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

Apr 26, 2022, 1:59 AM | Updated: 4:22 pm

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva, right, celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the...

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva, right, celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Champions League semi final, first leg soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — It was the coolest of penalties at the end of one of the wildest matches in Champions League history.

With his cheekily dispatched “Panenka,” Karim Benzema might just have kept Real Madrid’s chances alive against Manchester City in the semifinals.

City won a breathless first-leg match 4-3 at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday but squandered so many chances in an end-to-end, basketball-style epic that it hardly felt like a victory for the English club.

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

City built a two-goal lead three times but just couldn’t shake off Madrid, the kings of the competition — as City manager Pep Guardiola calls them.

So it felt inevitable that when Aymeric Laporte gave away a penalty with 10 minutes remaining, Madrid wouldn’t waste the opportunity to return to Santiago Bernabeu for next week’s second leg with, somehow, only a one-goal deficit.

Just when many inside the stadium were losing their heads, Benzema kept his, chipping the ball high and straight down the middle before wheeling away in front of Madrid’s jubilant fans with his arms outstretched.

“The most important thing is we never lay down our arms,” Benzema said. “We are all in this until the end.”

With the France striker in its team, Madrid will never lose hope.

His double here — after back-to-back hat tricks earlier in the knockout stage — took his total in the Champions League this season to a competition-high 14 goals. Benzema now has 41 goals in all competitions in the most prolific season of his career.

Without him, Madrid probably would not be still in with a chance of a record-extending 14th European Cup title.

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

Guardiola didn’t have a bad word to say about his team, though. “Exceptional” was his verdict.

But he surely knows City should be out of sight and already preparing for a second straight appearance in the final and the chance to avenge last year’s loss to Chelsea.

The English champions led 2-0 after 11 minutes, with Kevin De Bruyne making a late run into the box to head home Riyad Mahrez’s cross and Gabriel Jesus — retained in the team after scoring four goals against Watford in the Premier League on Saturday — producing a coolly taken finish after spinning David Alaba following De Bruyne’s cross.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti lost 5-0 on his previous visit to the Etihad — with Everton on the final day of last season’s Premier League — and City looked like scoring just as many, if not more.

With Madrid fielding a ball-playing midfield — of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde — that lacked the bite of injured Casemiro, City cut through the visitors at will and should have been further clear before Benzema steered a volley in off the post from Ferland Mendy’s cross in the 33rd.

Riyad Mahrez wasted gilt-edged chances either side of Benzema’s goal to leave Guardiola enraged on the sideline, the first in the 26th when he swung wildly when one-on-one with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and hit the sidenetting, and then just after the restart when he raced through again and curled against the post.

It would have come as a relief to Mahrez that Foden restored City’s two-goal lead in the 53rd, heading home a cross from the overlapping Fernandinho — the 36-year-old club captain who went on at right back for the injured John Stones near the end of the first half.

Back came Madrid two minutes later, with Vinicius Junior turning Fernandinho — showing his fallibility in an unfamiliar position — near the halfway line and sprinting down the left before cutting in and placing a shot beyond Ederson. Laporte chose not to close down Vinicius, instead covering the potential cross into a middle, though that wouldn’t be his biggest mistake of the night.

The chances kept coming, mostly for City, before Bernardo Silva curled a rising shot inside the near post after quick-witted referee Istvan Kovacs decided to play the advantage following a foul on Oleksandr Zinchenko outside the area.

Benzema had the final say, however, like he has so many times in this season’s competition, and Madrid has renewed belief of reaching a first final since 2018.

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


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

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