Manchester City or Atletico Madrid will have to overcome “the magic” of the Santiago Bernabeu if they are to defeat Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti credited the club’s stadium and supporters for their role in a gripping quarter-final tie with holders Chelsea.
The 13-time European champions again had to rally in a second-leg comeback, albeit this time after holding a first-leg lead.
Madrid beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 at home with a Karim Benzema hat-trick after losing 1-0 away, but this time returned to Spain with a 3-1 advantage from Stamford Bridge – again courtesy of three goals from Benzema.
However, Ancelotti’s men were heading out when Chelsea took a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, before Rodrygo’s equaliser from an outstanding Luka Modric assist took the game to extra time.
Unsurprisingly, Benzema had the final say, netting his fifth Champions League goal against Chelsea and 13th against English opposition (second only to Lionel Messi’s 27).
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After guiding Madrid to a 31st European Cup or Champions League semi-final – 11 more than any other side – Ancelotti praised first his players and then the fans.
“We’ve got through because we showed the energy, particularly towards the end of the game to keep ourselves in it,” he said. “All of the players stood up and were counted and it was a tough night.
“We didn’t deserve to be 2-0 down. We struggled on set pieces because we were missing our best player in that department, who is [Eder] Militao, and what’s more, their first goal came from a rebound.
“We didn’t show the desire to score goals and, after going 2-0 down, the team suffered mentally.
“I can’t explain any of the rest of it. The magic of this stadium helps the players to never give in.
“At no stage did I think that it was over, particularly because we were playing here at the Bernabeu. It’s difficult to put it into words, but this magic spurs you on.
“It helped to give the whole team that energy boost to get through to the semi-finals.”
On the pitch, defender Nacho certainly felt that, with Madrid relying on the crowd despite the experience of their oldest ever Champions League starting XI.
“It was yet another incredible night at the Bernabeu,” the Spain international said. “It looked like it was going to be a real uphill struggle for us, but the team produced an amazing reaction to progress through to the semi-finals.
“It’s similar to the PSG game. It gives you goosebumps every time you witness a night like that at the Bernabeu.
“What’s important for us is that we’re in the next round. We’ve got to be a lot better from the start. We’re playing for Real Madrid and we’re taught from a young age that you never give up.
“A lot of people were waiting to see us fail against PSG. When the result was against us today, a lot of people doubted us. But this club’s DNA never gives up. We showed that again. We have completed our objective”.
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