The scoreboard read 1-1 and the clock read 109 minutes. In normal circumstances, everything would be growing chaotic and rapid amid the tension, but these weren't normal circumstances.
Across the pitch, players everywhere were spent and legs were barely moving. After a 7:45 p.m. kick-off, it was now after 10 p.m., and even with the night's main event stretching well into its third hour, matters still needed settling.
This was a UEFA Champions League final that had begun with tired and battered bodies, and now those bodies were getting worse. On the left flank just beyond the halfway line, Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata collected a loose ball and fed it to Angel Di Maria. Immediately, the Argentinian was surrounded by three Atletico Madrid shirts.
This had been the way all night, and here it was again: Di Maria vs. Tiago, Juanfran and Miranda. None of them seemingly had an ounce of energy, and yet still, somehow, there was no space either.
Until Di Maria found both.
Four touches took the Real Madrid man down the touchline, and then came that move—the one that would change everything.
Bringing the ball infield with a left-footed touch and a burst of pace, Di Maria took Tiago out of the equation. Reacting, Miranda then closed in and Juanfran went for the tackle; with blistering speed and precision, the Argentinian shifted the ball from left to right and then right to left, bolting free of both of them and firing a shot at Thibaut Courtois. Courtois got a boot on it, but the ball lobbed in the air across the face of the goal.
There: Gareth Bale.
It had taken more than a decade and one brutal slog but finally the obsession was over.
This was La Decima.
The week had begun with celebrations in Madrid and it would end with celebrations in Madrid, but they weren't close to being the same thing.
It was only six days until the Spanish capital would descend upon Lisbon, Portugal, and Atletico were busy with the party of all parties. There was an open-top bus. There were flares. There were thousands upon thousands in the streets. And there was Gabi, perched atop the statue of Neptune that was wearing a red and white scarf.
And oh how they'd deserved it.
These were the celebrations for the capture of one of the most extraordinary league titles in history. A day earlier, with a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, Atletico had done what the world said could no longer be done in breaking the hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.
It had been the triumph of football over cash, of the workers over the rulers, of Atletico over the world. And they'd done it their way: fighting, scrapping, competing, snarling; work above all else until the very end.
But because of it, they were absolutely exhausted.
Saturday May 24 had arrived, and with it the Champions League final. And didn't it look juicy?
This was a finale that carried all the usual edge of such an occasion, but it also went beyond that. This had the mutual loathing of city rivals and clubs with the most contrasting of identities; it was Spain's traditional kings vs. its new kings.
"The derby of two centuries," said AS.
As such, the world was anticipating something pulsating, the climax of the season. Instead, it would get a final battle in the way final battles often are: with everyone broken.
For Atletico, Arda Turan was injured. Diego Costa was using horse placenta to treat his hamstring. Gabi and Tiago had nothing left in their legs. Diego Simeone's squad was small.
Theirs was a team with nothing left but a mentality.
For Real Madrid, meanwhile, Pepe was injured. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn't close to fit. Neither was Karim Benzema. Nor was Sami Khedira. Xabi Alonso was suspended.
The derby of two centuries? More The Walking Dead.
Only nine minutes had unfolded and already the final battle had claimed its first broken victim.
Diego Costa jogged off.
The problem? That hamstring.
Atletico soldiered on though, because that's what Atletico do; they don't know any other way.
With characteristic organisation, Diego Simeone's men were suffocating Real, closing spaces and denying freedom. Though there'd been momentary lapses, Bale had failed to punish them, and the whole affair was growing congested and messy.
Then came the goal that changed things, in all its congestion and messiness.
Gabi whipped in a corner in the 36th minute. Raphael Varane headed it away but only onto the head of Juanfran, so it came straight back. Underneath it stood Diego Godin; coming running for it was Iker Casillas.
Atletico had done it with a set piece. Again. Atletico were doing the astonishing. Again.
Now it was getting really messy.
Minutes in the second half were ticking away, and Atletico were falling apart physically. Suddenly, their shape was disjointed, the legs in midfield had gone and attacks were non-existent. Atletico, essentially, were no longer Atletico, the ferocity and organisation having departed.
Coming at them, Real had something left to give but not much, and they were getting desperate.
From a pair of free-kicks, Ronaldo hadn't been able to summon the necessary power. Two headers then went wide. So did a pair of chances for Bale.
Though introductions of Isco and Marcelo had changed the dynamic, giving Real impetus, they hadn't been enough to change the scoreboard.
Time continued to tick away.
It doesn't need description.
This says it all: 92:48, Sergio Ramos, 1-1.
In the 19th minute of extra time, Bale stormed toward the corner flag, his arms outstretched, a primal roar being exhaled. This was the goal that had clinched it, and everyone knew it. The obsession was over. La Decima was theirs.
Nine months earlier at his unveiling, the Welshman had begun life at Real Madrid by saying "hopefully this year we can win the 10th European title," but there was no way he could have envisaged just how central he'd be to the delivery of exactly that.
Di Maria had created the moment for him and he'd seized it, sending Real Madrid into ecstasy and Atletico Madrid into despair. Two more goals followed, but this was the one.
"Football is beautiful, football is cruel," said AS.
And back in Madrid, a week that had begun with celebrations had ended in celebrations, but they weren't close to being the same thing.