MILAN – Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines with the winning kick in a penalty shootout in the Champions League final, more than compensating for what was a quiet game by his standards.
Ronaldo's decisive spot kick in the shootout gave Real Madrid a 5-3 victory on penalties over city rival Atletico Madrid, following a 1-1 draw after extra time in Saturday's final.
Pictures of him ripping off his shirt in celebration will be splashed on the front pages but, unlike his previous two successes in the competition, Ronaldo failed to impose himself on the match.
"My performance maybe wasn't the best one but who play unbelievable tonight? No one," Ronaldo said. "It's tough. It's the end of the season, you don't have power in your legs that you have at beginning of the season. But I did my best. I helped the team, I run, and we win. That's the most important."
The former Manchester United player has struggled with injury in recent months.
Ronaldo missed a few games late in the season — including the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Manchester City — because of a right-leg muscle problem.
The 31-year-old also left Madrid's training session early on Tuesday following a collision with reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
"No, he wasn't injured (tonight)," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "He was there like all of the other players, and he gave us the victory. So, no, he wasn't injured. He's always been very positive, helped his teammates."
Ronaldo was bidding to break his own record of 17 goals set in the 2013-14 tournament, but was a fairly anonymous figure for most of the match.
He had a shot blocked in the 23rd minute and also late on in normal time amid a flurry of attempts which concluded with a Gareth Bale effort being cleared off the line a minute before Atletico equalized.
Ronaldo also wasted a good chance early in extra time when his downward header struck defender Filipe Luis and looped into Jan Oblak's hands.
He believed the lengthy break between the end of the Spanish season and the final was partly to blame for his mediocre performance.
"The break 15 days is a lot," he said. "I hope the next years they do it with short moments because 15 days to prepare the Champions League you break a lot. As you see in the pitch every player was tired, feel cramp in the legs. It's tough and it was very hot."
Ronaldo missed a spotkick in Manchester United's victory over Chelsea in the 2008 final but had no hesitation in taking the most important kick this time.
"I was confident I would score," Ronaldo said. "I said to Zidane before the penalties, "Zidane, put me the last one because I feel I'm going to score the winning goal" so this is what happened.
"I'm so proud to score the winning goal and to win the Champions League again."
With Ronaldo failing to impose himself on the match, it was Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos — who was later named Man of the Match — that shone for the victors.
The duo combined for Madrid's goal in the 15th minute. Bale won the free kick and headed it on for Sergio Ramos to bundle in.
"We started the game very well," Bale said after winning his second Champions League in three seasons. "First 20 minutes we wanted to do high pressure and hopefully nick that goal to make the game a bit more open and we did that. You have to suffer a little bit in finals, they're a good team themselves.
"One of those nights you're just happy to get the win."