By Andy Hampson, PA, Madrid
Pep Guardiola promised Manchester City will bounce back from their Champions League heartache at the Bernabeu Stadium.
City were within moments of booking a return to the final on Wednesday night as they held a 1-0 lead – and a 5-3 aggregate advantage – over Real Madrid in an absorbing semi-final second leg.
Yet the Premier League leaders’ caved in dramatic fashion as Rodrygo struck twice with 90 minutes on the clock to send the tie into extra time.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 4, 2022
With City still reeling, Karim Benzema then put Real ahead for the first time over the two legs from the penalty spot.
The Spanish giants held on for a memorable 3-1 success on the night and 6-5 on aggregate, to progress to a final date with Liverpool in Paris.
City must now quickly pick themselves up from this shattering loss as the Premier League title race resumes at the weekend.
Guardiola’s side, who host Newcastle on Sunday, have no room for error, with Liverpool trailing them by just a point with four games remaining.
The City manager said: “We need time now, one or two days, but we will rise. We have to do it (and) with our people (we will).
“The players gave everything. We were so close and we could not do it.”
Real, trailing 4-3 from the first leg, took the game to City early on and created a few opportunities with Benzema twice off target.
Yet City looked to have ridden the storm and fixed up an all-English final against Liverpool when Riyad Mahrez swept them ahead after a superb counter-attack in the 73rd minute. Jack Grealish almost added another when he had a shot cleared off the line.
Yet everything changed in the 90th minute as Rodrygo pulled one back from close range with Real’s first shot on target. Remarkably, he followed up to level the tie with a header just moments later.
By now the Bernabeu crowd believed Real, after producing stunning fightbacks against Paris St Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds, could do so again.
The hosts had all the momentum heading into extra time and it seemed inevitable they would score again. So it proved as Benzema struck his third goal of the tie after being felled in the box by Ruben Dias.
Guardiola felt Real’s dramatic late recovery came from nowhere.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 4, 2022
He said: “There is a long history in sport of this kind of situation happening when you arrive at the end, 10 or 15 minutes left, and you are absolutely being dominated with the opponent creating a lot of problems. But that didn’t happen.
“Then they found it, and a minute later another one. With their people supporting it was difficult and after the penalty made the difference.”
City’s players were in little mood to speak after the game and unused substitute goalkeeper Zack Steffen was the only one to post on social media.
“A very tough one to take but proud of the boys tonight,” the American wrote on Twitter.