Real Madrid completed another miraculous comeback to reach the UEFA Champions League (UCL) final, as a 3-1 win on the night secured a 6-5 aggregate victory. Rodrygo struck twice in the space of two minutes, before Karim Benzema’s penalty capped off an incredible night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
After a seven-goal thriller in the first meeting at the Etihad Stadium, the added pressure of a second-leg led to a much more cagey affair in Madrid. ‘Los Blancos’ had never previously overturned a first-leg deficit to reach the final in the competition’s history, but a raucous crowd was behind them after being crowned Spanish champions over the weekend.
Pep Guardiola’s men were on top, and started to trouble Thibaut Courtois in the Real goal. City’s trademark high press won them the ball inside the final third, before a glorious Kevin De Bruyne pass gave Bernardo Silva a huge chance, only for the Belgian goalkeeper to deny him at the near post.
The interval came at the right time for the hosts, who had failed to register a shot on target in the first half. A flurry after the restart failed to bear any fruit, before a devastating City counter broke the deadlock. Substitutes Oleksandr Zinchenko and İlkay Gündoğan played an instrumental role in the visitors’ goal. An incisive move built from the back allowed Silva space in the middle of the park, before the Portugal international slotted in Riyad Mahrez to fire in at the near post – a 24th goal of the season for the Algerian, only bettered by Mohamed Salah for a Premier League side in all competitions.
Real had to wait until the 90th minute for an attempt on target, but they made great use of it. A couple of costly misses from Jack Grealish threatened to haunt City, after Karim Benzema remarkably steered a cross into the path of Rodrygo for a tap-in. Moments later, Guardiola’s nightmare came true, as Dani Carvajal’s cross found Rodrygo again, who directed a world-class header beyond Ederson, sending the tie to extra time.
The inspirational Rodrygo picked up exactly where he left off, picking out Benzema in the box before the Frenchman was tripped by Rúben Dias inside the area. Having dispatched a Panenka from 12 yards in the first leg, he would take no such risks this time, slotting his penalty into the bottom corner to send Real to the final. Benzema’s spot-kick was his 10th goal in the knockout stages, tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record in another UCL classic. Yet another sensational comeback means the 13-time European champions will face off against Liverpool in Paris, in what will be a rematch of the 2018 final.
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