The game: The calm and then… the hurricane
For a long time, this semi-final was the exact opposite of the first leg. Because Manchester City played with the handbrake and Real Madrid didn’t get the spaces they crave. Many faults, many technical errors and very few clear chances: the Bernabeu was bored in a night that took forever to ignite. Real dominated but City miraculously scored in the heart of Madrid’s highlight.
Real never seemed able to raise their heads and the English champions had two chances to break. They missed them all. Madrid woke up, Bernabeu roared, City literally crumbled and that semi-final entered Champions League legend with three goals in six minutes. Insane.
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The players: Huge Courtois, ghostly De Bruyne
Three parades, including a capital against Grealish before Real Madrid equalized: Courtois was the big man of the Madrid side. Even if it was the entry of Rodrygo, author of a double, which tipped this semi-final. In withdrawal this Wednesday, Karim Benzema, decisive passer for Rodrygo, nevertheless sealed the qualification by transforming a penalty which he himself caused. And what about the entry of Eduardo Camavinga who woke up the Real midfielder.
Guardiola, eleven years of failures and an evening of resignation
On the City side, Kevin De Bruyne, guilty of an unusual waste, never took the measure of this semi-final return. Long very strong, Ruben Dias completely cracked on the penalty conceded against Karim Benzema. Bernardo Silva, incredible accuracy for 120 minutes, will have nothing to be ashamed of himself…
The x factor: Mendy saves the country
87th minute, Grealish feints Courtois and shoots into the wide open goal. While no one believes it on the Real side, Ferland Mendy throws himself and saves the country from a desperate tackle. Two minutes later, Rodrygo equalized. And if the Brazilian’s double will remain as the highlight of this semi-final return, we must never forget this decisive rescue of the former player of Olympique Lyonnais.
Stats: 5 and 10
First coach to become champion in the five major championships on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti became this Wednesday the first coach to qualify for his fifth Champions League final. Legendary.
Karim Benzema has scored ten goals in the Champions League knockout stage this season, only Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016/17 has done so well in a single edition.
The tweet that makes you want to be there
The declaration: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
It’s crazier (note: than qualifying against Paris SG and Chelsea) because it lasted until the last moment, until the 90th and 92nd minutes… I think that even at 1-0, we wasn’t great until the 89th minute.
The question: The most beautiful of all?
Yes Yes Yes. A thousand times yes. We thought we had seen it all against PSG, then Chelsea. But Real Madrid pushed the irrational even further this Wednesday. In their three return matches, Real lost 76 minutes against PSG, 5 minutes against Chelsea and 91 minutes against Manchester City. Against the Citizens, the people of Madrid were led in the score from the 2nd minute of the first leg until the 91st of the return.
Credit: Getty Images
And this time, before Rodrygo’s equalizer, no one seemed to believe it except Courtois and Mendy, authors of two capital saves. The legendary midfielder, Kroos, Casemiro and Modric had already left his place. The heroes are called Benzema and Courtois, of course. But also Rodrygo and Camavinga, 21 and 19 years old. No matter the cast, this season they will always come out on top.
We call it the weight of history, of heritage. The DNA of a club like no other. The greatest of all. Manchester City is undoubtedly a better team, he proved it in this semi-final. But he lacks, as at PSG, this extra soul, this absolute culture of winning. Going up a score once, it can be luck. Twice, a miracle. Three times is a culture. meringue culture.
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