City took a statement lead at home within the first two minutes through Kevin De Bruyne, heading home off of a Mahrez cross. They didn’t let the pace dip as they extended their lead to two from a finish from Gabriel Jesus, the in-form Brazilian becoming a key figure in the heart of City’s attack. It looked at the time like the match could become a thrashing in favour of City, until habitual hero Benzema showed his class with a clinical finish from the edge of the box to drag them back into the game.
The game continued to ebb and flow, with chances missed at either end. City’s Mahrez especially was electric but struggled with their end product, one strike bouncing agonisingly off the post and at an off-guard Foden who could only blast it into the first defender. He would have more time at the second time of asking, finding himself with space at the end of the 6-yard box to place a headed strike low past Courtois.
It seemed like Madrid would need divine inspiration to gain momentum in the tie, and it arrived as Vinicius Jr dummied a ball along the line, taking the defending Fernandinho out of the game and leaving him in the dust. Nobody could catch him once he was away, and his half-pitch run was rewarded with the ball nestling into the right side of the net. Not to be outdone, Bernardo Silva produced his own form of magic with a gorgeous strike into the top left corner after some very aware refereeing from Istvan Kovacs to play advantage, as Zinchenko had been taken out on the edge of the box seconds before goal.
To put a bow on an already spectacular first leg, the referee gave Madrid a penalty for an Aymeric Laporte handball, a penalty which Benzema dispatched with audacious style, his chipped panenka drifting into the top of the net. Ederson had made a guess and dived to his left, clearing the way for the effort and putting Madrid within one goal going into the second leg.
The game at the Santiago Bernabeu, whilst not having quite as many goals, would prove to be no less dramatic. A cagey and frantic first half saw both teams create strong chances, but City seemed to be marginally on top throughout, and would break the deadlock in the 72nd minute, Silva laying off Mahrez for a powerful shot into the top right corner. City had a two-goal lead and seemed certain to progress as the minutes ticked into the late 80 with no reply from the home side.
The stadium, filled with tension and home fans clinging onto the last shreds of their Champions League hopes, pulsated alongside every beat of the game, like a single organism powered by the heart at the centre. The system received a shot of adrenaline then and Rodrygo finished from close range to bring Madrid back within one heading into injury time of six minutes. The game and the ground were alive and well again as Carvajal whipped in a sublime cross, which Rodrygo rose highest to meet and guide into the net to equalise in the 91st minute. The stadium naturally erupted, the game was set for extra time, and it was anyone’s opportunity now.
The only let down of the entire event would be the manner in which the winner was scored, the only goal in extra time coming off the back of a tight penalty call after Dias brought down Benzema in the box. There was no cute trickery this time from the Frenchman, who buried his shot confidently in the bottom right corner after sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
The game, as with the rest of Madrid’s captivating cup run, will surely go down in the history of great Champions league matchups, and sets up the final of Real Madrid vs Liverpool, a matchup with recent history in the competition, and all the bad blood that comes with it.