Three things that hit Real Madrid against Manchester City: a touch of ’99

Toni Kroos was clearly trying to explain what had happened on the lawn moments before. However, the former German national team player couldn’t make sense.
“It’s fantastic, we’ve been out 26 times this season and we’ve reacted 26 times,” said Kroos, observing the wild course this premier-class knockout round had taken for Real Madrid, David Alaba, who got injured. , he was forced to watch, exults: “It’s incredible what the team has done. He’s mentally ill.”

According to Kroos, it was simply “the belief” that drove the royals to the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain (0: 1, 3: 1) and to the quarter-finals against last year’s winners FC Chelsea (3 : 1, 2: 3 aet). would have raised the next round. In the duel with Manchester City it took a lot of faith, even a small football miracle, to avert the end of the most prestigious of all competitions.

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Riyad Mahrez led the Skyblues, who had won the first leg 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium, ahead in the 73rd minute and Madrid needed two goals to reach at least extra time.

When there was almost nothing to suggest that the Blancos could reach the final, thanks to Rodrygo’s goal, hope arose from the aforementioned nothing (89th), just 88 seconds later the joker struck again and led the spectators at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in collective ecstasy. Conditions reminiscent of the 1999 Champions League final between FC Bayern and Manchester United.

When Karim Benzema took a penalty in the 95th minute and then turned it coldly, Madrid’s next magical night and final were perfect. But this time it wasn’t the star striker who was primarily responsible for the next comeback, as against PSG and Chelsea, but the ones in the spotlight were those who otherwise lead a rather dark existence.

Also: the Champions League curse of City manager Pep Guardiola continues, once again the Catalan went empty-handed in a crucial match, once again his team had to retire in style.

Three things that stood out:

1.) A touch of 1999

The (slightly) older semester may have remembered the events of May 26, 1999 while watching.

At the time, FC Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Camp Nou believed they could win the Champions League until the 90th minute after Mario Basler’s first goal, before things took a dramatic, almost unprecedented turn.

Teddy Sheringham (90 + 1) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (90 + 3) turned the match into a bizarre final act, shooting the Munich team in the vale of tears.

The parallels with the return of Real: in 1999 it was the jokers who overturned the game. Both Sheringham and Solskjaer had previously been replaced. However, Real celebrated “only” one protagonist who left the bench: the double packer Rodrygo.

Clive Tyldesley, who commented on Barcelona’s match for English television at the time, said after the final whistle: “No one will ever win a European final in such a dramatic way again.” Maybe not a final, but definitely a semifinal. Real Madrid proved it.

2.) Real celebrates the new heroes

Although Benzema contributed to the decisive third goal, the Frenchman, for a change, was not the most brilliant figure for the Blancos. In the second leg of the semifinals, it was the others who shone.

First of all the goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, author of eight saves. These included some brilliant acts, such as Bernardo Silva’s conclusion in the 20 ‘and the duel with Jack Grealish just before the end, when the Belgian wrapped a well-placed shot of the city star around the post with a brilliant defense of the foot and kept his team in play (87th minute). .).

A small side note: only Manuel Neuer, then still with FC Schalke 04 (2010/11 in the semi-finals against ManUnited), and Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak (2015/16 in the semi-final against Bayern) have made more saves in Champions League history in a semi-final.

Thibaut Courtois

Photo credit: Getty Images

But not only did Courtois outdo himself, right-back Dani Carvajal, quite weak in the first leg, also showed an exceptional performance. The former Leverkusen player not only provided the impressive model for the 2-1, but was also an asset in other respects.

No Real player has had more action with the ball than Carvajal (89), no one at home has recorded more ball wins (9) and shots on goal (3).

Another hero who usually isn’t the center of attention: central defender Nacho. The Spaniard replaced the injured David Alaba in the starting eleven and solved his problem brilliantly. Five clearing actions, four interceptions, and a 97 percent pass rate each meant the highest values ​​within his team.

In addition to those who took the field from the start, the substitutes also deserve praise. Rodrygo’s brace speaks for itself, however, but Eduardo Camavinga, who came in for Luka Modric in the 75th minute, also had a significant impact on the match.

The young Frenchman has proven extremely strong in duels, winning 63 percent of his direct duels and also convincing in the game going forward. Over and over, Camavinga drove the ball dynamically through the midfield, occasionally outperforming his opponents with ease. It was he who kicked off the scene that led to the final penalty (Rúben Dias fouled Benzema).

3.) Pep’s curse in the Champions League continues

When Yaya Touré, the Man City midfielder’s longtime strategist, left the club in 2018, it wasn’t necessarily for the better. The Ivorian had quarreled with coach Pep Guardiola, Touré’s adviser was so angry about his client’s expulsion that he was carried away by a grotesque statement.

“Guardiola has turned all of Africa against him, many African fans have turned their backs on Manchester City,” Seluk told The Sun at the time. “And I am sure that in the future many African shamans will not allow Guardiola to win the Champions League. Always remember Pep.”

As soon as Guardiola fails in the Champions League, those same quotes are happily pulled out of the dustbin. This was also the case on Wednesday evening, when it was once again clear that the long-awaited plate with handles was not going to happen this season either.

Even if you don’t like supernatural powers, it’s odd that Guardiola, whose team is reinforced every year with millions and millions of Abu Dhabi, doesn’t want to train.

Already during his time at FC Bayern he was in the semi-finals three times in a row, during his six years at City he did not go beyond the quarter-finals three times and in his debut season he was eliminated from the round of 16. Last year he lost in the final to Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea FC.

While Guardiola has been criticized repeatedly over the years and accused of training alone, he has offered little to attack Real. No confusing tactics, no questionable starting positions. Instead, his team offered excellent football, especially in the first leg, and also made an impression in the second match with the Spaniards. Not beautiful, but effective.

“I am very happy, we have done great things in the Champions League. We will see what the future holds. For the moment, of course, it is a hard blow for us,” said Guardiola after the match.

A hard blow. Once again. As if the whole project was cursed.

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