What happened in last year’s epic Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Manchester City?
Los Blancos and the Sky Blues will face off in the last four of the Champions League for the second year in succession.
Rodri and Pep Guardiola were at odds with one another in their pre-match press conference before Manchester City take on Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Tuesday. For the midfielder, his team “have the hunger to get revenge”, while his manager also used the R-word, but only to say that he wasn’t bothered about it. Looking back to last year’s clash between the teams at the exact same stage, you could hardly blame City if they were…
Real Madrid’s eventful path to the 2021-22 Champions League semi-finals
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had already miraculously dodged two bullets in previous rounds against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Against the French side, they were 2-0 down an hour into the second leg in the Spanish capital and looked completely lifeless as their opponents passed the ball around them. A terrible error in possession from PSG stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma gifted Karim Benzema a goal and you know the rest. Give Real Madrid a glimmer of hope and they’ll punish you in next to no time (with a Benzema hat-trick in this case).
Things looked to be plain sailing for Los Blancos in the next round against the Blues. Another Benzema treble in the away leg meant it would be plan sailing for them in the Bernabéu, right?
Not so, as Chelsea somehow went 3-0 up in Spain and 4-3 ahead on aggregate with just 15 minutes of the tie left to play. Surely the reigning European champions could hold on? Their lead lasted all of five minutes as Rodrygo volleyed in a superb equaliser before that man Benzema again settled things in extra-time.
A sensational comeback in a superb tie
Madrid would have to step things up considerably to see off the mighty City in the last four though, wouldn’t they? There was no way Pep Guardiola’s side would let them off he hook if they managed to get them where they wanted them, was there? We’ve seen some absolutely superb Champions League ties in recent seasons and a number of sensational comebacks to boot. This was one of the best of them.
The teams played out a seven-goal thriller in the first leg at the Etihad, City racing into a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes. They went 3-1 up just a few minutes into the second half and 4-2 ahead under 20 minutes left to play. That’s nothing, though. This is Real Madrid. A cheeky Benzema (who else?) penalty put the Spaniards within striking distance and set the second leg up beautifully.
And with 90 minutes up in a rather tenser and cagier second leg, Guardiola’s men were in cruise control thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s thumping second-half strike which put them 5-3 up on aggregate.
If you don’t kill Madrid, they’ll kill you
It couldn’t happen to City, of all clubs. The masters of possession, of keeping the ball for fun, of running rings around you as you desperately try to pinch it off them. By this point, with everything that had gone before it, there was sense of inevitability about the whole thing, especially when Madrid’s Ferland Mendy hacked Jack Grealish’s low cross off the line and somehow avoided kicking it off Phil Foden and into his own goal.
But City still had a two-goal advantage…unbelievably, it wasn’t enough. Just before the 90-minute mark, Benzema hooked one back from the opposite goal line for Rodrygo to clip into the net and, with six minutes of injury time to play, the English side, normally so calm and composed, had frozen and were flustered, resigned to their fate.
The Brazilian headed in a quick-fire second to level the tie. Only 60 seconds had passed between the two goals, which means Real Madrid – and indeed City – still had five minutes to find a winner. It was never in doubt.
Benzema’s Ballon d’Or run
They only surprise was that they needed extra-time to find it, Benzema rolling in his second penalty of the tie just a couple of minutes after the restart. Unlike their opponents, shell-shocked City had no response and Real Madrid, of course, went onto the final in Paris, where they lifted the trophy that seemingly had their name on it all along, thanks to a less frantic victory over Liverpool.
Same again please, guys.