My 3 Thoughts on Real Madrid-Manchester City
Real Madrid Defies Belief Yet Again, Scores Three Times Late to Reach the Men's UEFA Champions League Final
Real Madrid’s Rodrygo scored goals in the 90th and 91st minutes and Karim Benzema fired home the decisive penalty in extra-time to carry the Spanish giants to a miraculous comeback against Manchester City, winning 6-5 on aggregate, and advance to the men’s UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• God, this really is the best sport. What other sport gives you moments like the one we just witnessed? Not one. Real Madrid looked dead and buried, down by two goals in the 90th minute after Riyad Mahrez had put City up by two in the 73rd minute. People were openly talking about a City-Liverpool Champions League final. But in the dying moments of the game, not long after City’s Jack Grealish had seen one shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy and another saved gorgeously by Thibaut Courtois, Rodrygo directed in a Karim Benzema pass to give Real Madrid life. And then, less than 90 seconds later, Rodrygo somehow did it again, heading home past Ederson to level the scoreline. Then Benzema did what Benzema does, earning a penalty early in extra-time and converting the spot kick to make the difference. You cannot deny that Real Madrid as a club has created a culture of winning in this tournament that showed itself again today—or that Man City now has created a culture that continually comes up short in the biggest moments of the Champions League. I used to think that wasn’t a thing. After seeing what happened with Real Madrid against PSG and now City this season, it’s a real thing.
• It was more than just Rodrygo and Benzema for Real Madrid. So many Madrid players made a difference in the end of a game that was rather uneventful until the 70th minute before going completely haywire. Courtois was absolutely massive, making giant saves on Grealish and Phil Foden to save the day. Midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, all of 19 years old, came on in the 75th minute for Luka Modric and made Real Madrid instantly better, more dangerous, more alive. And Mendy’s goal-line clearance will become a permanent part of Real Madrid club lore. Give the preternaturally unflappable Carlo Ancelotti plenty of credit for the changes he made that helped his team the chance to survive in the most unlikely circumstances possible. And what can you say about Pep Guardiola? He just seems to have a block in this competition. No fewer than 11 seasons have now passed since he last won the Champions League, with Barcelona, despite the several times that Guardiola has had the tournament’s best team on paper during that time (including, quite possibly, this season). City’s defending just crumbled in the final minutes of regulation to the point that it’s hard not to think there was something mental in play, something close to a choke.
• Real Madrid-Liverpool is going to be a fantastic final. In the rematch of the 2017-18 final won by Real Madrid, at least we won’t have to see Sergio Ramos injuring Mohamed Salah or, if you’re a Liverpool fan, Loris Karius in goal. On paper, Liverpool will be the favorite, having been the best team in Europe and in England during the 2022 calendar year so far. But this game will not be played on paper, and the intangible “winning-time” exploits that we have seen from Real Madrid during this incredible Champions League run figure to come into play again. Benzema (at 34) and Modric (at 36) have played like they were 10 years younger this entire tournament, and you can be certain that they will be ready to go on May 28 in Paris. One suspects that Jürgen Klopp will have learned his lesson from not starting Luis Díaz against Villarreal on Tuesday and will deploy Días, Salah and Sadio Mané up top and hope that Virgil van Dijk continues anchoring Liverpool’s spine the way he has all season. The crazy thing is I sense that Liverpool would have preferred to play City instead of this cosmically charmed Real Madrid squad that now appears like a team of destiny.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
I got home in time to watch the second half and saying Madrid came back from the dead is not an exaggeration. I don't have a dog in this one but I yelled so loud when Madrid scored the second. Unbelievable.
It’ll be interesting to see how Madrid rests players leading up to Paris, while Liverpool still chases three trophies.