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Bale's Euro vision becomes reality
Gareth Bale described lifting the Champions League trophy with Real Madrid as "a dream come true" after he scored the decisive goal in Lisbon.
With a pulsating final between city rivals Real and Atletico Madrid finely poised at 1-1, Bale struck five minutes into the second period of extra time to break the hearts of the recently-crowned Primera Division champions.
Having missed several chances throughout normal time, including a clear-cut opportunity when through on goal when the tie was still goalless, Bale held his nerve to steer a header into an empty net after Angel di Maria's shot was saved by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Marcelo's strike and Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty gave the scoreline a rather flattering look as Real claimed a 4-1 victory and finally sealed the dream of 'La Decima', their 10th European Cup triumph.
When asked what it felt like to lift the trophy, Bale told UEFA.com: "A dream come true, literally. When you're a little boy you dream of lifting the Champions League, and to lift the 10th one for Real Madrid is special. It's one that will go down in history.
"It's an amazing feeling to win the Champions League. And yes, it was a hard fought game, they made it very difficult for us, but yes, we showed our character that we've got in the team and eventually we were able to win.
"We always were praying that we'd get a goal, and it was obviously great that we did. We left it late, but it made it that extra bit more special.
"It was a difficult extra time, everybody was tired, but we showed our character again, and we were able to lift ourselves for the last 30 minutes. We got the momentum and got a few goals to win the trophy."
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti commended the attitude of Bale.
His persistence impressed Ancelotti, who said: "It was very important because he had tried before, but he was unlucky in front of goal.
"But he turned up when he was needed."
It is the second time that Bale has scored the decisive goal in a cup final during his first season with Real, with his solo goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey earning rave reviews.
Bale's strikes in showpiece encounters will go a long way to silencing the critics that doubted his ability to live up to his world record £85.3million price tag, and Ancelotti is confident the former Southampton and Tottenham man is capable of improvement.
"All season Gareth has been good and he will be better next year," Ancelotti added.
"We're very proud of having won this for all Madrid fans. Happiness is giving happiness to those who always follow us. The fans are very happy and that makes us happy.
"I have had a fantastic group of players who have always been professional and they showed that in this match too. Not only those who were delighted to be playing, but also those who were not playing.
"We've worked hard this season to achieve this."
Atletico had looked on course for a famous double as, having wrapped up the Primera Division title last week, they took a 36th-minute lead on Saturday night through Diego Godin's header.
Yet their failure to extend the lead ensured they were on the back foot for much of the final half hour and their defence was finally breached in the third minute of stoppage time when Sergio Ramos headed home from a corner.
From then on, there was only going to be one winner, with several Atletico players showing visible signs of fatigue.
Yet Atletico boss Diego Simeone, who was involved in an ugly on-field spat with Real defender Raphael Varane before the final whistle, was proud of his players.
"This fixture doesn't deserve one tear, when you give your life, there's nothing to say," Simeone said.
"It's part of the game. You can win, you can lose. We lost but know that we gave everything. That exalts us and gives us the ability to continue growing."