UEFA Champions League
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Real Madrid booked their place in the Final of the UEFA Champions League after narrowly defeating Manchester City 1-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
A deflected effort from Gareth Bale was enough for the ten-time winners who had Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the side after missing three games including the first-leg due to injury. Both sides hit the woodwork but Los Blancos held on to their narrow lead to set up a repeat of the 2014 Final against Atlético Madrid where they won La Décima coming from behind to beat the Rojiblancos 4-1 at the Estádio Da Luz in Lisbon.
The visitors knew that they were in for a tough night and their task got even more difficult when skipper Vincent Kompany had to be replaced by Eliaquim Mangala in the ninth minute due to an injury.
The hosts did start well despite the injury to Komapny and went close to finding the opener when Dani Carvajal found Ronaldo with a cross but the Portuguese striker could only head over. Eight minutes later the hosts took the lead. Carvajal found Bale whose cross-come-shot was deflected past Joe Hart by Fernando before the ball clipped the inside of the post and went in.
Three minutes later the hosts went close to finding another when Isco’s pull-back intended for Marcelo, was fired over by Ronaldo.
In the 35th minute the hosts thought they had a second when Pepe found his skipper Sergio Ramos who bundled over the line. However the goal was chalked off with the linesman adjudging Pepe to have been in an offside position.
The visitors didn’t really threaten the hosts in the first-half but almost found a goal out of nothing. Two minutes before the break Kevin De Bruyne found Fernandinho who cut inside before unleashing a strike that struck the outside of the post with Keylor Navas beaten.
Despite having the lead, the hosts knew that an away goal from City would mean that Los Blancos would need another goal and after the break the hosts had a great opportunity to double their lead. Bale wonderfully picked out Ronaldo in space but the former Manchester United player miscued his volley and Hart claimed the loose ball.
A minute later the hosts should have doubled their lead. Bale found Modrić who sprung the offside trap and with City’s players asleep – expecting the flag to go up, the Croatian controlled the ball before firing a rushed effort that forced Hart into a brilliant save, when he really should have made it two.
In the 54th minute the hosts went close again. Carvajal found Ronaldo with a cross but his effort was claimed well by Hart. Four minutes later Hart was in the thick of it again. Substitute Lucas Vázquez teed up Ronaldo whose first-time forced Hart into a good save again.
In the 63rd minute the hosts very nearly made it two. A Toni Kroos corner was headed onto the underside of the bar by Bale. That was before Ronaldo palmed the ball into the net from a Pepe cross but he was fortunate not to be booked as he was penalised for being offside instead.
In the 88th minute the visitors almost punished the hosts for their missed opportunities when Sergio Agüero curled an effort onto the roof of the net with Navas at full-stretch. The effort had fooled some City fans who thought the strike was in.
The last opportunity of the game fell to the hosts and substitute James Rodríguez who should have wrapped up the victory but he couldn’t make any contact with his volley and City cleared the danger.
That was the last action of the match as the referee blew his whistle to bring the second-leg to an end.
The result meant that Real Madrid will face city rivals Atlético in the Final in Milan in an attempt to win their 11th Champions League title. It will be the second time in three years that the two sides will battle it out in the Champions League Final and the third time in three consecutive years that the two sides have met with Los Blancos defeating the Rojiblancos in the quarter-finals last season.
That was City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini’s final chance to win the competition. The coach departs at the end of the season and will be replaced by Pep Guardiola who saw his Bayern side defeated by Atlético last night.