UEFA Champions League Semi-Final Wrap

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Real Madrid Hero Karim Benzema. Image: Football Fancast

The UCL semi-finals were full of drama as Real Madrid and Liverpool progressed to the final stage of the competition. 

Real Madrid def. Bayern Munich (4-3 aggregate)

The most successful team in European football are into the UCL final and are staring down the barrel of a record 13th Champions League title. After a comprehensive first leg victory away from home, Madrid’s confidence was sky high heading back to their home stadium. The Bernabeu has been a cauldron for Real in recent history with Los Blancos scoring in all but three matches at home since early 2016.

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If Bayern were to advance to the final, they would likely need to keep Real Madrid from scoring at home in the second leg, a difficult task even for Jupp Heynckes’ well-drilled, defensive minded unit. Bayern felt the full force of the Bernabeu and the thunderous crowd within it, unable to put a stop to the momentum that Madrid gained in the first leg. 

An early goal to Jordan Kimmich gave Heynckes’ side a pulse but Madrid equalised soon after through great team play. Both sides missed opportunities through the remainder of the first half before the defining moment of the match unfolded in comical circumstances. A shocking error from Bayern’s Sven Ulreich proved costly for the visitors as the goalkeeper’s humiliating mistake allowed Karim Benzema to score the easiest of opportunities.

It was Benzema’s second goal of the match and the nail in the coffin for Munich. The visitors did manage a late goal but it was not enough as Real earned their place in the final. It is Madrid’s third straight UCL final and they will be looking to win their fourth crown in five years.

UCL Past Winners. Image: Sporty Trader

Liverpool def. Roma (7-6 aggregate)

Two high-scoring matches culminating in a one goal difference that saw Liverpool advance to the biggest game in football – there was no doubt this was the more thrilling side of the semi-final draw. Regardless of which team won, the victor was always going to head into the UCL final as underdogs but Liverpool seem more suited to matching the star power of Madrid.

Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp. Image: Pundit Arena

Liverpool’s defensive unit leaves a lot to be desired but they have arguably the best front three in world football. The trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and PFA Player of the Year Mo Salah have been deadly all season and they were big factors in the semi-final victory. Mane scored the first goal on Thursday morning and it turned out to be an important one with the Reds winning the tie by a solitary goal.

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Both sides troubled the scorers in the match, with the final scoreline reading 4-2 in favour of the Romans, unfortunately not enough to see them topple Jurgen Klopp’s side. It had been a gallant campaign for Roma and they would be proud of their efforts despite falling at the penultimate hurdle.

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Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil Van Dijk. Image: The Times

For the Reds, they now turn their attention to the final where they will seek to win their sixth UCL crown. Both Liverpool (EPL) and Real Madrid (La Liga) failed to win the league in their respective competitions this season but a Champions League victory would more than make up for that.

The final will take place at 4.45am AEST on May 27th.

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