Atletico Madrid’s history in the UEFA Champions League Final

Atletico Madrid’s history in the Champions League Final isn’t as rich as the team they are going to be facing on Saturday. Real Madrid has been to more finals since 2000 than Atletico Madrid have been to in their club’s history. That history is much more heartbreaking, however.

Two finals appearances, one in 1974 and again 40 years later in 2014, both ended in last-minute defeats that have haunted the Spanish side. Madrid will look to avenge the ghosts of their Champions League past, ghosts that were born in the 120th minute of a match played in Belgium all the way back in 1974.

1974- Bayern Munich 1-1 Atletico Madrid
            Bayern Munich 4-0 Atletico Madrid (replay)

Atletico Madrid’s first trip to the Champion’s League Final then called the European Cup, they came up against another side making their first final appearance. Unfortunately for Madrid, that side was Bayern Munich, who would go on to win the tournament three consecutive times.

Getting to the final only to lose to a Bayern Munich team that featured some of Germany’s all-time greats doesn’t see so bad in the context of history. But when you consider that Atletico was seconds away from the trophy, it has to leave a bitter taste to all those old enough to remember.

Atletico came into the final with a sterling defensive record. They only allowed 2 goals in the entire tournament leading up to the final. No goals were allowed in any away match, just to put a point on how good they were at the back. Their defense came up big for 119 minutes against Bayern as well, keeping the German’s at bay well into extra time.

After 114 minutes Luis Aragonés took a free kick and beat Sepp Maier. Atletico was about to do it, they just had to hold on for 6 more minutes.

It wasn’t to be, however. Minutes later Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck took a shot from distance that managed to surprise everyone in a striped shirt. Schwarzenbeck was a center back, he partnered with Franz Beckenbauer for most os his career, and he was never much of a goal threat. This evening, however, he made a short lumbering run and was given time and space to shoot by the Atletico defense. From 30 yards out Schwarzenbeck fizzed a low shot that beat Miguel Reina. Bayern had equalized, they had forced a replay.

In the replay, Bayern managed to score 4 times without reply.  Uli Hoeness and Gerd Müller both scored a pair of goals as Bayern would rout  Madrid. The Bavarians would go on to win two more European Cups in 1975 and 1976. Atletico, meanwhile, wouldn’t be back for another 40 years.

2014- Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid

Inspired by their manager, Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid made it back to the Champions League finals to face a familiar foe. After beating AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea in the three rounds prior, Atletico looked like they could beat anyone in 2014, and they nearly did. They allowed only 3 goals in the knockout stages of that year’s Champions League.

Their opponent, however, was on a mission. Real Madrid hadn’t won a Champions League since 2002, and while Atletico would have loved to have had that kind of drought, for Los Blancos, it was beginning to become an embarrassment. Real Madrid sat on nine Champions League titles and wanted desperately to make it an even 10. After touring Germany in the knockout stages, beating Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern Munich, Real were finally back in a final for the first time since 2002.

Real Madrid, started out shaky. The pressure was very much on the nine-times winners, and Atletico took advantage. A blunder by Iker Casillas gave Atletico a first half lead.

In the second half, Real pushed hard for an equalizer. The match began to look as if it was only a matter of time before Real scored. In the third minute of extra time, again as in 1974, the match went on a few seconds too long for Atletico. Sergio Ramos managed to get his head to a corner and sent the final into extra time.

In extra time, Real was in even more control, as Atletico looked deflated. Gareth Bale, who had a plethora of chances earlier in the match made it 2-1. Eight minutes later Marcelo made it 3-1. Two minutes after that, Ronaldo made it 4-1. Atletico was defeated.

Atletico will get an opportunity to take revenge on their city rival on Saturday. But it’s more than that. It’s a chance to take revenge on nearly 40 years of heartbreaking history. Twice now, Atletico Madrid have had their hearts broken by a Centerback seconds before they would have been crowned champions instead. If Atletico has a lead late at the San Siro, every fan in red in white will be holding their breath remembering 40 plus years of club history, hoping that same history doesn’t repeat itself.

About Harrison Prolic

Northern Illinois graduate with a degree in Journalism. Full-time page designer in Madison, Wisconsin. Part time follower of all things German soccer. I tweet about the Bundesliga and plenty of other sports @hprolic.