Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Real Madrid, Juve to face off in final

SCARE:Atletico had threatened to pull off an incredible comeback when they scored two inside 16 minutes, but Isco’s goal just before halftime settled Real’s nerves


Real Madrid’s Isco, left, scores past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, second right, in their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Zinedine Zidane said he would have no divided loyalties after leading Real Madrid to a second consecutive UEFA Champions League final where they will meet his old club Juventus on June 3.

Real on Wednesday withstood a first-half onslaught from city rivals Atletico Madrid to progress 4-2 on aggregate, despite losing their semi-final, second leg 2-1.

Italian champions Juventus await, who Zidane left when he first joined Real as a player in 2001.

“For sure it is special because it was a very important club for me as a player. It is a club that also gave me everything,” Zidane said. “Now, though, I am with Real Madrid, the club of my life and it will be a great final.”

Zidane admitted ahead of December last year’s round-of-16 draw that Juventus were the team he wanted to avoid due to his respect for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who eased past AS Monaco 4-1 on aggregate in the other semi-final.

“I can’t do anything about it now,” Zidane said. “They have got to the final and deserve to be there, as do we.”

Ultimately, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-leg hat-trick proved the difference as for the fourth straight season Real eliminated Atletico from the Champions League.

Atletico had threatened to pull off an incredible comeback, Saul Niguez’s powerful header and Antoine Griezmann’s penalty inside 16 minutes cutting Real’s aggregate lead to a solitary goal, but Isco’s away goal just before halftime settled Real’s nerves and left Atletico with too much to do to progress.

“We knew they would start very strongly,” Ronaldo said. “They had the luck to score two goals, but we know that if we scored that would kill them. They played well, but we have more experience.”

Real can now make history by becoming the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

However, Zidane preferred to highlight the strength of his squad, rather than his own role in a remarkably successful run since he took his first senior managerial job 17 months ago.

“I am delighted. I am the coach which means I am doing something right, but everyone in this squad is doing a phenomenal job,” he said. “The squad should get the credit because it is they who are playing, running, fighting on the field.”

Despite the disappointment of bowing out to Real once more, Atletico boss Diego Simeone beamed with pride at his side’s performance.

“I am happy and proud that once again we have shown why we are competing at the top level just behind Real Madrid and Barcelona,” the Argentine said. “When we said that we believed we could come back some thought it was just words.”

Atletico were inspired by a sensational atmosphere on their final ever Champions League game at the Vicente Calderon before moving to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano next season.

“The atmosphere was one of those magical moments in the Calderon that will live in people’s memories forever,” Simeone said.

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