Real Madrid was 5-3 down on aggregate against Manchester City in the 90th minute of the return leg at the Bernabeu, but late goals from Rodrygo pushed the match to extra time. Benzema’s penalty in the 95th minute settled the affair, as Real qualified for the final.
City went 1-0 up thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s goal in the 73rd minute. Thanks to their 4-3 victory in the first leg, City was shocked in the dying moments of normal time. Rodrygo scored a brace in the space of just two minutes to help Real’s hopes of playing the final. In the fifth minute of extra time, Benzema netted a penalty to book Real’s tickets for the final in Paris on May 28.
Real vs. Liverpool was the Champions League’s last act in 2018 as well, with the Madrid giants winning the match 3-1 in Kyiv. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale’s brace sealed the affair, as Sadio Mane scored the only goal for Liverpool. It was also a match marked by the dramatic errors by Liverpool keeper Loris Karius. The German left the club soon after the match, as he was loaned out to Besiktas in Turkey.
Real were at +500 to qualify before this year’s semifinal second leg, but recovered miraculously from City’s domination last week and the home-goal deficit to beat the odds. The fresh La Liga champions stand at +160 to beat Liverpool in the final, with manager Jurgen Klopp’s team regarded as favorites at -220.
Liverpool won six Champions League trophies, with its last coming in 2019 when they beat Tottenham in the final. On the other hand, Real holds the record for most cups with 13. Their last triumph was the one against Liverpool in 2018. For Madrid, this year’s final in Paris will be its 17th, also a record at the European level.
Marca: ‘Madrid are not of this world’
The Spanish papers rushed to praise Real’s performance, with Marca asking God to “come down and explain it” on its front page, then opening the leading article with “Madrid is not of this world” as a headline. “This is a magical place. A terrifying place. An enchanted canyon. The strangest part was, there was no build-up. This wasn’t coming. The earth did not shake. The air did not crackle,” the paper noted.
AS chose “The paranormal became normal. No one can resist the destructive force of the Bernabeu,” to explain Madrid’s fantastic come-back.
In London, The Telegraph asked if Real against City was the greatest-ever Champions League semifinal, while The Times opted for “Ambushed in Madrid” for its headline.
“I can’t explain it. I don’t have words for what happened today. God looked at me and said: ‘Today is your day.’ That’s how I feel,” Real Madrid hero Rodrygo said.
“We didn’t play at our best, but it’s normal for the players to feel the pressure in a semifinal. We have to accept it,” City manager Pep Guardiola commented after the match. “After our goal, Real could attack, attack, attack in the final 15 minutes, but that wasn’t the case. We didn’t suffer much, but football is unpredictable … We need time to process this and come back with our people at home,” he concluded.
Carlo Ancelotti, the winning coach, is excited to go back to Paris where he coached PSG a few years ago. “The game was close to finished and we managed to find the last energy we had,” he said. “We played a game against a strong rival. When we were able to equalize, we had a psychological advantage in extra time. I am happy to be going to Paris to meet another great rival. We are used to it, it will be a fantastic game of football.”