Real Madrid dig deep for revenge in Manchester – Sport

MANCHESTER: Off the pace in the Champions League and La Liga last season, Real Madrid have bounced back strongly to give themselves a strong shot at securing both.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side dug deep for long periods on Wednesday to keep reigning European champions Manchester City at bay and squeeze past them on penalties into the semi-finals of the Champions League. They also boast a commanding eight-point lead on Barcelona in La Liga ahead of the Clasico on Sunday.

With the Los Blancos hopeful of tying up the signing of long-term target Kylian Mbappe, the weeks ahead promise to be exciting.

Real’s resilience in Manchester as Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the 1-1 draw — that ended a pulsating two-legged quarter-final 4-4 on aggregate before the Spanish side triumphed 4-3 in a shootout — means they can extend their record 14 Champions League triumphs, with Bayern Munich beckoning in the semi-finals.

It was sweet revenge for Real, who were thrashed 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium in their exit from the Champions League at the semi-final stage last year.

Amid Barca’s euphoria at the end of last season as they conquered La Liga, Real surveyed their weaknesses and acted to overcome them.

They moved for Jude Bellingham, adding steel to a team which was dismantled by City last season. The England international has replaced striker Karim Benzema in the line-up and, although deployed in an attacking role by Ancelotti, gives Real more defensive balance when out of possession.

This season the story was different at the Etihad and Ancelotti was beaming with pride.

“I love it when a team gives their all and sacrifices everything in big games like this one. I believe that there was no other way to beat Manchester City here. I’m proud of what we did,” said Ancelotti, who paced nervously up and down the touchline during the shootout until defender Antonio Ruediger scored the winning kick.

“By the time the penalty shootout came, we were totally convinced we’d go through. You work, sacrifice and win however you can. We defended really, really well tonight. This was about survival. 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.”

In La Liga, Real are poised to wrest the title from their arch-rivals. They can virtually sew it up this weekend when second-placed Barca visit the Santiago Bernabeu.

“We’re delighted, but we’re very tired — now we have to celebrate because it’s a very important qualification,” continued Ancelotti. “From tomorrow we have to prepare well for Sunday’s game, the Clasico is crucial for the league.”

MUNICH: Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich (R) heads to score past Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya during their quarter-final second leg at the Allianz Arena.—Reuters

After capturing their first treble — Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League titles — last season, City appeared on track to become the first team in history to claim the three titles in back-to-back years.

But despite completely dominating Real, firing 33 shots to Real’s eight and taking 18 corners to just one for the visitors, Guardiola’s men could not finish them off.

Kevin De Bruyne blasted home in the 76th minute to cancel out Rodrygo’s 12th-minute goal, but both the Belgian and City’s goal-scoring machine Erling Haaland squandered several scoring chances as the tie finished 1-1 on the night.

Victory looked in City’s hands when Luka Modric failed to convert Real’s opening spot kick. But goalkeeper Andriy Lunin denied Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic and Real’s Nacho and Rudiger sealed the win.

“Congratulations to Real Madrid, they defend so deep, with incredible solidarity,” Guardiola said. “We did everything. I have no regrets about what we’ve done. Defensively, offensively, we played exceptional in all departments, in everything, and unfortunately we couldn’t win, so that’s what it is.”

Real’s survival instincts are pulling them towards another Champions League title but Bayern stand in their way.

BAYERN ‘FIGHT AND GRIND’ TO DEFEAT ARSENAL

Unlike Real, Bayern will not win any domestic silverware this season after their 11-year-reign as Bundesliga champions was ended by Bayer Leverkusen but are still in the running for the biggest continental club trophy, which they have won six times before, after they beat Arsenal 1-0 at home on Wednesday.

Bayern’s narrow win, thanks to a 63rd-minute header from Joshua Kimmich, gave Bayern a 3-2 aggregate win after a 2-2 draw in London in the first leg.

The hosts worked hard for the win which was in stark contrast to the free-flowing draw at the Emirates and striker Harry Kane toasted his side’s willingness to “fight and grind”.

“It’s an unbelievable win — it’s been a tight season for us,” England captain Kane told TNT. “We had to fight and grind and today was that. We knew we could make the difference with our own fans. It was what we expected, a tough game, a tight game and we got a great goal from Josh to make the difference.”

The victory sent Kane’s side through to the semi-finals for the first time since 2020, when the club won a treble, and he looked forward to the meeting with England team-mate Bellingham’s Real, saying it was “why we moved abroad”.

Kane left boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur for Bayern in the same summer that Bellingham moved from Borussia Dortmund to the Spanish giants.

The England captain, who will play alongside Bellingham at this summer’s European championships in Germany, said he moved for occasions like this.

“These are the experiences that I think we both moved abroad for. To try and achieve it, to play in these big nights,” he said.

Kane said making it to this year’s Champions League final, to be held at Wembley, was both his and Bellingham’s dream.

“For both of us of course. It’ll be in our national stadium so there’s an extra motivation to try and go there and achieve it. But you know we still have two games ahead of us which are going to be really tough and we have to focus on that.”

Wednesday’s result means departing Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel has become the first German to lead clubs from three different countries to at least the semi-finals of the competition after he won the title with Chelsea in 2021 and led Paris St Germain to the final in 2020.

Tuchel will leave a year early after a disappointing domestic run but can now leave on a high.

“We are very proud to have reached the semi-finals and we will now see in two weeks what will happen,” he said.

Tuchel’s Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, urged his players to use the “pain” of the quarter-final exit to fuel their Premier League title bid.

Arsenal are still in the hunt for the league title, sitting second on 71 points, level with Liverpool and two behind leaders City.

“What we have to play for (in the Premier League) is still beautiful. We have six games to go and we are two points behind City,” said Arteta. “It’s a very difficult schedule for everybody. We have to go through the pain tonight, and tomorrow get up and come with the same attitude that we came with here.”

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2024

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