Just when it seemed all was lost, Real Madrid did it again. Trailing City 0-1 in the 89th minute of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final return leg, Ancelotti’s team needed two goals to take the game to extra-time – without Casemir, Kroos or Modric on the pitch. But in the space of two minutes, Madrid were back level and even came close to wrapping the tie up before the need to extra-time. As soon as play resumed, Benzema was fouled by Ruben Dias inside the box, a penalty awarded and the French striker casually slotted home to put Real Madrid in the final, set for 28 May in Paris.
Even the players themselves were at a loss to explain how the final minutes unfolded at the Bernabéu the way they did. In the space of two minutes, the semi-final went from being lost to wide open. That’s the strange magic of the Bernabéu, which pushed the team on towards the final and an opportunity to win the Decimocuarta.
Real Madrid go for the kill with 10 minutes to go
It was the mother of all comebacks and by no means the first time Madrid have left it late to settle a game this season – four cup ties have been taken to extra-time (Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Elche in the Copa del Rey, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Champions League).
In LaLiga, Madrid got themselves out of jail with late equalisers or winning goals scored in the last 10 minutes of regulation time in games against Rayo (0-1. Benzema Min.83), Valencia (2-2. Vinicius Min.86, Benzema Min.88), Levante (3-3. Vinicius Min.87), Sevilla (H – 2-1. Vinicius Min.87) and Sevilla (A – 2-3. Nacho Min.82).
Ancelotti’s team produced their late show in the group stage of the Champions League too – Rodrigo popped up in the 89th minute to snatch a winner in Matchday 1 away at Inter Milan.
Another aspect of Madrid’s game this season in which they are particularly ruthless and can catch opponents unaware is how they capitalise immediately after scoring to follow through dealing a second sucker punch. They did exactly that against Guardiola’s Citywho were still dizzy and reling after Rodrygo’s first goal (Min. 89:20) that they failed to pick up the same player when he headed in another, to level the tie, less than a minute and a half later (Min. 90+00:50).
We saw it earlier this season, in the Week 5 LaLiga meeting with Valencia – Hugo Duro had put the hosts in front at Mestalla on 66 minutes, but Madrid’s gung go, never-say-die outlook saved them as Vinicius equalised, thanks to a deflection, on 85 minutes then the team went straight for the jugular – Karim Benzema got on the end of a Vinicius cross to nod in the winner barely a couple of minutes later.
Judging by the reaction of some of the players following Wednesday’s drama at the Bernabéu, Madrid’s habit of retaliating when all seems lost has taken several members of the squad by surprise. Toni Kroos watched the last 20 minutes of the match plus an additional half hour of extra-time from the dug-out after being substituted. He expressed the euphoria which he felt on seeing Rodrygo haul the team back into contention with a succinct, post-match message on Instagram: “This team is an af****** joke.” Not a very funny one for City.
“Stone me!” (or words to that effect… was Marcelo’s message posted on his Twitter profile, with three laughing emojis. Courtois, whose heroics were decisive in Madrid booking a date on Paris, simply wrote: “Don’t even try to explain it because no words can, let’s just make the most of this feeling and enjoy it. We’re in the final madridistas!!!”. Vinicius opted for the classic Juanito line: “120 minuti en el Bernabéu son molto longo!!! (120 minutes in the Bernabéu is a long, long time). To the final!!!”. Goal hero Rodrygo meanwhile, confessed: “How am I going to sleep after a night like tonight?”