Champions League: Real Madrid ride their luck before cruising to another Cha...

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Published Time: 02.06.2024 - 00:01:44 Modified Time: 02.06.2024 - 00:01:44

That chance was largely down to Thibaut Courtois, the man with the Victor Wembanyama wingspan and the nerves of an F1 driver. The big Belgian goalkeeper made himself even bigger -- like those blowfish who double or triple in size -- to force Karim Adeyemi wide of goal when he was through one-on-one. And because, for all his blistering speed, Adeyemi sometimes has the delicate touch of an Amazon delivery guy, he ended up taking the ball far enough wide that Dani Carvajal was able to trundle across, cover the goal line and snuff out the danger. Champions League, Champions League final, ucl, Real Madrid, dortmund vs real madrid, ucl final, real madrid vs dortmund, UEFA Champions League, Dortmund, UEFA Champions League final, champions league final 2024, madrid vs dortmund, where to watch champions league final, Borussia Dortmund

• Getafe vs. Mallorca (7:50 a.m.) • Leeds vs. Southampton (9:55 a.m.) • Las Palmas vs. Alaves (10:05 a.m.) • Celta Vigo vs. Valencia (10:05 a.m.) • Sevilla vs. Barcelona (2:30 p.m.)

• Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. Bochum (2 p.m.)

Each chance had a theme: transition. When Madrid lost possession, the opposition took off upfield in numbers, exploiting Adeyemi's wheels and Marcel Sabitzer's timing in the inside-right channel. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Real Madrid would have the bulk of possession and spend more time in the opposition half. That part of the script was being followed. What was unexpected, however, was the Spanish champions' difficulty in converting all that territory and possession into goals or even concrete chances. (At half-time, Dortmund led the xG battle 1.68 to 0.09.)

Credit a very well-marshalled Dortmund defence -- not something you expect to hear -- and a phenomenal work rate, with Adeyemi and Jadon Sancho doubling up in the wide areas, but also their ability to turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye. It left Madrid frustrated -- as evidenced by Vinicius' late lunge on goalkeeper Gregor Kobel that earned him a yellow card in the first half -- and unable to muster much more than a couple of longer-range strikes.

But then came Madrid's mulligan, and this time, there wouldn't be any bogeys. Other than a Fullkrug header, there were few signs of Dortmund's attacking threat after the break, and Madrid gradually grew into the game, like a boxer who knows his opponent is spent and starts feeling confident.

Real Madrid rode their luck and dug deep to pull off a 15th European title, scoring twice in the second half to sink Borussia Dortmund. Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Bellingham and Kobel both fanned on Eduardo Camavinga's chipped ball into the box. The Englishman, who was not having a great game, took a moment and grabbed the post with both hands, bowing his head. For an instant, you wondered if he was going to rip it out of the ground out of frustration. Instead, he turned, shook his head and jogged back. If you looked closely, you might even have seen a wry smile, as if he knew "we got this."

Moments later, Vinicius -- another star with a first half to forget -- showed just why this is a sport created by the divine for the enjoyment of humans. With veteran defender Mats Hummels advancing toward him as he advanced down the flank, he quickly sent the ball one way, went the other way, collected the ball again and then nutmegged Julian Ryerson by the touchline a few steps later. There was so much beauty, grace, impudence and agility in one move that it served as a reminder of what Madrid could serve up. And that they were beginning to feel it.

It was the prelude to the goal: not a thing of beauty in isolation, but a moment of cunning and patience. Toni Kroos, playing his final game of club football after announcing his retirement, sent a corner that Dani Carvajal redirected past Kobel, stealing a jump on Fullkrug. Madrid 1, Dortmund 0. There were less than 15 minutes left on the clock, but there was already an air of permanence as if some prophecy had been fulfilled.