Real Madrid beats Man City 4-3 on penalties to advance to the CL semifinals

| | Manchester (England)
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Real Madrid beats Man City 4-3 on penalties to advance to the CL semifinals

Thursday, 18 April 2024 | AP | Manchester (England)

Real Madrid beats Man City 4-3 on penalties to advance to the CL semifinals

Real Madrid weathered the storm, silenced the crowd and ultimately ended Manchester City's brief hold on the Champions League.

The all-time kings of Europe moved a step closer to a record-extending 15th title in the competition they have dominated after a 4-3 win Wednesday on penalties at Etihad Stadium.

But not before being pushed to the limit by defending champion City.

“I was pretty much dead on my feet at the end,” Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham said. “It's so difficult. They are continuously probing with the ball and move you around. Most teams would fall apart when City get on top of you, but we stood up really well.”

The game had gone to the uncertainty of a shootout after ending 1-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.

City dominated the chances after going behind to Rodrygo's goal in the 12th minute, but only had Kevin de Bruyne's leveler in the 76th to show for its superiority, which included 64% of possession and 18 corners to Madrid's one through extra time.

That counted for little as Antonio Rudiger struck the decisive spot kick after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic both saw their penalties saved.

“In this competition, that's the way football happens,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “In other sports, for (these) statistics, we would have won.”

Guardiola had few complaints. He accepted his team had failed to capitalize against a Madrid team that was forced to defend deep against wave after wave of attack.

Erling Haaland hit the bar with one header in the first half De Bruyne sent an effort sailing over from inside the box in the second.

Madrid dug deep, held on and now faces Bayern Munich in the semifinals after the Germans beat Arsenal 1-0 on Wednesday and 3-2 on aggregate.

“Today it came down to mentality," Bellingham said.

The defeat ended City's bid to become the first English team to win back-to-back Champions League titles and its pursuit of successive trebles. It is still challenging for the Premier League title and FA Cup.

Victory for Madrid saw the Spanish giant advance to the semifinals for the fourth year in row — denying City the chance to emulate that feat.

“This was about survival,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Madrid is a club based on always fighting to stay in situations where there seems to be no way out – but we always find a way. By the time the penalty shoot-out came, we were totally convinced we'd go through.”

Ancelotti has already won the Champions League a record four times as a coach — one more than Guardiola — and could extend that record by lifting the trophy for a third time with Madrid.

For Guardiola it is back to the drawing board after watching his team to relinquish the trophy it won for the first time last year and ending his own 12-year wait to triumph again in European club soccer's most demanding competition.

“I have to say thank you to these players from deep in my heart because the way they played. But football is about winning and we didn't do enough, yet we were exceptional," he said.

This was the third straight season Madrid and City have clashed in the Champions League in what is becoming a classic rivalry. The winner of their meetings going on to win the competition in each of the past two years.

Madrid avenged last year's loss when its defense of the trophy was ended by a 4-0 rout at the hands of City in the semifinals.

England midfielder Bellingham was pivotal to Madrid's opener with a moment of brilliance to open City up. Collecting a high ball just past the halfway line, he shook off the attention of Rodri with a deft touch to wrong-foot his opponent.

The ball was worked to Vinícius Junior on the right who crossed to Rodrygo, who beat Ederson at the second attempt after his first shot was saved.

That pressure eventually paid off when De Bruyne leveled the game, lifting the ball high into the net after Rudiger could only partially clear a cross from substitute Jeremy Doku.

With no further goals in extra time, the game went to a shootout and City immediately seized the advantage after Julian Alvarez converted his opening penalty and Luka Modric's effort was saved.

But Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin then saved successive spot kicks from Silva and Kovacic to swing the balance in the visitors' favor. Silva's attempt was right down the middle and easily caught chest-high by Lunin.

It came down to Rudiger to take the winning kick that sent Madrid fans wild and City supporters home.

“We suffered a lot tonight because City really put you under the cosh (pressure)," Madrid captain Nacho said.

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