For the second time in three years, Real Madrid will take on Atlético Madrid, its city and Spanish league rival, in the final of the Champions League.
Real Madrid reached their 14th European Cup final and crushed Manchester City’s hopes of a maiden title after Gareth Bale’s deflected effort secured a 1-0 victory in the second leg of their last four clash in Madrid on Wednesday.
Two years ago, Real Madrid turned around a tense game in Lisbon to beat Atlético in extra time and win a record 10th title.
After a scoreless draw in Manchester in the first leg, Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s new coach and former star, had promised that he would field an offense-minded side, lifted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the first leg with an injury.
Madrid was true to Zidane’s word, taking charge of the game from the start while City defended deep. Even though Madrid was missing the injured Karim Benzema, it rapidly became clear that the team had enough firepower to challenge the City defense, which suffered an early blow when its injury-prone captain, Vincent Kompany, limped off after 10 minutes.
Twenty minutes in, Real Madrid was rewarded for its constant pressure — even if that reward still required an element of luck. Dani Carvajal ran forward unchallenged on the right side before sliding the ball ahead to Gareth Bale at the near post.
Bale, who has recently been at his best for Madrid in Ronaldo’s absence, hit a powerful shot from a tight angle.
Wednesday’s result brought to a disappointing close Manuel Pelligrini’s managerial career at City. Pellegrini, a former Madrid coach, is making way for Pep Guardiola, who will take charge after enduring his own Champions League semifinal heartache on Tuesday, when his Bayern Munich team beat Atlético, 2-1, but was eliminated on the away-goals rule, having lost by 1-0 in the first leg.
Pellegrini told reporters that City had suffered because of the absence of injured players like David Silva but that the team had managed to shut down Madrid to the point that, he argued, neither team deserved to win before a penalty shootout.