Real Madrid’s road to the 2022 UEFA Champions League final in Paris
As they prepare for their 17th UEFA Champions League final appearance, we take a look at just how they got there and who suffered at their hands along the way.
To play in a UEFA Champions League Final is perhaps the greatest honor in professional club football, but first one has to make it all the way there which is quite a feat in itself. Join us for a look at the road taken to this year’s finals in Paris by perennial champions Real Madrid.
Real Madrid were top of their group
When the UEFA Champions League groups were announced, Madrid fans would have surely bristled with excitement about the possibilities. Standing in between them and a trip to the Round of 16 were Italy’s Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine and FC Sheriff of Moldova. Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti advised that nothing was given and that caution was required, but in the end it was business as usual when his side got down to it. With five wins and one loss the team from the Spanish capital topped the table with 15 points courtesy of a double over the Italians (0-1 and 2-0), the same with Shakhtar (0-5 and 2-1) and their surprise loss at home to debutantes Sheriff (1-2), before closing them out on the road 3-0. With that a Round of 16 date with PSG beckoned.
Karim Benzema punished PSG
After a first leg 1-0 defeat in Paris, there were those who questioned whether it would be the end of the road for Madrid, especially considering the idea that the Parisians with their uber expensive squad, seemed to be finally coming into their own. Those doubts went to fever pitch in the second leg - at home - when they found themselves trailing 1-0 with the 60 minute mark approaching. Yet what happened next is the stuff of legend, although the ‘Madridistas’ will probably argue it’s part for the course. Quite simply Karim Benzema took over the game as he put paid to his compatriots with a scintillating hat trick to send PSG packing and Madrid to the Champions League Quarter Finals.
Chelsea tried but once again Benzema the difference
Heading into their quarter final clash with the Chelsea, much attention was paid to the fact that ‘Los Merengues’ had never beaten the ‘Blues.’ Indeed, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the Spaniards were going to see their tournament run come to an end by default. Yet after a sensational first leg performance first-leg performance at Stamford Bridge, Madrid ran out 3-1 winners courtesy of yet another Benzema hat trick and the boys in white were on their way home with a significant advantage. What came next, few could have predicted. Playing in the Santiago Bernabeu with their backs against the wall, Chelsea raced out to 3-0 lead and with 75 minutes gone and no goals registered for Madrid, things were beginning to look bleak. Then as if on queue, the young starlet Rodrygo struck to force the game to extra time and then once again Benzema took over the evenings proceedings as he scored to make it 2-3. In the end a loss, but enough to see them into the semi finals. The Blues could only lament what could have been.
Pep Guardiola’s City huffed and Puffed, but Benzema didn’t care
If there was one thing that was clear about Madrid’s run to the finals in Paris, it’s that they liked a touch of drama. Indeed, it was Pep’s charges who drew first blood in the opening game of their two legged tie at home in Manchester with a tight 4-3 win. Benzema as could be expected was on the score sheet with two and the increasingly exquisite Vinicius Jr. chipped in with one of his own. With that it was clear that the second leg would be epic. The English outfit were well aware that they were dealing with a dangerous opponent, so even when they found themselves leading 1-0 in the 89th minute via a Mahrez goal, they exercised caution. That would be their undoing, however, as Rodrygo nearly brought the house down with his quick double which forced extra-time, before Benzema’s ice cold penalty booked their place in the finals in Paris. A night to remember for the ‘Madridistas’ and one to forget for the ‘Citizens.’