Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid Advance to UCL Final with Karim Benzema's Double

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2018

Bayern Munich's Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez (C-L) and Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (C-R) vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg football match Real Madrid CF vs FC Bayern Munich in Madrid, Spain, on May 1, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Real Madrid booked their spot in the UEFA Champions League final after a 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich on Tuesday. Karim Benzema scored both goals for the defending champions, who had won the first leg 2-1 in Munich.

Joshua Kimmich gave the visitors an early lead before Benzema struck twice, and James Rodriguez's equaliser set up a thrilling finale. Keylor Navas, Real's goalkeeper, made several key saves.

Real Madrid have now qualified for three finals in a row, a feat no club has achieved since the tournament changed to its current format.

Liverpool and AS Roma will meet in the other semi-final on Wednesday, with the Reds sporting a 5-2 advantage.

Here are the key takeaways from Tuesday's match.


Benzema Comes up Big

Real Madrid needed someone to step up in attack on Tuesday, and while Cristiano Ronaldo was largely kept quiet, team-mate Benzema came through with two big goals.

As shared by ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan, his good showing was all the more significant in light of his struggles this season:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

1-1 Madrid! Benzema free at back post to head in his first goal in open play since mid-Feb. That was less predictable.


Defensive Errors Galore

Bayern and Real put on an attacking show in the first half, as Kimmich and Benzema got their names on the scoresheet in the first 11 minutes.

Both goals came as a result of poor defensive play, however. Kimmich easily converted from close range after a dreadful failed clearance from Sergio Ramos that provoked this tweet from sportswriter Karl Matchett:

Karl Matchett @karlmatchett

best defender in the world [TM] #Ramos

The full-back didn't mark Marcelo closely enough to stop the Brazilian firing a cross into the box, and Benzema headed home the equaliser unmarked.

The comical defending continued after the break, with Sven Ulreich gifting Benzema his second goal.

The Bayern goalkeeper completely misjudged a pass and slid past the ball, allowing Benzema to tap home into an empty net. Goal UK tried to capture the moment in a GIF:

Goal UK @GoalUK

Actual footage of Sven Ulreich gifting Karim Benzema a second goal for Real Madrid. https://t.co/C9trK0GO87

All things considered, Liverpool, the likely other finalists, will fancy their chances of scoring goals in the final:

B/R Football @brfootball

Mo Salah watching Real Madrid and Bayern Munich defend like… 🤤 https://t.co/zdGwRy2ygl


James Haunts his Parent Club

Rodriguez's return to the Santiago Bernabeu was always going to be a major storyline, and while the Colombia international missed a sitter before half-time, he tied things up after the break.

He didn't celebrate against Los Blancos, prompting this tweet from former England international Gary Lineker:

Gary Lineker @GaryLineker

James contract: clause 5b if you accidentally score do not celebrate.


More Controversy at the Bernabeu

Real's road to the last four was a little controversial, with many fans believing the official favoured them in the quarter-final second leg against Juventus, when he handed the Spanish side a last-minute penalty.

Those same fans likely sang a similar tune on Tuesday, as Bayern had several good penalty shouts turned down. Hard challenges from Marcelo and Ramos on Robert Lewandowski could―and perhaps should―have been punished, according to Matchett:

Karl Matchett @karlmatchett

So that's two penalties Bayern should have had?


Navas Redemption

Navas made a major error in the 3-1 loss to Juventus and cost his team again in the first leg in Munich, when he allowed Kimmich's shot to creep past him at the near post.

But the Costa Rica international was sensational during the final 20 minutes of Tuesday's match, and without him between the sticks, Bayern likely would have found a third goal.

Navas made several fantastic saves, including a key intervention in injury time, with Lewandowski lurking.

Coral were impressed:

Coral @Coral

Unconfirmed reports Keylor Navas is actually Superman #RMAFCB https://t.co/A3hAG2U89i


Lewandowski's Failed Audition

One player who didn't impress on Tuesday was Lewandowski, who was again shut out by Los Blancos after coming up short in the first leg.

According to Alberto Pinero of Goal, he's been strongly liked with a move to Real, but he did little to impress the Spanish giants.


Ronaldo Makes History, Again

Per Graceote Live, Ronaldo tied AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini for the most Champions League final qualifications in the modern era, and just three players have made more in total:

Gracenote Live @GracenoteLive

Ronaldo reaches the final of the CC/CL for the 6th time (Real 4, Man United 2). Gento ( Real 8), Maldini (Milan 8) and Alfredo Di Stefano (Real 7) have reached the final more often. Ronaldo equals Maldini on reaching a record six finals in the CL era (since 1992/93)


What's Next

Real travel to Barcelona for El Clasico on Sunday, while Bayern make the trip to FC Koln on Saturday.


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