Benzema keeps Madrid alive in Champions League despite 4-3 loss to City

Manchester, April 27 (BUS): The most impressive penalty shootout at the end of one of the fiercest matches in the history of the Champions League.

With his subtle ‘Panenka’ style, Karim Benzema could have kept Real Madrid’s chances alive against Manchester City in the semi-finals.

City won the first leg 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, but missed so many chances in a basketball-style epic from start to finish that it hardly felt like a victory for the English club.

“We could have killed them,” said Phil Foden, one of City’s four scorers in a match that pretty much featured everything.

City scored a two-goal lead three times, but could not get rid of Real Madrid, the kings of the competition – as City coach Pep Guardiola calls them.

Therefore, it was inevitable that when Aymeric Laporte missed a penalty 10 minutes from the end of the match, Real Madrid would not miss the opportunity to return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg next week, in a way, only by one goal difference.

Just when many on the pitch were losing their heads, Benzema held on, pulling the ball high and just down the middle before sliding away in front of the jubilant Madrid fans with his arms outstretched.

“The most important thing is that we never lay down our weapons,” Benzema said. “We’re all in this until the end.”

With the France striker in his squad, Real Madrid will never lose hope.

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His double here – after two consecutive hat-tricks earlier in the knockout stage – has brought his Champions League goals total this season to 14. Benzema now has 41 goals in all competitions in the most prolific season of his career.

Without him, Real Madrid probably wouldn’t still have a chance of winning their 14th European Cup.

“Madrid is just Madrid,” Guardiola said. “It doesn’t matter if you have one, two, or three goals ahead of you.”

However, Guardiola didn’t have a bad word to say about his team. His judgment was “exceptional”.

But he certainly knows that City have to be out of sight and are already preparing for their second successive final appearance and the chance to avenge Chelsea’s loss last year.

The England champions advanced 2-0 after 11 minutes, as Kevin De Bruyne made a late run in the penalty area to parry Riyad Mahrez’s cross, and Gabriel Jesus – in the squad after scoring four goals against Watford in the Premier League on Saturday – kept production. Great finishing touch after spinning David Alaba after De Bruyne’s cross.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti lost 5-0 on his previous visit to the Federation – with Everton on the final day of the Premier League last season – and City looked as if they were scoring as many, if not more.

With Real Madrid in a ball-playing midfield – from Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde – who lacked the stinging injured Casemiro, City cut through the visitors’ midfield at will and should have been more visible before Benzema fired a shot into the post from the post. Ferland Mendy’s cross in the thirty-third.

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Riyad Mahrez missed amazing opportunities on both sides of Benzema’s goal to leave Guardiola angry on the touch line, the first in the 26th minute when he swung strongly when he faced one-on-one with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and took a penalty kick, and then immediately after the second half. When raced through again it is curled against the post.

Mahrez could have comforted that Foden restored City’s two-goal lead in the 53rd minute, heading in a cross from the overlapping Fernandinho – the 36-year-old captain who went into right-back position for injured John Stones near the end of the first half.

Real Madrid came back two minutes later, with Vinicius Jr rotating Fernandinho – appearing infallible in an unfamiliar situation – near the halfway line and running to the left before cutting and firing past Ederson. Laporte chose not to lock down Vinicius, and instead covered the potential cross into the middle, although that wouldn’t be his biggest mistake of the night.

Chances continued to emerge, mostly for City, before Bernardo Silva fired up a shot into the near post after quick-witted referee Istvan Kovacs decided to take advantage after a foul on Oleksandr Zinchenko outside the area.

But Benzema had the last word, as he did so many times in this season’s competition, and Real Madrid renewed their belief in reaching the first final since 2018.

“It’s a defeat, and that leaves us alive in the second leg,” Ancelotti said.

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