Man City stunned by extraordinary Real Madrid in Champion League Semi Finals

Over two legs was this the greatest Champions League semi-final ever? Quite possibly so.


It is no comfort at all for a broken Manchester City that their names will go down in history, an unwanted desperate history, as the team who went into the 90th minute of the second leg of the tie apparently certain to reach the final and a date with what they believe is their destiny and within 10 minutes conceded the three goals that sent them out. Just 10 minutes. No more.


The ramifications are huge. For Real Madrid it is a 17th final, as they chase winning a 14th European Cup, and they will face Liverpool in Paris later this month; a Liverpool who are hell-bent on revenge after Kyiv in 2018 which was Real’s last appearance.


For City they have traumatically found another way to fall short in the competition they crave the most and still have not won, and for Pep Guardiola there will be a feeling that he is simply cursed when it comes to meeting again with a trophy that, a decade ago, appeared set to become his preserve. Instead he has lost six semi-finals and a final.


Whatever City go on to achieve this will stay with them as Real, the miracle men of Madrid, drew on all the mythical strength of their name, their jersey, their fans and their iconic stadium to complete the most incredible of comebacks.


It was Karim Benzema, of course it was him, who scored the decisive goal from the penalty spot in an extra-time that no-one saw coming and he now has 43 goals in 43 games this season with 15 of those in 11 Champions League games.


That is simply phenomenal, but then so was this outcome with City having appeared to manage the game superbly and kill off Real. That, as Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea have found out, is impossible. Liverpool be warned as Real scored in the 90th, the 92nd (of five minutes of added time) and the 95th minute when the extra 30 minutes were played.


The first two of those goals were scored by substitute Rodrygo and it is the latest two goals have ever been scored by one player in a Champions League knock-out tie.


As the teams gathered for the start of that added period Guardiola was gesturing manically, clearly furious, losing control. Real coach Carlo Ancelotti? He was strolling around his players. It added to this extraordinary drama and there is another dimension. What will this trauma mean for the Premier League title race? Will City draw on it or be defeated by it?


It means that having been 2-0 down to PSG on aggregate with half an hour to play Real prevailed; having been 3-0 down to Chelsea they found a way and having been 5-3 down to City, on aggregate, until minute 90 of the second leg they still won. They looked dead and buried and yet they somehow rose again.


It was crueller and crueller for City. Rodrygo was not the only substitute to have chances. Before he intervened one of City’s replacements, Jack Grealish, twice went agonisingly close and as incredible as Rodrygo’s contribution was Real were hugely indebted to their goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, who has been formidable along with Benzema in this extraordinary campaign.



Benzema

The improbability of this Champions League run, and even though they regained the Spanish title last week, had if anything fuelled belief among the Real fans and so it proved. So used to being the favourites they have entered each of their knock-out ties with the expectation that they would lose. And there was no doubting who was carrying their hopes with a huge banner unfurled showing a drawing of Benzema as the stadium filled and the noise climbed towards kick-off.


City tried everything to dampen it. They tried to slow the play, goalkeeper Ederson took ages over goal-kicks and there was even something of a hint of the dark arts to their approach and no-one could blame them. The stakes were so high and these are the kind of things that sometimes have to be done in these encounters. Real certainly know that as Liverpool can testify.


Nevertheless in a tense and taught first-half City had the clearest chance with Courtois denying Bernardo Silva who tried to beat him at his near post after evading Casemiro – who was fortunate to escape two bookings after a scissor-tackle on Kevin de Bruyne and pulling back Phil Foden by his shirt. Somehow he was not even cautioned.


It remained cagey but City’s game-plan appeared to work when they found some cohesion and Silva sprinted forward before prodding the ball intelligently out to Riyad Mahrez who ran in and struck a fierce first-time shot that was too much for Courtois.

Riyad Mahrez


There were just 17 minutes left and surely that was it? Surely City had done enough? The clock was ticking and if anything Real looked deflated as Grealish skipped through.


His first was blocked on the line by Ferland Mendy, while his second was superbly saved by Courtois. But still the clock was running down and injury time was coming before Benzema did well to guide a cross, with a volley, back into the six-yard area for Rodrygo to tuck home from close-range.


And so everything changed. Yes, this is Real. Yes, this was such a big occasion. But it did not explain City’s collapse as Rodrygo rose unmarked to head home Dani Carvajal’s cross.


Even after that City had a chance, wasted by Phil Foden who shot woefully over from 12 yards, but also could have lost it in normal time as Ederson saved with his legs.



Instead, in a clear indictment, they lost in early in extra-time. Ruben Dias has been a rock but he crumbled. He was at fault for all three goals and certainly when he rashly challenged Benzema as he ran towards Rodrygo’s cross.


It was a clear penalty and Benzema rolled it into the corner of the net. This time there was no ‘Panenka’ but Benzema still had ice in his veins. Suddenly, incredibly, improbably, unbelievably, City were heading out.


Excruciatingly they would have one last opportunity with Courtois getting fingertips to Foden’s flicked header. Still, substitute Fernandinho should have turned it home at the far post but he bundled it wide. It summed it all up.


It was in City’s hands and they let it slip. It will take some time to recover from this. If they recover at all.

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