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Real Madrid survives Bayern Munich onslaught to reach another Champions League final

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich reacts after his error led to Real Madrid’s second goal of their Champions League semifinal second leg. (Getty)

For the vast majority of the 90 minutes that sent them back to their second home, the Champions League final, the two-time reigning European kings were reeling.

Real Madrid was staggering, knocked back time and time again by Bayern Munich. For the second time in a week, its most familiar European rival had seemingly gotten the better of it. Bayern had launched attack after attack, its superiority clear for all to see.

But for the second time in a week – and this time definitively – Real Madrid survived. Barely.

It pounced on one mistake, and weathered a Munich storm to hold on to a 4-3 aggregate lead and advance to its fourth Champions League final in five years. It needed Keylor Navas heroics and a brief flash of lethal quality. It needed frantic stoppage-time defending from everybody, from Sergio Ramos to Cristiano Ronaldo, to keep the score on the night at 2-2.

And it needed a costly, nightmarish goalkeeping gaffe from Bayern’s Sven Ulreich to get to 2-2 in the first place:


Ulreich’s error was ultimately the difference between the two sides over 180 minutes. It was the difference between extra time and third consecutive Champions League final appearance for Madrid. It was the difference pride and emptiness in Munich.

For an hour, and slightly less so for all 90 minutes on Tuesday, the second leg had followed an eerily similar script to the first. Bayern was as dominant as a Real Madrid opponent can be. Real was disjointed and unstable, unable to contain Bayern’s jaunts down either wing.

And just like at the Allianz Arena six days earlier, the favorites went behind to Joshua Kimmich:


Madrid really only responded with two attacks of note. It struggled to build from the back. But when it did play through Bayern’s pressure, it strung together two stunning moves, each of 28 passes. The first put Real up 3-2 on aggregate:


The second very nearly led to a second goal on the night:


But one goal was a fair first-half output for Madrid. On the other hand, it was a cruelly low first-half output for Munich.

The visitors couldn’t believe they didn’t level the tie on aggregate in the 33rd minute when both Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller had close-range shots blocked. James Rodriguez came charging onto the end of the second deflection and skied his follow-up effort over the bar:


Bayern also had a penalty appeal denied shortly before halftime when Marcelo handled a Kimmich cross:


Franck Ribery was a menace all half, and all night. With Javi Martinez benched, the forward-thinking midfield three of Corentin Tolisso, James and Thiago Alcantara kept Real on the back foot. Going into halftime, Munich needed just one goal to send the game to extra time, and barring a significant Madrid correction, there seemed to be little doubt Jupp Heynckes’ side would get it.

But shortly after halftime, all of Bayern’s positive efforts unravelled.

Ulreich charged out to meet a weak back-pass, but got caught in two minds. He slid to block what he thought would be a Benzema shot. When he reached the ball before the French striker, he realized he couldn’t play it with his hands. Instead of concede an indirect free kick, he let the ball run for Benzema – with Real’s first touch of the half – to tap home.

Bayern stayed in control, a testament to its top-drawer quality and poise. And with around a half-hour remaining, James pulled it back into the tie.


But thereafter, there was simply no way past Navas, and therefore no route to Kiev for the final. The Costa Rican shot-stopper made eight saves in all. Over the two legs, he ensured 39 Bayern shots, many of them from close-range, yielded just three goals.


Bayern did everything it could. Somehow, it could not find a third goal. It could not find any way to interrupt Real Madrid’s historic spell of Champions League dominance. And now only Liverpool or Roma will stand in the way of the three-peat on May 26.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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