Home News UEFA Champions League 2024: Real Madrid sustains its aura of inevitability

UEFA Champions League 2024: Real Madrid sustains its aura of inevitability

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Prior to its summit clash against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium, Real Madrid boasted a perfect record in UEFA Champions League finals, having never been defeated in any of the eight summit clashes it reached since the competition was rebranded from the European Cup in 1992.

But in this year’s final, for a good 72 minutes, Dortmund, backed by the travelling Yellow Wall, appeared to be on the verge of loosening Real’s grip on its beloved trophy with a dominant display of attacking football.

However, it was Dani Carvajal who first thrust the dagger of inevitability into the hearts of Dortmund fans with his perfectly guided header into the back of the net following a corner.

Leap of faith: A perfect header by Dani Carvajal (third from right) in the second half, assisted by a precise corner kick from Toni Kroos, broke the deadlock. 

Leap of faith: A perfect header by Dani Carvajal (third from right) in the second half, assisted by a precise corner kick from Toni Kroos, broke the deadlock. 
| Photo Credit:
AFP

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Leap of faith: A perfect header by Dani Carvajal (third from right) in the second half, assisted by a precise corner kick from Toni Kroos, broke the deadlock. 
| Photo Credit:
AFP

Minutes later, Brazilian wonderkid Vinicius Jr doubled the lead, ensuring his side would claim a record-extending 15th European title, achieving La Decimoquinta.

Toni Kroos, competing in his final game before the Madridistas, joined Luka Modric, Nacho, Carvajal, and former player Paco Gento as the only players in history to win six European titles.

RELATED: Kroos, Mordric surpass Ronaldo, Messi: Which players have won most UEFA Champions League titles?

This victory marked Carlo Ancelotti’s fifth UCL title as a manager and his third in two spells with Los Blancos. After crashing out in the semifinal against Manchester City the previous year, Ancelotti placed his faith in youngsters Rodrygo, Vinícius Jr, and new signing Jude Bellingham, a gamble that paid off in the club’s run to UCL glory.

Drama from the get-go

Real Madrid and defending champion Manchester City were the only teams to complete the group stage with perfect records of six wins in six.

Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United provided the biggest shock of the stage by failing to qualify from a group that included Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray, setting a record for the most goals conceded (15) by a Premier League side in a UCL group stage.

Adding to its woes, United managed only one win and became the first English team to finish bottom of a Champions League group twice, having previously done so in 2005/06.

Season to forget: Manchester United finished bottom of a UEFA Champions League group for just the second time, previously doing so in 2005-06. 

Season to forget: Manchester United finished bottom of a UEFA Champions League group for just the second time, previously doing so in 2005-06. 
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

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Season to forget: Manchester United finished bottom of a UEFA Champions League group for just the second time, previously doing so in 2005-06. 
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

Arsenal made the most of its return to the Champions League after seven years, topping its group by netting 16 times in six games. Europa League specialist Sevilla failed to win a single group stage game, ending its season without an entry into the second-tier competition of European club football.

FC Barcelona made it past the group stage for the first time since Lionel Messi’s departure in 2021. However, Xavi’s men showed signs of inconsistency with losses against Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp F.C. in the group stage.

Runner-up Borussia Dortmund emerged victorious from the ‘group of death’ that included Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and Newcastle United.

ALSO READ: Fate and Champions League find their way towards Real Madrid, once again

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United had a memorable start to its first Champions League campaign in 20 years with an emphatic 4-1 victory against Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park.

But three losses and two draws in the remaining games left it finishing last, with AC Milan dropping to the Europa League.

Last hurrah: Toni Kroos, competing in his final game before the Madridistas, joined Luka Modric, Nacho, Carvajal, and former player Paco Gento as the only players in history to win six European titles.

Last hurrah: Toni Kroos, competing in his final game before the Madridistas, joined Luka Modric, Nacho, Carvajal, and former player Paco Gento as the only players in history to win six European titles.
| Photo Credit:
AFP

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Last hurrah: Toni Kroos, competing in his final game before the Madridistas, joined Luka Modric, Nacho, Carvajal, and former player Paco Gento as the only players in history to win six European titles.
| Photo Credit:
AFP

No room for errors in knockouts

The Champions League saw its first penalty shootout since the 2015-16 final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid when Arsenal faced Porto in the round of 16. The Gunners reached the final eight for the first time in 14 years after beating the Portuguese giants 4-2 in the shootout.

However, Mikel Arteta’s men could not escape the ghosts of their previous round-of-16 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in 2016-17, faltering against the Bavarians in the quarterfinals this season.

Title holder Manchester City and competition royalty Real Madrid played an enthralling quarterfinal first leg, which ended 3-3 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid.

At the Etihad Stadium, where it was eliminated the previous year, Ancelotti’s side was better prepared and forced Pep Guardiola’s men into their first-ever penalty shootout in the competition. Ukrainian Andriy Lunin’s heroics in the shootout ended City’s quest for a second successive crown.

Barcelona squandered its advantage from the first leg of its quarterfinal against PSG as former Barca winger Ousmane Dembele and marquee player Kylian Mbappe inspired the Parisians to stage a comeback in the reverse fixture. As a result, Luis Enrique became the first ex-Barcelona manager to eliminate the ‘Culers’ from a Champions League knockout stage.

Dortmund came back from a goal down in the first leg against Atletico Madrid to win the tie, which kept flipping until Marcel Sabitzer’s magical three-minute spell in the second leg sent ‘The Black and Yellow’ into the final four.

ALSO READ: Toni Kroos: Real Madrid’s Galactico looks for final coronation at EURO 2024 after winning Champions League

Veteran Mats Hummels stood out in a team lacking big names, inspiring Dortmund to continue its dream run after beating PSG both home and away in the semifinal, ending Mbappe’s seven-year tenure in the French capital without a taste of the UCL trophy.

In the other semifinal, after drawing the first leg 2-2 in Germany, Real Madrid found an unlikely hero in substitute Joselu, who scored twice in three minutes to stage a comeback against Bayern Munich. Bayern had been leading the tie until the 87th minute when Alphonso Davies smashed the ball past Lunin earlier in the second leg.

Lone ranger: While Marco Reus’ last dance did not have a fairytale ending, Edin Terzic’s side will be proud of the way it approached the final.

Lone ranger: While Marco Reus’ last dance did not have a fairytale ending, Edin Terzic’s side will be proud of the way it approached the final.
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

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Lone ranger: While Marco Reus’ last dance did not have a fairytale ending, Edin Terzic’s side will be proud of the way it approached the final.
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Emergence of a new era

While Marco Reus’ last dance did not have a fairytale ending, Edin Terzic’s side will be proud of the way it approached the final, as actual contenders rather than underdogs.

ALSO READ: Marco Reus, a Dortmund legend, eyes European crown in his last dance with Yellow and Black

Despite a disappointing domestic season, Dortmund pressured Real Madrid for most of the final, much like it did to teams throughout the tournament.

However, in the end, it succumbed to Madrid’s extraordinary narrative, just as many other sides have in the past.

With the revamped Champions League featuring 36 teams starting next season in an attempt to produce more ‘competitive matches’, football fans will eagerly await to see if it increases the disparity between European heavyweights and lower-ranked teams. They will also be keen to find out if it brings more jeopardy in qualification to the knockouts.



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