Real Madrid produced one of the greatest European comebacks of all time to stun Manchester City and book a most unlikely place in the Champions League final against Liverpool.
A double from Rodrygo and a penalty from Karim Benzema, all netted from the 90th minute, gave Carlo Ancelotti’s side a 3-1 win after extra time at the Bernabeu on Wednesday to send them to Paris with a 6- aggregate triumph 5 in the semi-finals. not soon forgotten.
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Madrid trailed 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate in the 90th minute after Riyad Mahrez’s 73rd-minute goal looked set to send City to their second consecutive Champions League final. But, as the spectacular comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea have already shown in this season’s competition, Madrid are never to be counted out.
And they saved their most incredible feat for tonight. After coming off the bench, Rodrygo scored in the 90th and 91st minutes to level the aggregate score and send the Bernabeu crowd into chaos and the semi-final into extra time. With City shaken, Benzema then won and scored a penalty in the first five minutes of extra time to give Madrid a lead they would not give up.
As they seek a record 14th European Cup, Madrid will now face six-time winners Liverpool in the final at the Stade de France later this month. No one will write them off.
“Incredible,” Madrid’s Casemiro told Movistar Plus afterwards. “There is no better feeling, no way to explain this, how difficult it was to get here. The best is yet to come, the most important [thing] is yet to come, but we must seize the moment. … We are in the final, but the hardest part is yet to come.
“The great virtue of this club is to never give up, to fight until the end.”
For much of the night, there were few signs of the drama to come.
Unlike last week’s breathless game in Manchester, the second leg of the semi-final was largely a much more cautious affair. City, boosted by defensive returns from Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo, were largely happy to try and contain a Madrid side that featured the return of midfielder Casemiro.
Still, boosted by a fiery crowd at the Bernabeu, Madrid started both halves strong and had chances to equalise.
Benzema, the competition’s top scorer this season, uncharacteristically headed in from the center of the box just four minutes out. And Vinicius Jr. squandered an even clearer chance in the opening moments of the second half when he got it wrong after a repeated kick-off. routine gave him a clear view of the goal from six yards out.
Madrid seemed to have to pay for this debauchery. Mahrez, who missed big chances a week ago, fired an emphatic end past Thibaut Courtois after a smooth counter-attack to seemingly send City to Paris.
There was little in the next 15 minutes to suggest Madrid had another epic comeback in their locker. Indeed, City were inches away from putting the result beyond doubt when substitute Jack Grealish beat Courtois to see Ferland Mendy desperately clear the ball from his own goal line.
Instead of icing on the cake, it was just a precursor to the remarkable next few minutes.
Rodrygo’s first goal, when he netted a pass from Benzema past Ederson, was Madrid’s first goal of the night. His second, coming home after a cross from Dani Carvajal, made not only the first time City conceded two goals in the 90th minute or later, but the first time they conceded in consecutive minutes since Pep Guardiola took charge.
From then on, there seemed to be only one winner. And that theory was cemented when Ruben Dias knocked Benzema down in City’s penalty area in the opening minutes of extra time.
“This team, this club is capable of anything, we believed in it until the end,” Courtois said. “Mendy made a key save on the line, me too, we made it 1-1 then 2-1 and they were dead. We were better in overtime. We had to defend well, and we did. Unbelievable.”
With Madrid now looking forward to a record 17th Champions League final and Ancelotti to his own record fifth final, City’s agonizing wait to be crowned European champions continues for at least one more season.
“We were close. We were close. But in the end we couldn’t reach it,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“We didn’t play our best, but that’s normal, a semi-final, the players feel the pressure. Football is unpredictable, it’s a game like this. We have to accept it.”
With the final set, Caesars Sportsbook installed Liverpool as favorites (-195) against Real Madrid (+155) in a game that looked extremely unlikely late in Wednesday’s semi-final.
Real Madrid were as long as 45-1 to come from behind against Man City at Caesars Sportsbook. And one bettor saw the remarkable ending coming.
Caesars reported taking a $1,000 bet on Real Madrid to win the game in regulation time just 15 seconds before Rodrygo’s first goal. Rodrygo’s second goal, which gave Madrid a 2-1 lead at the end of regulation, earned the Nevada punter a net salary of $45,000.
Information from Reuters was used in this report. ESPN’s David Purdum also contributed to this story.