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LONDON -- Perhaps Real Madrid simply do not know of another way to win. When the Champions League anthem blares they dust out a familiar blueprint: be second best, win anyway. European Cup number 15, a triumph secured in spite of themselves.

Borussia Dortmund do almost everything right for an hour plus, run into an opponent playing so far below the collective standards they have set for themselves and still find their hopes crushed by the sheer inevitability of their opponents. Forget about it Jake, it's Real Madrid.

You'd have been forgiven for thinking otherwise for much of this match. From the outset, it looked like Carlo Ancelotti had gotten his gameplan badly wrong, particularly in a final third where too much possession was being funneled to the wrong sources. As had been the case in their semifinal triumph over Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund invited their technically superior opponents to have as much of the ball as they might care to have in wide areas, particularly if it was at the feet of fullbacks Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy.

Edin Terzic's assertive pre-match press conference had given the impression of a man who knew just what Madrid's weaknesses were, even if he wasn't prepared to share them. It seemed apparent that Dortmund had concluded that if they were going to let anyone beat them it would be the two fullbacks in white. It was the sort of bitter irony that Madrid traffic in that it was one of that duo that would indeed beat a quite excellent opponent. Not, however, before it nearly fell apart.

With the ball Madrid seemed to have no sense of how to get it to their most effective players. The outstanding Karim Adeyemi and Jadon Sancho blocked off the passing lanes infield to Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Jude Bellingham, who struggled to greatly impact the match after 10 decent minutes early on as an outlet for long balls over the Dortmund press.

Madrid's logical response might then have been to draw Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo further wide, trusting that at least one of those two could blow by the double team they would inevitably face. Instead, the forwards stayed in central areas, Rodrygo in particular, who seemed intent to attack space in behind that Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck wouldn't leave as they set up camp near their penalty area. The perennial champions cycled the ball pretty slowly into the traps Dortmund set for them, somehow managing to commit just enough bodies forward to leave all the space in the world for Adeyemi to burst into.

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More of that irony again. In a heel turn the cruelty of which eclipses even Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania X-Seven, the post that had once been Borussia Dortmund's great ally played its cruellest tricks. There were plenty in the ground who were convinced that Niklas Fullkrug's sliding poke was bound to roll across the line when it spun back wickedly off the goal line. Not to be. Nor was Adeyemi's dart in behind the defense, carrying the ball just too far wide of Thibaut Courtois.

Were it not for that particular hex that Madrid seem to have over the European Cup, this game might have been dead at the break. More chances were coming their way in the second half, Valverde growing more influential as he moved from the right of the diamond in midfield to a more central role in a box. Chances came their way but Madrid had little that would allow them to stem the tide at the other end. Whenever Marcel Sabitzer, Julian Ryerson or Fullkrug fancied it, there was a chasm of space between Nacho and Mendy for them to drive into, Camavinga failing to track those dangerous runs. Once more, Fullkrug might have exploited it more effectively. For a brief moment the faith of Madridistas was tangibly shaking.

Outmuscled in too many duels though they were, Madrid's one great strength seemed to be at set pieces. Of course, they made it pay. Already Carvajal had given Dortmund terrors at the near post with one flick on. When the opportunity came to try it again the results were even more impressive. Nacho played the blocker at the near post, Toni Kroos' delivery was spot on and Carvajal got out ahead of Fullkrug to flick home.

In an instant, it was as if Madrid realized who they were relative to Dortmund. They were the team that 12 months ago had plucked the brightest star from the Westfalenstadion. They started playing like it. Bellingham should have made it two. Vinicius did, paying tribute to Ronaldo with his celebration and Mesut Ozil with a finish bounced into the deck to rise high above Gregor Kobel.

That Madrid could have blown away even a side as obdurate and organized as Dortmund had been in the first hour. Real Madrid didn't need to Real Madrid their way to glory. But it is, ultimately, what this team has done with quite extraordinary success over a decade that has delivered six Champions League trophies while rendering moot the question of whether Los Blancos are actually that good. 

In 2022, the force of Karim Benzema's excellence took them to glory despite the fact that they were mostly outplayed in every knockout tie on the road to Paris. The group that won four in five years between 2014 and 2018 won only two other major trophies and were frequently out of La Liga's title race.

Who cares? When you win this much you're a dynasty. Every one of those needs a defining trait. The Madrid of Paco Gento -- whose record of six Champions Leagues is now matched by Luka Modric, Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos -- were the great blueprint of star collecting that came to define this club. Ajax revolutionized the game's tactics. These men will be defined by their ability to win no matter their collective and individual struggles. Ancelotti was right when he said Friday that it was no coincidence, that there must be some "causality" in the sheer number of last-minute goals and dramatic turnarounds that have got Madrid to the summit of the European game six times.

Wembley knew it was coming. Deep down, Dortmund knew it was too. As for Madrid? Well, they've probably seen it coming since the start of the season.