Kroos hands baton to Bellingham as Carvajal and Vinicius goals seal 15th Champions League for Real Madrid

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Real Madrid last lost a European Cup/Champions League final in 1981, to Bob Paisley’s Liverpool. Since then, they have won nine straight finals, which is simply unreal. It was also in 1981 that the second movie in the Friday the 13th horror franchise came out. Appropriate really, since like Jason in those movies, Real Madrid never die. Comprehensively outplayed for the best part of an hour at Wembley, they moved through the gears when it mattered, beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 with goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior. It was their sixth Champions League win in 11 seasons, and a fifth triumph for Carlo Ancelotti as manager. No one else has won more than three. 

Back in 2013, Dortmund came to Wembley and were beaten 2-1, with Arjen Robben scoring the decisive goal for Bayern Munich in the 89th minute. Jurgen Klopp, on the touchline for Dortmund that night, was in the stands watching on Saturday. Marco Reus, an integral part of that Dortmund side, started this final on the bench. And how cruel it was that Real scored just a minute after Reus was introduced by Edin Terzic. 

It was no surprise either that the breakthrough came from a Toni Kroos set piece. He had served warning earlier in the second half with a brilliant curling free kick that Gregor Kobel tipped over. But when a corner was swung in, Carvajal rose highest to glance a powerful header inside the far post. 

Nine minutes later, with Dortmund looking deflated and bereft of energy, it was as good as over. Ian Maatsen had been outstanding for Dortmund all evening from full back, but a horribly casual square ball in front of his defence saw Jude Bellingham nip in and take the ball. He immediately played in Vinicius, and the finish, though poked into the ground, had enough power to beat Kobel. Having scored the winner in the 2022 final, Vinicius showed again just how much he loves the big stage.   

Bellingham, who spent three seasons with Dortmund before moving to Madrid last summer, is now almost certain to win the Ballon D’Or. But in truth, he and his teammates were so lucky to go into half time on level terms. Dortmund played through the lines with ease. Julian Brandt and Emre Can set the tone in midfield, and Kroos, Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga struggled to exert any sort of control. 

Ultimately, though, football is about scoring goals and winning matches. Dortmund couldn’t do that. Karim Adeyemi played on the shoulder of the last defender, and beat the offside trap time after time. On one occasion, he rounded Thibaut Courtois, but the angle was too acute to apply the finish. Courtois also produced two sensational saves, one off an Adeyemi strike and another early in the second half from a Nicolas Fullkrug diving header. 

Courtois, who missed most of the season injured, was Player of the Match in the 2022 final against Liverpool after making nine saves. He didn’t need such heroics this time, but once again, his command of his area and timely saves were central to Real’s success. 

“I’ve always dreamed of playing in these games,” Bellingham told TNT Sports after the match. “You go through life and there are so many people saying you can’t do things and days like today remind you why…”

Ancelotti, as ever, made sure it was all about his players. “It was not difficult to manage this squad this season,” he told the broadcaster. “I do not know what we are going to do, but for sure we are not going to sleep!”

From next season, the Champions League will see a change in format after decades. But the more things change, the more they’ll stay the same. Real are on the verge of signing Kylian Mbappe. Those aspiring to knock them off their perch may as well pack up and go home.