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Champions League final 2024: Madrid and off-colour Bellingham get the job done

The win caps a wonderful first season in Madrid for England international Bellingham

Dani Carvajal

Jude Bellingham: La Liga champion; Champions League winner. The fairytale continues.

Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over a gallant Borussia Dortmund at Wembley flattered them – second-half goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jnr masking a largely off-colour performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

But Madrid do what they always do, they get the job done.

In truth, Bellingham was poor but, come the final whistle, he was dancing around the centre circle in tears of happiness.

It’s hoped it’s a sight that is replicated in Berlin on July 14.

Early struggles

Bellingham spent the first 45 minutes on the fringes of what was developing into a fine game.

It’s easy to forget he is only 20 and was playing in the biggest game of his club career. Early nerves were apparent as he gave the ball away twice in the opening stages with Ancelotti’s highly-fancied side struggling to make any headway against a well-organised Dortmund defence.

Emre Can was handed the job of shackling the Madrid dangerman and he did so by utilising a mix of brutish force – the former Liverpool man twice catching the England international in the first 30 minutes – and clever positioning, denying Bellingham the space in which he likes to operate.

With Madrid’s much vaunted front three of Bellingham, Vinicius Jnr and Rodrygo offering little, Dortmund started to believe and they ought to have gone into the break at least one goal ahead.

Karim Adeyemi used his lightning speed to get in behind the Madrid defence but took a heavy touch in trying to round Thibaut Courtois and the chance was lost. Niclas Fullkrug then poked a shot against a post although VAR may have intervened had the ball trickled into the net.

Adeyemi saw another effort saved by Courtois while the Belgium goalkeeper also did well to palm clear a Marcel Sabitzer drive.

With four Champions League crowns already under his belt, Ancelotti was never gong to panic but he would have demanded greater fluency from his side, and Bellingham in particular, during the half-time interval.

Did Bellingham improve after the break?

He partially got his wish with Madrid offering marginally more as an attacking force. Toni Kroos almost marked his final club appearance with a goal via a fantastic free-kick that drew a good save from Gregor Kobel before Carvajal almost snuck in at the far post to convert Vinicius Jnr’s cross.

Bellingham’s contribution remained limited, however, with one needless flick going straight out of play.

When he did get in position to make a significant impact he fluffed his lines, failing to make contact on a delightful cross from Vinicius Jnr that required the merest of touches to send it past the flailing Kobel.

No matter. If boy wonder couldn’t get it done, one of Madrid’s wily veterans was on hand to bail him out. Six minutes later, Kroos’ delivery from a left-wing corner was inch-perfect and Carvajal rose highest to glance a header past Kobel.

Madrid had found their swagger and Bellingham ought to have ended the game as a contest after 77 minutes only for a heavy first touch to allow Nico Schlotterbeck to get the slightest touch on his goalbound shot.

It was still proving a frustrating night for the former Birmingham City man but he finally made a significant contribution with seven minutes to go, seizing on a woeful square pass from Ian Maatsen to slip in Vinicius Jnr, who made no mistake to make it 2-0.

It was to prove his final act as he made way shortly afterwards, alongside Kroos, who deservedly took the acclaim of the Madrid fans for one last time.

There won’t be another club final for Germany great Kroos, who will slip gracefully into retirement after this summer’s Euros, but there will surely be plenty more for Bellingham.

He was a long way from his best tonight but he still ends his first season in Madrid as a double winner.

Not bad for the boy from Brum.

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.