Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid produced another barely believable Champions League fightback to beat Manchester City 3-1 after extra time on Wednesday and reach the final 6-5 on aggregate.
The Spanish champions will take on Liverpool in Paris on May 28 in a repeat of the 1981 and 2018 finals.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a classic semi-final.
City’s Champions League pain goes on
Pep Guardiola’s reign in Manchester is four games away from delivering four Premier League titles in the past five years.
But the one trophy they really want remains elusive as another shot at the Champions League spectacularly blew up in their faces.
It is now 11 years since Guardiola last lifted Europe’s biggest prize as Barcelona boss.
The defensive frailties and fragile mentality of his early seasons at City in this competition seemed to have been washed away by a run to the club’s first ever final last season.
For 89 minutes, they looked like a side maturing under the intense spotlight the latter stages of the Champions League provides.
But that will only make this collapse hurt all the more.
City will look back on the chances wasted to kill off the Spanish giants in both legs as four times they let a two-goal advantage in the tie slip away.
Now they have to rouse themselves quickly to prevent that pain being compounded by also seeing Liverpool snatch away the Premier League title.
Madrid young guns lead the old guard
The old guard of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric got most of the credit for Real’s revivals to beat Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea just to make it to the last four.
However, the introduction of Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga also helped swing those second legs at a bouncing Bernabeu in the home side’s favour.
Rodrygo had scored two goals all season until taking the Chelsea tie to extra time last month.
With City leading 1-0 on the night thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s strike and 5-3 on aggregate, the Brazilian transformed the tie by scoring twice in 88 seconds as the game entered stoppage time.
Camavinga’s powerful run beyond the tiring legs of the City midfield then set up the winner as Benzema lured Ruben Dias into a mistimed challenge in the box.
Carlo Ancelotti has consistently kept faith with his veterans all season.
But there are only so many times the Italian can be rescued by his young guns off the bench.
Camavinga and Rodrygo are entitled to believe they deserve to start against Liverpool.
Money can’t buy Madrid’s mentality
The tradition of the 13-time European champions has not stopped Madrid from being the biggest supporters of a breakaway Super League.
Behind their reasoning has been a fear that they can no longer compete financially for the world’s best players up against the state-backed wealth of PSG and City, or even billionaire-backed clubs like Chelsea have been under Roman Abramovich.
However, they have eliminated all three in a remarkable run to their 17th European Cup final.
“We are the kings of Europe” reverberated around the Bernabeu once Benzema slotted home the crucial penalty.
For all the billions thrown at this competition by PSG and City, they remain without a European Cup between them.
The Madrid tradition of success is something money can’t buy.
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