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Real Madrid aren’t just the kings of the Champions League, they are the kings of the comeback. Needing two goals once the 90th minute hit just to force extra time, Real Madrid got them and much more. A 2-1 win in regulation forced extra time against Manchester City in the semifinal second leg before Los Blancos won it in the extra session on a Karim Benzema penalty, 3-1. The second-leg victory saw Real win the tie stunningly 6-5 on aggregate despite clearly not being the better team for the majority of both legs. But when it mattered most, under the lights at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of 61,416 fervent Madristas, Real delivered one of the craziest comebacks you will ever see.
Substitute Rodrygo scored in the 90th and 91st minute before a Ruben Dias foul on Benzema led to the decisive spot kick in the five minutes of extra time. Real pulled off comebacks against PSG and Chelsea in the previous two rounds, but they managed to top that here, somehow.
City had more than a foot in the final after Riyad Mahrez’s second-half goal, but an implosion that will go down in the annals of history as one of the Champions League’s most devastating leaves the English club once again only being able to dream of continental glory.
As a result, Real Madrid will face Liverpool in the final on Saturday, May 28 at Parc des Princes, just north of Paris. The final was originally scheduled for Saint Petersburg but had to be removed following Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
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Here’s what to know and what you must see:
Never say never
It was all over. At least that is what everybody thought. Mahrez’s fine front-post finish 17 minutes of time left Real Madrid needing two goals. When the 90th minute hit, they hadn’t even recorded a shot on goal, so any sort of comeback felt as unlikely as absolutely anything. Here is the moment Mahrez looked to have punched City’s ticket:
Real took 90 minutes to hit a shot on target
The Real supporters packed into the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu had to wait an hour and a half of playing time to see Real finally get a shot on goal. They only had to wait another minute to see their second, and miraculously both were goals.
Rodrygo has earned legendary status with the club with what he pulled off, producing two nifty finishes to move the game into extra time.
The first came on an assist from Benzema, with the Brazilian making the smart front-post run to knock it home:
Then a minute later the electric Brazilian headed home a cross from Dani Carvajal, but it wasn’t without some magic … or luck … or both. Look closely, and you will see that Marco Asensio actually gets a head on it first, yet Rodrygo still somehow finds the back of the net:
Absolutely epic stuff and a sequence that Real Madrid fans will probably bring up on YouTube from every year for the rest of their lives.
Big Benz delivers
Not only did Benzema get the crucial assist on the first goal, but he was there to draw the penalty kick on Dias early in extra time with a good diagonal run in the box. He stepped up and finished it, as most expected him to do, but this time it wasn’t via the Panenka. Benzema calmly went down to the right with a placed finish, sending Ederson the other way to take the advantage. This ended up being the decisive goal:
Bonkers scenes at final whistle
As you can imagine, the final whistle featured scenes of jubilation and tears of joy for the hosts, while Pep Guardiola looked as if he had seen a ghost. Often viewed as the greatest manager in the game today, after not winning the UCL at Bayern Munich, it continues to elude him at City. Meanwhile, Ancelotti has now made the final for the fifth time.
The super subs delivered
Rodrygo will get a lot of the praise, and how couldn’t he? Two goals in two minutes is the stuff of legends. He came off the bench and had three shots on goal, two goals, an xG of 0.78 and was my man of the match.
But just as important was the introduction of Eduardo Camavinga. The young Frenchman came off the bench and brought a technical presence that was needed with his teammates gassed. He entered late in the second half, played the ball that led to Benzema’s assist and was absolutely crucial to Real’s win. The stats might not tell it with zero chances created and zero shots, but when he came on, the game changed.
Mendy and Courtois were heroic
City will be so frustrated with letting this one get away, but the truth is they had the chances to slam the door shut. Ferland Mendy and Thibaut Courtois both came up absolutely massive, specifically on City sub Jack Grealish. The English star was very effective down the left off the bench and had two stunning good looks at goal. There was this clearance by Mendy on the line:
And then there was another in regulation, before Real had even scored where Grealish made the defense look foolish with a filthy touch before firing to the back post. The ball, cleared headed into the goal, was saved by the bottom of Courtois’ foot.
The Belgian keeper wasn’t done there, producing this massive save in extra time:
Real Madrid confident and fortunate
They know deep down that they didn’t do nearly enough in the first 89 minutes, but they know the magical, the inexplicable happens inside that stadium. They never gave up hope, even after going down, and you just knew once the first goal came, the chance to equalizer would arrive soon after. But nobody saw anything like that common.
City must feel nauseous
As if losing the final to Chelsea last season wasn’t bad enough, they get within seconds of making it back and produce a colossal collapse. Still with a chance in extra time, the poor challenge by Dias on Benzema was the tipping point where it just felt like there was no coming back. With Kevin de Bruyne having been taken off in the 72nd, City still managed to score, but his absence was noticeable in added time as City did not have the conviction required to turn it around.
The final will be played on Saturday, May 28 in Paris, with kickoff set for 3 p.m. ET. You can see the game on CBS and Paramount+.