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Night of nerves at the Bernabéu as Real Madrid come back to beat Chelsea in the Champions League

A hat-trick for Spanish football. The Women’s national team beat Scotland 0-2 and qualified for their third consecutive World Cup; Villarreal made it to the semifinals of the Champions League knocking out Bayern Munich after a ferocious tie, the two going toe-to-toe, for it all to be settled in an instant; and Real Madrid did something even harder, throwing away a 1-3 advantage from the first leg to end up 0-3 down and facing elimination. It was only then the adrenaline kicked in and they brought the tie back to 2-3, enough to see them through, but only after struggling tremendously to force extra-time. Once again Real Madrid are into the semifinals, having knocked out PSG, officially the team to avoid, and Chelsea, the reigning champions. Quite the feat.

Real Madrid prefer coming from behind

I wrote yesterday that the fans at the Bernabéu prefer to chase a comeback as opposed to holding onto a lead, and I get it. It’s not easy to go to war when you feel you’ve already won it, but that was the situation Madrid were in having triumphed at Stamford Bridge. The exact opposite situation faced Chelsea, who came out full of ambition and grew in confidence seeing that the hosts only wanted to watch the clock run down. Chelsea camped out in Madrid’s half, crafting patient, structured attacks, with decent running up front and men arriving from deep. Their superiority slowly turned into goals: one, two, three...

“Being 0-3 down freed us”

With the third (the second time they scored a third, with the New Testament of the Laws of the Game ruling out a goal from Marcos Alonso for handball) Madrid looked done for. Ancelotti took the big decision: substituting Kroos and Casemiro. He gambled and won. Modric (who had a superb game) sent a divine pass to the recently-brought-on Rodrigo and it was 1-3. Chelsea didn’t fall to pieces like PSG, they kept their composure, but Madrid were no longer at their mercy, meaning there was no surprise when the game went to extra-time. Doing so though had tested Real Madrid’s nerves to the limit, with a patchwork defense, but true to the faith on which they’ve built their legend. “Being 0-3 down freed us,” said Ancelotti. A good summary. What Madrid like is a comeback.

Atlético Madrid vs Manchester City for the right to play Real Madrid

The Spanish capital plays host to more Champions League quarterfinal action this evening as Simeone’s Atleti host Pep’s City, looking to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg. You can follow all the action with Paul Reidy. Kick off is at 3pm ET (9pm local time, CEST).