Road to Cardiff: How Real Madrid reached Champions League Final

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Real Madrid are bidding to become the first team to retain the Champions League in its current incarnation, as they face Juventus in the Final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday night.

So it seems the perfect time to look back on Real’s journey to yet another European showcase – one they’ve reached in typically dramatic, scintillating fashion.

Group Stage:

Real Madrid 2-1 Sporting Lisbon (Matchday One)

Zinedine Zidane’s men couldn’t have left it any later to snatch the points against the Portuguese outfit. After a very tight first half, the visitors took the lead on 47 minutes through Bruno Cesar. And with the score still 1-0 as the clock ticked 88 minutes, the hosts looked set for a shock defeat.

Step forward: Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Sporting prodigy fired home a powerful free-kick with less than 90 seconds of normal time remaining. But in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Alvaro Morata secured an incredible turnaround by nodding home.

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Real Madrid (Matchday Two)

Madrid took the lead twice in Germany but eventually had to settle for a point in an all-action encounter. Gareth Bale’s sublime backheel set up Ronaldo for the opener, before Pierre-Emerick-Aubemayang levelled things before the break.

Raphael Varane looked to have won it with his first ever UCL goal, but a late Marco Reus equaliser meant this game finished Desmond.

Real Madrid 5-1 Legia Warsaw (Matchday Three)

This was without doubt Los Blancos’ easiest win of their journey to the final. 2-0 up within 20 minutes, they never looked in any danger of dropping points. The pick of the goals came from Lucas Vazques, rifling home after an excellent passing move. Job done, and no nerves shredded at the Bernabeu.

Legia Warsaw 3-3 Real Madrid (Matchday Four)

A superhuman effort from the Polish side saw them claw back a 2-0 deficit to take a point off the Spanish giants. Real were two-up before the break, before Legia stormed back, eventually taking the lead in the 83rd minute. But Mateo Kovacic struck less than three minutes later to rescue a point for the visitors.

Sporting Lisbon 1-2 Real Madrid (Matchday Five)

Another day, another late winner against Jorge Jesus’ men. Varane opened the scoring with one of his four goals this term, but Sporting pressed hard for an equaliser, with Adrien Silva eventually netting a spot-kick to draw them level in front of a 50,000 strong crowd.

But it was a case of déjà vu for the hosts, as Karim Benzema connected with a floating cross from Sergio Ramos to nod home an 87th-minute winner. Never, ever write them off…

Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund (Matchday Six)

Victory would have seen the home side top Group F, but it just wasn’t to be. Karim Benzema put them two up, but Zidane’s charges seemed to take their eye off the ball in the second period. And they were made to pay, with Real’s defence nowhere to be seen as Marco Reus slotted home an equaliser in the closing stages.

Thankfully for Madrid fans, it’s not a mistake they’ve repeated…

Round of 16

Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli

Lorenzo Insignie’s early goal was as good as it got for Napoli in this two-legged tie, with their lead promptly extinguished by yet another Benzema goal – as the former Lyon ace rose majestically to nod past Rafael in the Partenopei goal.

The Frenchman slammed the post moments later, but it was in the second period where the necessary damage was done. Quickfire goals from Toni Kroos and Ronaldo made it 3-1, before Real saw out the game with composure and efficiency.

Napoli 1-3 Real Madrid

Different day, same outcome. Dries Mertens had the Napoli fans dreaming with an early strike, but again they were outpassed, outclassed and outran by a Madrid side who chalked up another trio of goals. Sergio Ramos got the first, before the unlucky Mertens headed into his own net, and Morata added a third for good measure!

Quarter-Finals:

Bayern Munich 1-2 Real Madrid

Once again, Los Blancos secured victory the hard way, with a third successive comeback win. Former Juventus man Arturo Vidal got things underway with a ferocious header, which Keylor Navas could only get a hand to.

But when the chance came for the Chilean to double Der FCB’s lead, he smashed his penalty roughly three miles over the bar. That proved crucial, as Ronaldo ended a wait of almost seven months for a UCL goal with a pair of delicious finishes to turn the tide.

Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich (AET)

Wow. Just wow. A stunning exhibition of attacking football from – arguably – the two best sides in European football at this moment. Both sides had a flurry of chances before Robert Lewandowski netted from the spot in the 53rd minute. A Ronaldo header edged Madrid back into supremacy, before Ramos put through his own net.

All square after 90 minutes, at a tense Bernabeu. But the 78,000-strong crowd were soon in raptures, as the home side suddenly found another gear. The Portuguese talisman netted twice more in extra-time, before Marco Asencio put the icing on the cake with a sublime solo goal. Once again…wow.

Semi-Finals

Real Madrid 3-0 Atletico Madrid

If the second leg against Bayern was an exhausting, epic event, this was something of a surprise cakewalk for Real against their off-form local rivals, who offered little resistance against ruthlessly efficient opposition.

Once again it was that man Ronaldo who did the damage, scoring all three in a virtuoso display. A lethal finish for the second was the best of the 32-year-old’s hat-trick, but in truth the hosts could well have chalked up five or six goals on the night.

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid

A pair of early goals from Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann had the visiting fans worried at the Vicente Calderon, but an Isco tap-in late in the first period gave them some breathing space. As for the second half, Real produced a disciplined, solid defensive display more often associated with their cross-city rivals.

In Saturday’s final, Real Madrid are 33/20 to win in 90 minutes, with Zidane’s side narrow favourites to lift the trophy at 4/5.

And having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat so many times during this UCL campaign, you can’t overlook the 14/1 on Real to win from behind in 90 minutes.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.