Manchester Metropolis have change into accustomed to Champions League heartache, however the method of their newest collapse in opposition to Actual Madrid may be essentially the most painful defeat of all.
4 instances Pep Guardiola’s males held a two-goal benefit in a traditional semi-final tie they ultimately misplaced 6-5 on mixture.
13-time champions Madrid one way or the other discovered a technique to win as Metropolis, final yr’s defeated finalists, melted away within the white-hot environment of the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
For 89 minutes, the English champions confirmed the maturity constructed up over a decade of expertise within the competitors however in 90 seconds their best-laid plans have been destroyed.
Riyad Mahrez’s beautiful strike 17 minutes from time put the guests 1-0 up on the night time and 5-3 on mixture, apparently ending the competition.
Madrid had not even mustered a shot on the right track till Rodrygo swept residence Karim Benzema’s cross as stoppage time approached.
Abruptly, the Bernabeu believed and yet one more of the world’s most expensively assembled squads succumbed to the Actual rope-a-dope simply as Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea had performed within the earlier two rounds.
Rodrygo headed in once more after lower than a minute of the six added on and will even have had a hat-trick earlier than extra-time began.
Ultimately, fittingly, it was Benzema who delivered the ultimate blow from the penalty spot to earn an unlikely victory in a tie by which Madrid had trailed for 178 minutes.
It was a case of historical past repeating itself — each by way of the Madrid fightback and in addition a Guardiola workforce failing to barter the nice margins that outline the latter levels of the Champions League.
– Close to misses –
It’s now 11 years since he gained the second of his two European Cups as a coach at Barcelona.
Within the 10 seasons he has been in control of Barca, Bayern Munich and Metropolis since, he has misplaced a last — final yr’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea, 5 semi-finals and three quarter-finals.
“All the time I had defeats so robust within the Champions League,” mentioned the 51-year-old. “It’s robust for us, we can not deny it, we have been so near a Champions League last.”
Metropolis, who’ve by no means been topped European champions, can have one other go subsequent season, probably armed with the additional artillery of Erling Haaland, with studies suggesting the Norwegian will transfer to the Etihad from Borussia Dortmund.
Earlier than then, Guardiola should rouse a gaggle of mentally and bodily exhausted gamers to keep away from ending the season with out a trophy for the primary time for the reason that 2016/17 marketing campaign.
Metropolis maintain a one-point lead over rampant Liverpool — who reached the Champions League last by beating Villarreal — on the prime of the Premier League with 4 video games to go.
“We’d like time now,” admitted Guardiola, whose aspect host Newcastle on Sunday, a day after Liverpool play Tottenham. “One or two days however we are going to rise, we have now to do it.
“The gamers gave the whole lot. We have been so shut however ultimately we couldn’t do it.”
A much-anticipated conflict between England’s prime two groups will not happen in Paris on Might 28, with Liverpool as an alternative going through Madrid for the third time in a European Cup last.
However it’s nonetheless in Metropolis’s fingers to disclaim the Reds a historic quadruple.
Win their last 4 video games and Guardiola will declare a tenth league title in 13 seasons at Barca, Bayern and Metropolis.
That report is what makes the Catalan coach probably the most revered of all time.
However the trophy he and Metropolis have been introduced collectively to win stays out of attain.
Regardless of the massive sums invested by their Abu Dhabi-based house owners, the membership can not purchase the idea that many years of Champions League success has dropped at each Madrid and Liverpool.
Actual go for European Cup quantity 14 in Paris, whereas Liverpool would be part of AC Milan because the second most profitable membership within the competitors’s historical past on seven titles with victory on the Stade de France.
Metropolis can be delighted with only one.