Twelfth knight!

Twelfth knight!

“BE NOT afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them,” wrote William Shakespeare in his play Twelfth Night.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane again proved last week that they had a magnetic attraction towards greatness as Real Madrid defended the Champions League title in telling fashion, thrashing Juventus 4-1. As for Real, they always believe greatness is their destiny.

The numbers supporting their marvel are just unbelievable.

It was the 12th Champions League title for Real Madrid, the most successful football club on earth. For their talisman Ronaldo, who is supposed to be in the twilight of his career, it was a ninth trophy in 372 days for Real and Portugal. While Zidane, a former World Cup and Euro Championship winner with France and who also has won Champions League titles with Real as both player and coach, added a league and European trophy double to his fledgling managerial career.

Among all this clatter and excitement, their mighty opponents Juventus were reduced to the role of supporting cast. But it was not the case, in the first half at least.

For a few magical moments in the 27th minute, Juventus, known for their steady, disciplined game, looked slightly less Juventus, and it was a sight to behold.

Andrea Barzagli, Alex Sandro, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic appeared like a bunch of Brazilian boys on a beach playing ‘keepie uppie’ as they passed the ball among themselves and when the Croatian forward chested down the ball and sent it to the back of the net with an acrobatic overhead kick, it was just breathtaking.

Juve, after going down to Ronaldo’s equally stunning opener in the 20th minute, were back on level terms and were suddenly calling the shots when German referee Felix Brych blew half-time whistle.

But they yet again looked so unlike themselves after the breather, and this time, for the worse.

As Juve’s rock-solid defence looked anything but, Real were being just Real.

Keylor Navas came up with a splendid save to deny Miralem Pjanic in the first half when Juve were the most threatening, and remained solid throughout.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric ran the midfield, Casemiro provided added protection to the defence and came up with a crucial second goal — a deflected strike from distance in the 61st minute — while Isco popped up everywhere to add to the Italians’ confusion.

Left-back Marcelo relished his challenge with Brazil team-mate Dani Alves while Dani Carvajal came back from injury to prove the fears of Juve targeting their right flank were unfounded. Captain Sergio Ramos fought like a colossus and even found time to crumble as if he was felled by a poleaxe to get Juve substitute Juan Cuadrado his second yellow card, which he did not deserve.

Ronaldo scored another goal, ghosting behind Leonardo Bonucci and  Giorgio Chiellini to slot home Modric’s cutback in the 64th to squeeze the life out of Juve, and when substitute Marco Asensio (90) scored the fourth, Juve players appeared completely drained out.

As they were outplayed on the pitch, from Gianluigi Buffon in the goal to Gonzalo Higuain up front, all looking clueless, Zidane, whose half-time talk seemed to have worked like a charm, was basking in glory on the touchline, wearing a dapper suit and a genial smile. Remarkably, his time has only started. 

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