The knockout stages of the Uefa Champions League have become “an absolute must-watch”, the BBC said last year. And this season, the “pinnacle” of European club football has once again proved to be one of the greatest shows in world sport.
In the two quarter-final second legs on Tuesday night, there was drama in both ties. In Spain Real Madrid lost 3-2 on the night to holders Chelsea and needed extra-time to seal a 5-4 aggregate victory. While in Germany Villareal scored an 88th-minute equaliser against six-time winners Bayern Munich to draw 1-1 on the night and progress 2-1 on aggregate.
The Spanish press celebrated “wildly” after the two La Liga teams made it through to the semi-finals, the Daily Mail reported. “What a night, what delirium!” was the headline in Marca, which released a “double-page front cover edition with each half dedicated to each side”.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Benzema breaks Chelsea hearts
Fans inside the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium witnessed “arguably one of the best games this season”, said the Mail. On a dramatic Champions League night Real Madrid survived a stirring comeback from Chelsea to reach the last four.
Real, who needed their own comeback to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, took a 3-1 lead into the second leg thanks to Karim Benzema’s hat-trick in last week’s match at Stamford Bridge. Defending champions Chelsea travelled to Spain requiring a miracle to reach the semi-finals – and the miracle was “soo close”, said Daniel Childs on Football.London.
Thomas Tuchel’s side went into a 3-0 lead on the night, 4-3 up on aggregate, after goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner. The “greatest comeback result in the club’s history was on”, said David Hytner in The Guardian.
But just after Werner’s 75th-minute goal, Real substitute Rodrygo forced extra-time with a superb volley and then in the 96th-minute in-form French striker Benzema “broke Chelsea’s hearts” with a headed winner, said the Mail. The Blues “will not get the credit they deserve for this performance, that is the pity”. It will go down as a defeat “when on the night Chelsea won”.
The clash at the Bernabéu will go down in history as a “Champions League classic”, said James Stroud on GiveMeSport. And the night “will live long in the memories of everyone present”, Hytner added.
When are the semi-finals?
There could be further drama when the remaining quarter-final second legs are played on Wednesday evening. After their 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium last week, Premier League champions Manchester City will travel to Spain to face Atlético Madrid. Liverpool host Benfica at Anfield and will be confident of reaching the last four having beaten the Portuguese side 3-1 in the first leg.
Real Madrid and Villarreal are the first two teams through to the Champions League semi-finals, which will be played on 26-27 April and 3-4 May. Thirteen-time winners Real will play Man City or Atlético and Villarreal will face Benfica or Liverpool.
Champions League semi-final draw
- Manchester City or Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid
- Benfica or Liverpool vs. Villarreal
- Ties will be played on 26-27 April and 3-4 May
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.