Real Madrid's Epic Rally Stuns Manchester City; Will Face Liverpool in UCL Final

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2022

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid stunned Manchester City on Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid to earn a place in the Champions League final.

The Spanish giant won 3-1 in extra time to claim a 6-5 aggregate victory in the semifinals.

Karim Benzema delivered the decisive blow from the penalty spot in the 95th minute. Ruben Dias brought the French striker down in the box, and Benzema wasn't going to let a golden opportunity go to waste.

B/R Football @brfootball

KARIM BENZEMA. NO DOUBT 🥶<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TUDNUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TUDNUSA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/VFdXpT7bwp">pic.twitter.com/VFdXpT7bwp</a>

It was a spectacular collapse from Manchester City, which held a two-goal lead going into the 90th minute. The club has experienced plenty of bitter defeats on the European stage under manager Pep Guardiola, but this might yet be the toughest pill to swallow.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Today marks the first time that Manchester City concedes multiple goals in the 90th minute or later in a match under Pep Guardiola.

Dom Smith @MrDomSmith

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City defy belief in the Champions League. How has it happened again?!!!!!!

Although Manchester City leads Liverpool by one point in the Premier League, this might be considered an underwhelming season since the wait for a European triumph goes on for another year.

The two clubs combined for perhaps the most dramatic match of the knockout stages in the first leg. City walked away a 4-3 victor, with Benzema capping off the scoring in the 82nd minute to give Real Madrid some hope heading into the second leg.

Especially with no away-goals rule, the tie was finely poised. Between playing at home and having the most in-form striker in the world, some might have argued coming in Madrid was in a slightly advantageous position.

"There's a really good atmosphere in the dressing room and we’re really looking forward to the game," star midfielder Luka Modric said. "... We're confident in our ability to turn the tie around. We weren't at our best in the first leg, but still managed to score three goals."

Those hoping for fireworks Wednesday on par with the first leg were likely disappointed early on.

Bernardo Silva had a goal-scoring chance from close range in the 20th minute, but Thibaut Courtois reacted quickly to make the save.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Courtois with a HUGE reaction save. 🧤 <a href="https://t.co/2d8YfoFuOM">pic.twitter.com/2d8YfoFuOM</a>

Benzema's attempt was off the mark in the 43rd minute, and the French forward was ruled offside anyway.

The performance of Kyle Walker was a big reason Manchester City maintained a clean sheet in the first half. Vinicius Jr. terrorized the left flank in the first leg and scored one of Madrid's goals in that fixture. Thanks to the efforts of Walker, the Brazilian winger registered little impact this time around.

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

0 - Vinícius Júnior didn't complete any of his four take-on attempts in the first half (0/4), while Kyle Walker made more tackles than any other player (3). Guardian. <a href="https://t.co/PpN9h2xYtA">pic.twitter.com/PpN9h2xYtA</a>

Neither Manchester City nor Real Madrid appeared to be willing to take too many risks, which wasn't totally unexpected in the case of City given its aggregate lead. What the match lacked in end-to-end action, it had in terms of drama with the chess match between Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti.

Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney

At that enthralling stage where both could reasonably claim they have the other where they want them. City have slowed it down to the point there’s none of the chaos necessary for Madrid comebacks. But that pace doesn’t completely suit City, leaving them susceptible to one moment

City's patience finally paid off in the 73rd minute. Silva got the ball on the edge of the center circle and had acres of space ahead of him. The Portuguese winger bore down on the Madrid goal before laying a pass off to Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian international hammered a shot into the near post and past Courtois.

B/R Football @brfootball

RIYAD MAHREZ. DAGGER 👊<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TUDNUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TUDNUSA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/lfI9jMoZNx">pic.twitter.com/lfI9jMoZNx</a>

Just as the match was inching toward an anticlimactic conclusion, Rodrygo got a goal back for Real Madrid in the 90th minute. The Bernabeu suddenly came to life as the supporters attempted to push the home side over the finish line.

In a matter of moments after he found the back of the net, Rodrygo once again rose to the occasion—quite literally. Marco Asensio fired a cross into the box that was headed in by the Brazilian in the first minute of injury time.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

TWO GOALS IN TWO MINUTES FROM RODRYGO TO LEVEL THE TIE. BERNABEU BEDLAM! 🤯 <a href="https://t.co/UAr6zwvhm2">pic.twitter.com/UAr6zwvhm2</a>

As much as there was an immediate sense of inevitability to Rodrygo's second goal, that carried over to extra time. Real Madrid simply wasn't going to throw this away.

Having gotten so close to the final and watched it slip away, Manchester City's players had little time to recover mentally before extra time. Guardiola had also subbed off Kevin De Bruyne for Ilkay Gundogan in the 72nd minute. That left City without its best playmaker when it badly needed a goal.

Fernandinho was only fractionally wide of the target when he got on the end of a header by Phil Foden. Courtois made a diving save, which left Fernandinho with a difficult finish.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

What a save from Thibaut Courtois. 🧤 <a href="https://t.co/2nDDHUgqvF">pic.twitter.com/2nDDHUgqvF</a>

That proved to be City's best shot at forcing a penalty shootout.

For Real Madrid, Liverpool now awaits in the Champions League final on May 28 at Stade de France outside Paris.

The match will provide the Reds with an opportunity to avenge their loss to Madrid in the 2018 final. Los Blancos, meanwhile, can lift the European Cup for the 14th time, which would be double the next closest club, AC Milan.