Immortal Real Madrid! Thanks to the inevitable Karim Benzema, the “King of Europe” signed another extraordinary comeback on Wednesday in his den of Santiago-Bernabéu to overthrow Manchester City 3-1 in extra time (4-3 defeat in the first leg) and join Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 at the Stade de France.
Left for dead after the opener of Riyad Mahrez (73rd) who gave Skyblues a two-goal lead in aggregate, Real overturned a mountain again by their young Brazilian prodigy Rodrygo, who entered in the 68th and scored two goals in the space of a few seconds (90th, 90th+1) to push the match into overtime.
And in the 95th, the hero Karim Benzema entered the scene: silent and imprecise until then, the Madrid prince found his cape and converted a penalty he himself caused to propel Real into the final, before give way (104th).
Madrid’s “magic night” began in the 90th: as demanded by Merengue supporters in the banner unfurled before kick-off alongside the tifo bearing the image of the French center forward, the stunning “White House” drew on its reserves to offer hope, then glory.
The odyssey continues
As the match quietly headed towards an English qualifier, Real woke up at the last minute to offer themselves a repeat of the 2018 final in kyiv, where the team then led by Zinédine Zidane had won their third in the Champions League (3-1), in a match marked by the blunders of goalkeeper Loris Karius.
Two goals signed Rodrygo who woke up the Madrid public, who took up their perpetual refrain even more: “Si se puede! (“Yes, it is possible!”, in Spanish).
This is the first time that Real Madrid have managed to qualify after losing the first leg of a semi-final on the continental stage. Previously, Los Blancos had failed eight times.
But this season, it’s the “unreal” Madrid: after the epic reversal of the situation against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 (1-0, 3-1), the incredible comeback against Chelsea in the quarter-finals (1 -3, 2-3 ap), and the odyssey of the first leg in Manchester a week ago (4-3), the team managed by Carlo Ancelotti have added a new page to their book of epics of the season continental 2021-2022.
Four days after becoming the first coach to win the five major European football championships, Ancelotti, the man who led Real to the “Decima”, his tenth C1, in 2014, can also become the first technician of the history to win a fourth Champions League.
Guardiola, still missed
For Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, the disillusion is immense: the Catalan technician, hated in Madrid, is still chasing a new crown in the Champions League after the two titles gleaned with Barça in 2009 and 2011, and will not offer a second rank final at Skyblues, after that lost last year against Chelsea (1-0).
And the Citizen will still have to wait to lift the first “Big Ears Cup” in their history.
Long impervious to Spanish attacks, and even cheered up by Mahrez’s goal and the huge double chance in the 87th, with a ball saved on his line by Ferland Mendy and a strike from Phil Foden which shaved the right upright of Thibaut Courtois, the Citizen gave in at the worst time.
Conversely, Rodrygo’s double revived the people of Madrid, carried once again by their captain Karim Benzema, author of a breathtaking season.
In the final, the French centre-forward will face his main competitor for the Ballon d’Or, Sadio Mané. But the whole planet is almost already won over to the cause of Benzema version 2021-2022, the best of his career, who, at 34, has only one step left to climb to offer his 14th continental crown to the eternal Real Madrid.