Until Lisbon in 2014 no previous Champions League final featured two teams from the same city. After the drama we witnessed in Munich on Tuesday, last night's game at the Bernabéu should have been far more straight forward. The truth is that it wasn't that simple and despite moments of unnecessary anxiety, the final whistle came with a wave of relief. Real Madrid are better than this Manchester City side and should have put the tie beyond doubt earlier. They also had to do without strikers, Cristiano (first leg) and Benzema (second leg) over the 180 minutes but these absences gave Bale a chance to shine.
City are an average side but warrant admiration. Yayá Touré was at the heart of their midfield and moved things around at a snails-pace during the game as Madrid themselves showed signs of tiredness and insecurity. Cristiano played with the 'handbrake' on and the fear of a goal for the English side never abated. It was far from a vintage performance from Zidane's men but the final whistle was celebrated in great fashion as his side secured their ticket to Milan. His team were able to endure suffering yet make it through the tie to reach their 14th European Cup final, running out winners on ten occasions. The French coach's Madrid team are now full of self-belief and after a mixed season are still in with an outside shout at the league title.
With less of a higher profile than Simeone's influence at Atletico, Zidane has been a key in this change in mentality. He's overseen a calming atmosphere within the squad and oozes a relaxed manner at each press conference. He's also been able to manage the dressing room, promoting Casemiro, and being sensitive to substitutions and their subsequent fall-out.. Three weeks lie ahead, time to ensure that Cristiano and Benzema are fully fit for the final against their city rivals with Atleti's path to the final being far more complex. May 28 is the day with Milan's San Siro the venue. Save the date, it will be well worth it.
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