Madrid's Bale, Ronaldo prove value for money

AFP, Sunday 25 May 2014

Gareth Bale
Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, from left, Real's Gareth Bale and Real's Fabio Coentrao celebrate after winning the Champions League final soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 24, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Real Madrid finally came good in their quest for a record 10th European crown on Saturday as Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's two most expensive footballers, helped the Spanish giants land La Decima.

Real made a huge commitment last summer with a reported world-record outlay to recruit Bale from Tottenham Hotspur, four years after previously smashing the transfer record having paid Manchester United €94 million to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, Real's richly-assembled squad again appeared destined to fall short before Sergio Ramos sent the Champions League final into extra-time with an equaliser three minutes into second-half stoppage-time.

For long periods of the contest Atletico's direct approach and reluctance to take unnecessary risks in defence helped nullify Real's high-octane counter-attacking style, leaving Bale and Ronaldo frustrated.

The pair had combined for 71 goals this season but the pair often cut forlorn figures as Diego Simeone's well-marshalled side kept the shackles on the electrifying duo, who had both been slowed by injury in recent weeks.

On one of the few occasions Atletico erred Welshman Bale, who joined Madrid for more than €90 million, should have put Real in front.

Just past the half-hour mark Tiago's stray pass was collected by an advancing Bale, who surged into the Atletico box only to skew his shot wide with just Thibaut Courtois to beat.

A pair of free-kicks from World Player of the Year Ronaldo subsequently called Courtois into action but the Belgium goalkeeper dealt comfortably with both occasions as Real struggled to break down their opponents.

Real were then forced to take the game to Atletico following Diego Godin's 36th-minute opener but Carlo Ancelotti's side found it hard going against a resolute unit.

Ronaldo teed up Bale in the second half only for the Welshman, just the fifth player from his country to play in a European Cup final, to lash an effort wide from the edge of the box.

The pair combined again as Ronaldo freed Bale down the right but this time the latter misfired once more after bursting past Godin.

Ronaldo could then only send a glancing header wide of the post after Ramos had crossed invitingly for the Portugal star.

However, following Ramos' late intervention that forced extra-time and with legs tiring Bale would land the decisive blow on 110 minutes.

Angel Di Maria danced into area and was repelled superbly by the legs of Courtois but Bale was quickest to react to the rebound, steering in a header at the far post to turn the game on its head and give Real a 2-1 lead.

After Marcelo added a third, Ronaldo rubbed further salt into the wound for Atletico in the dying moments as he won a penalty following a foul by Godin.

He duly dispatched the spot-kick to take his competition-record tally to 17 goals, ensuring a happy return to Lisbon for the former Sporting man and justifying the club's considerable investment in the world's two most expensive players.

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