'An intense and difficult match': Zidane

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Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Real Madrid claimed an unprecedented ninth European Cup title by beating Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final at Hampden Park, Scotland on Wednesday. A stunning strike from Zinedine Zidane on the stroke of half-time gave the Spanish giants a 2-1 win to ensure the club's centenary year ended with some silverware. Bayer Leverkusen's run to the final was a delightfully unexpected event for most Champions League followers this season. But, after collecting a host of notable scalps upon the way, the German club could not find a way past Madrid at Hampden Park on Wednesday. After the 2-1 defeat, their colourful coach Klaus Toppmoller praised his sides performance, while admitting that they could have done more to stop Real from scoring. "I told the team that it's our own fault for the goals we conceded," Toppmoller said and added, "we knew Roberto Carlos can throw the ball 35 meters and we lost concentration after Bernd Schneider put the ball out. And then we conceded another goal just before half time. Up until then we were doing well and I knew we would have more opportunities to score in the second half. I knew we should go forward more and try to score again and we nearly did right at the very end." After finishing runners-up in the Primera Liga, Madrid coach Vincente Del Bosque now has some silverware to place within the Real trophy cabinet to mark their centenary year. Del Bosque now has a record that would be the envy of all European managers - this was his second European Cup success in three seasons as coach. "It was a very intense match, a very difficult match against opponents who, as we saw, played right to the very end. We are happy because it is a special year for Madrid and we have reaped some benefit. I am very pleased with how we played, I think we were excellent," was how Del Bosque put his team's win. Del Bosque handed over the man of the match award to the match winner - Zinedine Zidane. Just before the interval, the French midfielder smashed home a sumptuous volley that rocketed into the top corner of the net - a goal that more than matched the occassion. For the ever modest 'Zizou', the spectacular shot helped to erase the memories of his previous two Champions League final defeats with Juventus in 1997 and 1998. "Yes, it's true, it was my third final. It was necessary to win, it was simply a huge satisfaction for the team, but at the same time it was difficult," said Zidane. Steve McManaman scored for Real in their win over Valencia two years ago and although he did not get on the scoresheet this time out, his second winners medal was still worth savouring. "I'm not a man who celebrates outwardly but I'm very satisfied. This year we've come close on numerous occasions, we've been very consistent this year but haven't managed to win anything - so to come away with this medal tonight is very important," thought McManaman. The Spanish giants' last visit to Hampden Park saw them annihilate Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the European Cup final in 1960. Wednesday's victory may not have been quite as spectacular, but there is little doubt that this current side is worthy of comparison to those all-conquering greats of yesteryear.

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