Mo­dric pulls the strings

Play­maker is the man as Madrid cruise to a 12th Champions League title

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS AND DPA

RON­ALDO un­der­stand­ably took the ac­co­lades as his two goals helped to fire Real Madrid to a 12th Euro­pean Cup but fun­da­men­tal to their tri­umph over Ju­ven­tus on Satur­day was mid­fielder Luka Mo­dric.

Madrid ran out 4-1 win­ners in the fi­nal at Cardiff’s Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium but en­dured a tough first half with Ju­ven­tus dom­i­nat­ing the play un­til Croa­t­ian Mo­dric took con­trol of the game.

The score was at 1-1 af­ter Ron­aldo had net­ted against the run of play and Mario Mandzu­kic had equalised but Ju­ven­tus were cre­at­ing the bet­ter chances and Gian­luigi Buf­fon’s net had oth­er­wise gone un­trou­bled.

How­ever, with Mo­dric’s steady­ing in­flu­ence in­creas­ing, the tide turned in favour of Zine­dine Zi­dane’s side and they stormed to vic­tory, fir­ing more goals past Buf­fon than the three he had con­ceded in the rest of the tour­na­ment.

Gareth Bale, like Mo­dric a for­mer Tot­ten­ham player, had been the fo­cus of the build-up to the game but Mo­dric proved cru­cial to Madrid’s suc­cess­ful de­fence of the title.

“The first half was even. Ju­ven­tus came out strong. We didn’t have pos­ses­sion,” Zi­dane said af­ter the tri­umph.

“The sec­ond half was bet­ter. I told them to con­tinue with what we were do­ing but putting more pres­sure on them and play­ing with more width.”

With Madrid play­ing a 4-4-2 for­ma­tion with a di­a­mond mid­field and fea­tur­ing no tra­di­tional wingers, the onus fell on Mo­dric and Toni Kroos to oc­cupy wider spa­ces.

Mo­dric cre­ated Ron­aldo’s sec­ond goal from the right wing, el­e­gantly skip­ping to­wards the by­line be­fore pulling back the ball for Ron­aldo to smash home and ef­fec­tively kill the game.

Be­yond his assist, the 31-year-old’s elegance on the ball, his eye for a pass and ca­pac­ity for making the right de­ci­sions, helped to open up an­gles for Real Madrid to hit Ju­ven­tus time af­ter time on the break.

“(Zi­dane) said that we need to be more ag­gres­sive, to not al­low Juve to keep the ball eas­ily like they did in the first half af­ter our goal,” Mo­dric ex­plained.

“We feel we are an amaz­ing team and need to just keep do­ing what we are do­ing be­cause I think we can win many more ti­tles in the fu­ture.”

While Ron­aldo is the man who ap­plies the killer blow, Mo­dric is the team’s strate­gist, qui­etly work­ing to cre­ate av­enues and open­ings for Madrid to cap­i­talise on.

Mo­dric cre­ated his own piece of history, too, be­com­ing the first Croa­t­ian to win the competition three times, mov­ing ahead of for­mer AC Milan de­fender Dario Simic, who lifted the cup in 2003 and 2007.

Mean­while, Ju­ven­tus added a sev­enth dark dot on their map of Champions League fi­nals.

It was the Bian­coneri’s heav­i­est de­feat in their nine fi­nals and left them chas­ing a tro­phy they last lifted, for the sec­ond time, in 1996.

Juve’s prospects were good go­ing into the game un­beaten with just three goals con­ceded in the cam­paign and hav­ing won do­mes­tic league and cup for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive sea­son.

But the Old Lady man­aged to match Real only in the first half and then fail­ing to keep the switch of pace from the Span­ish champions.

“What a down­fall!” ti­tled the daily news­pa­per Cor­riere dello Sport yes­ter­day, while La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote: “Higuain and Dy­bala dis­ap­peared – What a black­out for BBC,” not­ing the poor show­ing of Ar­gen­tinian strik­ers Gon­zalo Higuain and Paulo Dy­bala as the famed de­fence trio Leonardo Bonucci, An­drea Barza­gli and Gior­gio Chiellini failed to con­tain Por­tu­gal star Ron­aldo.

Juve goal­keep­ing cap­tain Buf­fon spoke of “mas­sive dis­ap­point­ment” af­ter los­ing his third fi­nal.

“In the first half our ap­proach was spot on and we had Real on the ropes,” Buf­fon said. “We put a lot of run­ning in but we weren’t al­ways clever with it and couldn’t take the lead.”

Juve, as it of­ten hap­pens, reaped less than what they sowed due to their lack of pre­ci­sion, which proved fa­tal against the ruth­less Spa­niards.

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