Bayern to meet Real in semifinals as City, Arsenal crash out from CL

Manchester, Apr. 19: Bayern Munich will host Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund hosts Paris Saint-Germain in the first legs of the Champions League semifinals. Bayern-Madrid is on April 30, and Madrid will stage the return leg on May 8.

Dortmund-PSG is on May 1, and PSG has the second leg on May 7. The scheduling was on Thursday. The final is at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.

Real overcomes City on penalties

Real Madrid weathered the storm, silenced the crowd and ultimately ended Manchester City’s brief hold on the Champions League.

The all-time kings of Europe moved a step closer to a record-extending 15th title in the competition they have dominated after a 4-3 win Wednesday on penalties at Etihad Stadium.

But not before being pushed to the limit by defending champion City. “I was pretty much dead on my feet at the end,” Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham said. “It’s so difficult. They are continuously probing with the ball and move you around. Most teams would fall apart when City get on top of you, but we stood up really well.”

The game had gone to the uncertainty of a shootout after ending 1-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate. City dominated the chances after going behind to Rodrygo’s goal in the 12th minute, but only had Kevin de Bruyne’s leveler in the 76th to show for its superiority, which included 64% of possession and 18 corners to Madrid’s one through extra time.

That counted for little as Antonio Rudiger struck the decisive spot kick after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic both saw their penalties saved. “In this competition, that’s the way football happens,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “In other sports, for (these) statistics, we would have won.”

Madrid dug deep, held on and now faces Bayern Munich in the semifinals. “Today it came down to mentality,” Bellingham said. 

The defeat ended City’s bid to become the first English team to win back-to-back Champions League titles and its pursuit of successive trebles. It is still challenging for the Premier League title and FA Cup.

Victory for Madrid saw the Spanish giant advance to the semifinals for the fourth year in row — denying City the chance to emulate that feat.

“This was about survival,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “Madrid is a club based on always fighting to stay in situations where there seems to be no way out – but we always find a way. By the time the penalty shoot-out came, we were totally convinced we’d go through.”

Ancelotti has already won the Champions League a record four times as a coach — one more than Guardiola — and could extend that record by lifting the trophy for a third time with Madrid.

For Guardiola it is back to the drawing board after watching his team to relinquish the trophy it won for the first time last year and ending his own 12-year wait to triumph again in European club soccer’s most demanding competition.

“I have to say thank you to these players from deep in my heart because the way they played. But football is about winning and we didn’t do enough, yet we were exceptional,” he said.

This was the third straight season Madrid and City have clashed in the Champions League in what is becoming a classic rivalry. The winner of their meetings going on to win the competition in each of the past two years.

Kimmich powers Bayern

Bayern Munich could yet crown a disappointing season with the Champions League title. Arsenal faces the prospect of ending a promising season with no trophy.

Joshua Kimmich’s header powered Bayern to a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday to reach the Champions League semifinals with a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

With the score at 2-2 from the first leg in London, Kimmich’s header off Raphael Guerreiro’s pinpoint cross put Bayern ahead in the 63rd minute as Bayern largely neutralized the English team’s attack.

Arsenal’s players were “gutted,” manager Mikel Arteta told broadcaster TNT Sports. “I cannot find the right words to lift them.”

Bayern kept alive its hopes of finishing the season with a trophy three days after Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champion. Tuchel said it meant “really a lot” to beat Arsenal. “The semifinals are an important step, the last four, that was fun,” he told broadcaster DAZN.

Bayern and Arsenal have been drawn together five times in the knockout stages of the Champions League since 2005 and the German team has eliminated Arsenal on each occasion.

Arsenal’s Champions League exit follows a heavy blow to its Premier League title ambitions in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday. Defeat also rules Arsenal out of next year’s Club World Cup in the United States, in favor of Austrian team Salzburg.

Arsenal was left to rue the defensive errors that cost the team in the first leg. “We gave them two goals, a big advantage to give away, and today you could see it was margin of error zero, we made a mistake defending the goal and we conceded,” Arteta said.

“Then it was difficult. We tried in many different ways but it’s difficult. It is the moment to stay next to the players, give them support, because they are the ones who have taken us on this journey.”

Tuchel — who is leaving at the end of the season — becomes a Champions League semifinalist as coach of three different teams, having led Paris Saint-Germain to the 2020 final before winning the competition with Chelsea a year later. (AP)

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