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No 'three-peat' for Pep as City pays penalty for profligacy

Despite Manchester's dominance, it's Madrid who progresses with shoot-out win

Updated: 2024-04-19 09:11
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Real Madrid players celebrate after winning the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, on Wednesday. [Photo/AP]

MANCHESTER, England — Real Madrid weathered the storm, silenced the crowd and ultimately ended Manchester City's brief hold on the Champions League — and its hopes of achieving an unprecedented back-to-back treble.

In the end, it was the all-time kings of Europe that moved a step closer to rewriting the record books following Wednesday's 4-3 win on penalties at Etihad Stadium, as it closes in on a 15th title in the competition.

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 percent 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 that 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, and 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 German side beat Arsenal 1-0 on Wednesday, 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 the ability to always fight to stay in situations where there seems to be no way out — but we always find a way. By the time the penalty shootout 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, though, it is back to the drawing board after watching his team relinquish the trophy it won for the first time last year, ending his own 12-year wait for a third Champions League title.

"I have to say thank you to these players from deep in my heart, because of 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 quickly developing into a classic rivalry. The winner of their meetings has gone 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 individual brilliance opening 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 Vinicius Junior on the right who crossed to Rodrygo, who beat Ederson at the second attempt after his first shot was saved.

City's dominant possession and 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 visitor's 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, which sent Madrid fans wild and City supporters home.

"We suffered a lot tonight, because City really put you under the cosh," Madrid captain Nacho Fernandez said. "But we are Real Madrid. We always, always fight until the very end."

Agencies via Xinhua

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