Champions League: Real remain kings of Europe

Champions League: Real remain kings of Europe

Real Madrid's 12th European Cup and third Champions League triumph in four years on Saturday, becoming the first team to retain the trophy in the competition's expanded format, demonstrated their power over the rest of Europe. Against Real Betis in March, he was lucky to avoid a red card before fumbling Antonio Sanabria's strike over the line, but Madrid ran out 2-1 winners.

Defeated at the final hurdle in 2003 and 2015, the 39-year-old admitted in the build-up to the Cardiff showdown he could not let slip this chance to finally get hold of the only major trophy to elude him.

Bale said ahead of the final that he was fully fit, but Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane opted to start with Francisco "Isco" Alarcon in his place.

"Zidane gave us a very positive halftime team talk and told us he really believed in us", the Portuguese added.

In doing so, he reached 600 career goals with plenty more surely to come.

Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 on Saturday in the final in Cardiff, Wales, becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles in the Champions League era. It's always cagey in a final but we're happy with the win. When the stars didn't play, the youngsters did and they did well.

"I can't say whether I'll stay for the rest of my life but I'm so grateful for the club for everything it has given me", Zidane told a news conference.

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

The Frenchman, who won the Champions League as a legendary player for Real between 2001 and 2006, has enjoyed spectacular success since taking his first role in senior management just 18 months ago.

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.

The "BBC" strike force has disintegrated, with Karim Benzema working hard but not particularly unsafe alongside Ronaldo, while persistent injuries have spoiled Gareth Bale's season.

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.

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