The Pitch

Champions League remains with Real

Aidan Gleeson, Staff Writer

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Debatably the best competition in the world’s game of soccer, the UEFA Champions League, is the gathering of all teams who won their country’s league in Europe to compete as top dogs in Europe. Never failing to bring some jaw dropping moments, this year’s UCL final between Italy’s Juventus and Spain’s Real Madrid delivered as such, giving fans some great goals and moments to cherish, eventually leading to the third victory in four years for Real. A lot of action was packed into those vital 90 minutes with many opportunities for defining moments to occur and amaze everyone.

Arguably the best goal was produced by Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic. Down 1-0 early in the game, Juventus really needed a goal to keep their trophy hopes alive. With the ball flying around in front of him at the top of the box, Mandzukic could only swing and hope for the best. What resulted was a beautiful goal, an overhead kick that slotted the ball into the far side netting, just out of Real keeper Keylor Navas’ reach.

“I was riding pretty high with my team one up from a Christiano goal, but even I couldn’t be upset when Mandzukic put that one away. Definitely a goal to go down in UCL history,” admits WJ junior and devout Real Madrid fan, Ethan Lake.

The coolest thing about this game has to have been what it all meant besides just as a victory for Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo. Scoring twice, Ronaldo was able to achieve the title of top-scorer this season, an achievement usually fought for between himself and Lionel Messi every year. Along with this, Ronaldo is now the first player to score in three different UCL final matches. These two achievements coupled with the victory itself will do wonders in propelling Ronaldo towards the Ballon D’or, the top trophy in the game regarding the player of the year. Ronaldo wasn’t the only one to set the record straight, with Real as a team pulling off the first successful UCL trophy defense in history having won two years in a row and pushing their Champions League tally up to 12. All in all, Los Blancos have a lot more to celebrate than just a simple UCL victory.

“While I was pulling for Juve and always will I can’t deny the fact that I’m extremely impressed with Real. I can’t really see any other team pulling off such feats any time soon and, honestly, I think that Real’s possession of Ronaldo is responsible for that,” explains WJ junior and Juventus supporter Damian Cogliandolo.

For all that Real achieved it seems that Juventus had just as much to lose. Just two years ago they lost in the UCL final to Real’s main rivals in Barcelona. Having had to beat Barca to get to the final this year it seemed as though Juve were poised to prevail. Along with this Juve used its best squad seen in the past decade, with the Cuadrado and Pjanic-Dybala and Higuain combo working like a fine tuned machine all season. Possibly the most tragic development had to do with the Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The 39-year old has seen many trophies for his teams including the World Cup for Italy, but the one trophy to elude him thus far has been the UCL trophy. With Juve showing great talent and Gigi growing older, it seemed like this was his best (and perhaps final) chance to lift Europe’s greatest honor above his head but, alas, he’ll have to keep trying.

“I think what everyone agrees on is the pity for Gigi Buffon. Likely the best keeper to grace the modern era of soccer, it’s pretty surprising that he just can’t seem to win a damn UCL,” jokes WJ junior Dani Genco.

Whether you are happy or not with the result of really any UCL final, it’s hard to disagree with the excitement of the competition. When the best of the best are pitched against one another sparks are bound fly, and the best part is that if you are upset this year with Real’s seemingly never ending success, next year will provide a storybook of excitement to try to knock them off the top.

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Champions League remains with Real