• Two-goal Ronaldo keeps Madrid kings of Europe

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    Real Madrid’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match between Juventus and Real Madrid at The Principality Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales. AFP PHOTO

    CARDIFF, UK: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid crushed Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era.

    The Portugal superstar’s opener was cancelled out by an astonishing Mario Mandzukic strike, but goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo and Marco Asensio secured Madrid’s third Champions League triumph in four years and 12th in total.

    Now a four-time Champions League winner, Ronaldo finished as the competition’s top scorer for the fifth season running, substantially enhancing his chances of matching eternal rival Lionel Messi’s tally of five Ballons d’Or.

    “We’re very happy to be the first team to win the Champions League in two consecutive years,” said Ronaldo, who has now scored exactly 600 goals for club and country over the course of his extraordinary career.

    “I finished the season very well. It is another record, a record that these players deserve and we are delighted.”

    Zinedine Zidane, a head coach for only 17 months, became the first manager to oversee back-to-back European Cup successes since Arrigo Sacchi’s fabled AC Milan team won the tournament in 1989 and 1990.

    “It’s a tremendous joy for the players and for this immense club,” Zidane told beIN Sports Spain.

    “I am happy because it is not easy to win things like La Liga and the Champions League and this year we did it with hard work and desire.”

    Victory crowned a glorious season for Madrid, who has pulled off a La Liga and European Cup double for the first time since 1958, having also won the Club World Cup and European Super Cup.

    Zidane’s joy was his former club Juve’s despair, Massimiliano Allegri’s side crashing to a fifth successive defeat in Champions League finals and seventh in total, extending their own desperately unwanted record.

    The first Champions League final to be played beneath a closed roof saw Juve hit their heads against a familiar ceiling as they missed out on a chance to complete the first Treble in their history.

    The Italian champions also had substitute Juan Cuadrado sent off after he was shown a second yellow card for a gentle push on Sergio Ramos that drew a lamentable overreaction from the Madrid skipper.

    Mandzukic masterpiece
    Kick-off at the Principality Stadium was delayed by two minutes due to an elaborate pre-match ceremony involving American pop act the Black Eyed Peas and when play got under way, Juve settled first.

    Gonzalo Higuain worked Keylor Navas twice, while Miralem Pjanic’s snappy half-volley forced the Madrid goalkeeper to produce a smart one-handed save.

    Madrid drew first blood in the 20th minute when Ronaldo flicked the ball wide to Dani Carvajal before artfully sweeping the Spaniard’s return pass into the bottom-left corner via a nick off Leonardo Bonucci.

    It was a fine strike, and it made Ronaldo the first player to have scored in three finals in the Champions League era, but it was cancelled out by Mandzukic’s masterpiece, one of the great European Cup final goals.

    Bonucci’s flighted pass from deep was volleyed into the box by Alex Sandro and Higuain chested the ball down before teeing it up for Mandzukic.

    The Croatian forward took a touch with his chest and then, as he fell, hooked a sublime volley over Navas’s despairing dive and beneath the crossbar.

    But after the break, it was Zidane’s men who set the tempo.

    Luka Modric had a 25-yard effort caught by Gianluigi Buffon and Marcelo narrowly failed to pick out Ronaldo with a cross from the left before Casemiro put Madrid ahead in the 61st minute.

    A loose ball broke to him on the edge of the box and the Brazilian midfielder unleashed a right-foot shot that flicked off the heels of Madrid old boy Sami Khedira before spinning past the helpless Buffon.

    Three minutes later it was game over as Ronaldo netted his 12th goal in this season’s tournament, moving a goal clear of Messi, and 105th overall.

    Modric sped to the byline on the right and crossed and Ronaldo darted ahead of Bonucci at the near post to guide a shot past Buffon.

    Cardiff native Gareth Bale made an appearance as a late replacement for Karim Benzema, having been out since April 23 with a calf injury.

    Alex Sandro headed wide from a Dani Alves free-kick, but Juve’s fire went out when Cuadrado was given his marching orders and substitute Asensio added to their misery with a late tap-in from Marcelo’s cut-back.

    AFP

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