Real Madrid will play Liverpool in the Champions League final after Karim Benzema’s extra-time penalty completed a remarkable 3-1 comeback win over Manchester City.
Leading 4-3 from a pulsating first leg, Pep Guardiola’s side appeared set for a second successive final appearance when Riyad Mahrez put them ahead in the 73rd minute at Santiago Bernabeu, but comeback kings Madrid sealed their place in Paris with a 6-5 aggregate triumph.
Rodrygo was their inspiration, as he became the first player to score twice in the 90th minute of a Champions League knockout match to force extra time.
And Benzema wrapped up a magnificent turnaround for Carlo Ancelotti’s LaLiga champions when five minutes into extra-time.
Courtois made a brilliant stop from Bernardo Silva before denying Phil Foden just before the interval.
Madrid should have taken the lead early in the second half.
Yet Vinicius Junior could not convert Dani Carvajal’s cross at the far post.
But City had shown more control, and the lead was theirs when Mahrez arrowed a brilliant first-time finish beyond Courtois.
City’s progression seemed secure, and Madrid appeared down and out when Jack Grealish burst through only to see a strike cleared off the line before Courtois then denied the £100million man moments later.
Yet Madrid does not know when they are beaten. Rodrygo stole in to turn home Benzema’s square ball and, 91 seconds later, planted a superb header into the top-left corner.
The most remarkable turnarounds were complete when Benzema calmly sent Ederson the wrong way from 12 yards after being fouled by Ruben Dias in the box, with Fernandinho missing a glorious chance to prod in an equaliser as Madrid set up a meeting with Liverpool on May 28.
What does it mean? Madrid’s comebacks know no bounds.
It felt unlikely that Madrid would ever better their last-16 comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, but they mustered a similarly strong effort against Chelsea. And when they seemed down and out, Ancelotti’s side hit back with a comeback that might trump them all.
Madrid progressed from what was only the third Champions League semi-final to see ten or more goals across both legs. It is also the first time in six attempts that Los Blancos have prevailed from a semi-final tie in this competition after losing the first leg.
City, meanwhile, must now regroup and go again. They have four Premier League matches left, and Liverpool is breathing down their neck.
Benzema does it again:
Just like in the last 16 and quarter-finals, Benzema was the matchwinner for Madrid with his calm penalty settling the tie.
The skipper netted his 10th goal in this season’s Champions League knockout stages.
He became the first player to reach double figures in a single campaign since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17.
He is also only the fourth player to score in both legs of the quarter-final and semi-final.
May the fourth be with Mahrez:
Since his brace saw off PSG in the UCL semi-final, a year to the day, Mahrez was on target.
It took his tally for the campaign to 24 goals in all competitions.
Mohamed Salah (30) the only player to manage more for a Premier League team in 2021-22.
But the Algeria international would surely gladly give that statistic away if it meant his strike had proved the winner, as seemed to be the case. What’s next? City look to respond as they resume their Premier League title charge against Newcastle United. Meanwhile, Los Blancos face Atletico Madrid in the derby. Likewise, for more football news like this, click here.
City look to respond as they resume their Premier League title charge against Newcastle United.
Meanwhile, Los Blancos face Atletico Madrid in the derby.
Likewise, for more football news like this, click here.