The ‘Kings of Europe,’ Real Madrid, will play Liverpool in a dream Champions League final after stunning Manchester City in one of the greatest contests in the competition’s rich history.
The bare facts are these: Madrid advanced 6-5 on aggregate on Thursday (AEST) thanks to a 3-1 victory at a heaving Bernabeu in the Spanish capital.
But how they got there was scarcely believable, clawing their way off the canvas as Rodrygo scored goals in the 90th and 91st minutes to level the tie and force more football.
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Rodrygo’s incredible quickfire brace
And then who else but Karim Benzema, as the world’s form striker slotted a cool penalty in extra time to send Madrid to the promised land of the Paris final on May 29.
It was Frenchman Benzema’s 43rd goal in his 43rd game this season.
“From the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy, Real Madrid,” legendary commentator Martin Tyler said on Stan Sport’s coverage.
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“This will go into the annals of any season of Europe’s elite competition. You can’t see them off. PSG couldn’t, Chelsea couldn’t and now Manchester City…
“Only football can make you feel like this. Unbelievable drama.”
It seemed inevitable that City would play in an all-England final after Riyad Mahrez’s trusty left foot struck in the second half to give Pep Guardiola’s mega-club a two goal cushion.
Mahrez’s left foot does it again
But yet again Carlo Ancelotti pulled the right kidney.
Madrid’s 62-year-old Italian manager left it late before introducing Brazilian super-sub Rodrygo to wreak havoc in that two goal burst.
Ancelotti will now become the first manager to appear in five Champions League finals.
“I think I’m in a parallel universe,” Mark Pougatch said from the Bernabeu on Stan Sport’s coverage.
“Utterly ridiculous,” added Mark Rushden. “That was playful, it came from nowhere.”
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said Madrid appeared to be a team of destiny.
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“We were ready to write the post-mortem,” Bosch said.
“You have to start to wonder, is Real Madrid’s name on the trophy?”
Madrid defeated Liverpool in the 2018 final, when the Spanish powerhouse clinched its record-extending 13th title.
Thursday’s result ended City’s quest for its first Champions League trophy.
Guardiola’s team lost in the final last year to Chelsea.
A few minutes before Rodrygo’s first goal, Ferland Mendy had saved Madrid from conceding a second goal that could have sealed City’s qualification by clearing the ball in front of the goal line while tumbling backward to keep an attempt by Jack Grealish from going in.
Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois moments later saved a Grealish shot with the bottom of his boot.
Madrid then carried all the momentum into extra time.
“It’s incredible,” Courtois said. “We still believed…one goal comes and suddenly boom!”
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