Inevitable Madrid continue CLeague love affair

May 10: Real Madrid turned to the same old story in the Champions League and even though Bayern Munich knew all of the words, they were powerless to stop the kings of Europe pulling off another improbable and yet inevitable comeback.

Joselu’s late double fired the record 14-time winners into the Wembley final on June 1, just as it seemed Bayern had set up another all-German battle as in 2013.

Madrid’s Jude Bellingham will face his former team Borussia Dortmund in search of the 15th, after Los Blancos returned from what he described as “dead and buried” to triumph.

“We saw ourselves in the final and now I’m lost for words,” said shellshocked Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“Madrid are immortal,” wrote Spanish newspaper Marca. “The eternal miracle,” proclaimed another capital publication, AS.

Madrid will be firm favourites to extend their dominance in Europe after reaching their sixth Champions League final in the last 11 years and winning five of the last 10.

Regardless of whether they are outplayed, as by Manchester City in the quarter-finals, or on the verge of elimination, as against Bayern, Madrid so often find a way where other teams would wither.

Alphonso Davies’ second-half strike had Bayern dreaming of a 2013 final rematch against Bundesliga rivals Dortmund, but journeyman forward Joselu intervened in the dying embers of the match.

“It’s happened again — it’s happened so often,” marvelled Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, a four-time winner of the trophy as a coach.

“Fans who push us on, a fantastic stadium, players who never stop believing — it’s simply something magical.”

Journeyman striker and back-up option Joselu, on as a late substitute, wrote his name in Madrid’s history books with his last-gasp brace, giving Europe’s comeback kings another night to remember. “(The comeback) was with feeling and with heart, as the coach told us — you have to win games with heart,” said Joselu.

‘Going for the 15th’

Madrid have enjoyed many spectacular comebacks over the years but the last time they lifted the trophy, in 2022, their run to the final defied belief at every step.

Two goals down on aggregate against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, an 18-minute Karim Benzema hat-trick sent them through.

Despite trailing Chelsea 3-0 in the semi-final second leg, a majestic Luka Modric pass and Rodrygo’s finish forced extra-time, and Madrid went on to win.

Thomas Tuchel was Chelsea coach at the time and even with that first-hand experience, the Bayern boss could not prepare his team for Madrid’s penchant for European magic.

Two injury-time goals in just over a minute from Rodrygo rescued Madrid in the semi-final against Manchester City — and even though Liverpool outplayed them in the Paris final, Los Blancos triumphed.

However the match which sprang to mind most readily was Madrid’s previous victory over Bayern in 2018, when goalkeeper Sven Ulreich made an inexplicable error to allow Benzema in.

This time it was veteran Neuer, who had excelled throughout, who suddenly found himself spilling a shot he would usually contain comfortably and Joselu pounced.

Madrid had enjoyed the better of the match but it seemed Davies’ superb strike had set up a repeat of the 2013 all-German final in London.

Instead Joselu consigned Bayern to a first trophyless season since 2012, his first goal coming after a handling error from Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who had superbly kept Madrid at bay until that point.

“(Before that) there were world class saves after world class saves, but that can happen, it’s football,” said Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt.

Fellow goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma, Loris Karius and Edouard Mendy will have sympathy after they all committed high-profile errors against Madrid in recent years, contributing to Los Blancos’ burgeoning trophy cabinet.

“It’s extremely bitter for me,” the 38-year-old Neuer said to DAZN. “I expected the ball to land a bit differently to my chest but it went a bit higher and it was difficult to get a hold of it. And then Joselu was there quicker and it was difficult to defend.

“For a goalkeeper who’s been around for a while it’s something I’ve already experienced, but the goal was brutal.”

AC Milan, with seven Champions League wins, are Madrid’s closest contenders on exactly half the Spanish giants’ tally.

Final opponents Dortmund have lifted the trophy on just one occasion, back in 1997, and few will give them a chance against the might of Madrid.

Since ending an 11-year dry spell by winning their 10th Champions League during Ancelotti’s first spell at the helm a decade ago, Madrid have not looked back.

“We always believe in ourselves… it happened again and we’re going for the 15th,” said Vinicius Junior, who scored the goal that won Madrid’s 14th. (AFP)

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