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Madrid's trump card

Published: Wednesday 15 May 2002, 23.45CET
Zinedine Zidane's desire proves decisive.
Published: Wednesday 15 May 2002, 23.45CET

Madrid's trump card

Zinedine Zidane's desire proves decisive.

Zinedine Zidane's burning desire to claim the one trophy which had so far eluded him in a glittering career manifested itself in a quite wonderful strike which secured another UEFA Champions League crown for Real Madrid CF at the expense of a Bayer 04 Leverkusen side who end yet another season of promise without silverware.

First-choice team: Madrid coach Vicente Del Bosque had indicated ahead of the game that Claude Makalele, his only injury concern, was fit to play and the French international duly lined up alongside fellow countryman Zidane in central midfield, albeit in a deeper role, with Luis Figo and Santiago Solari adding skill and industry to the right and left of them respectively.

Pack shuffled: In contrast, Klaus Toppmöller, the Leverkusen coach, was forced to shuffle his pack through injury and suspension. Croatian international Boris Zizkovic made the short move from right-back to central defence to partner the majestic Lucio in the absence of captain Jens Nowotny, while Thomas Brdaric, for 37 minutes at least, filled a void created by Zé Roberto's suspension.

Passing combinations: Madrid's 7-3 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the 1960 European Champion Clubs' Cup was the finest exhibition of club football ever seen and the Merengues looked in the mood to put in another such performance in the opening ten minutes at Hampden Park. Del Bosque's side employed quick passing combinations to keep the ball moving early on in an attempt to heighten any 'miedo escénico' - stage fright - that first-time finalists Leverkusen may have been experiencing.

Tactical throw-ins: Roberto Carlos was seemingly detailed to take throw-ins with urgency for Raúl González and Fernando Morientes to chase down behind the Leverkusen back-line. One such move early on nearly created an opening before Raúl found the first goal with a delicate touch from an exocet of a throw from Carlos. If the goal was to spark the rout that many predicted then Leverkusen had not read the script.

Instinctces followed: Like at Old Trafford, when they fell behind in the first leg of their semi-final, Toppmöller gave Lucio, a defender of notable skill, licence to follow his instinct for where he could be most effective: which proved to be five metres in front of goal as the Brazilian headed in an equalising goal. His header knocked Madrid out of their stride and Leverkusen enjoyed their best period of play, with Michael Ballack, increasingly influential in the centre of the park, ably supported by the willing running and aggressive tackling of Brdaric and Bernd Schneider.

Exquisite goal: It was not only Carsten Ramelow's shock of blond hair that made him stand out as the defensive midfield player nullified the influence of Zidane, who was dropping wide left to collect the ball, by dashing from his position just in front of Lucio and Zivkovic to close down the French master whenever he broke out of midfield. When Zidane was afforded a modicum of space, in the final minute of the first half, he sent a volley with his left foot high into Hans-Jörg Butt's net for a quite exquisite goal which Toppmoller's containing tactics could not allow for.

Supply-line cut: Leverkusen lost their way after the break, a half in which they desperately lacked Ze Roberto's ability to craft openings off the cuff, as the Madrid midfield cut out the supply line to the front two. Formations and tactics were disregarded late on as Leverkusen laid siege to the Madrid goal in search of a leveller but three-top class saves in the closing minutes from Iker Casillas, a 68th-minute substitute for the injured César Sánchez, ensured Madrid claimed a ninth European title.

Zinedine Zidane: Much of the pre-match hype and hyperbole had been dedicated to a delicious confrontation in the centre of the park between Zidane and Ballack. While Ballack probed without quite finding a defining touch, Zidane's mastery proved sufficient to settle an even encounter and finally give the Madridistas something to celebrate in a centenary season which will forever be defined by his winning volley.

Last updated: 16/05/02 6.20CET

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