Karim Benzema explains his “mental confidence” behind taking a Panenka penalty whilst Pep Guardiola says Man City won’t hold back in the second leg.
A breathtaking game, packed with chances and moments of individual brilliance was a treat for those watching but leaves City, who had the better of the game, with the slenderest of leads to defend at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.
One of the key moments came as City’s Aymeric Laporte was penalised when the ball struck his arm in the area and Benzema converted the penalty with a cheeky ‘Panenka’ chip down the middle to make the score 4-3 eight minutes from the end.
It was a remarkable piece of skill, one that took nerves of steel considering Benzema had missed two penalties in Real Madrid’s last game with Osasuna. After his two goals in Manchester, Benzema has now netted a staggering 41 goals in his 41 appearances this season.
Benzema said: “I always have it in my head that if you don’t take a penalty, you will never miss a penalty. That’s mental confidence and that’s all. I have a lot of confidence in myself… so I do it and it turns out well.”
His boss Carlo Ancelotti said: “I think he changed because the last two penalties were not good. He tried in training, I didn’t know how he would shoot. He chose this [Panenka] and he did really well, showing strong personality and character. It’s not easy in the semi-final of the Champions League to shoot a penalty like this.”
City boss Pep Guardiola knows his team just need to avoid defeat in Spain to reach a second consecutive Champions League final but he won’t be changing his attacking ethos.
He said: “It was a fantastic game for both sides. We did many good things. Unfortunately we conceded goals and we could not score more.
“We played a fantastic game against an incredible team. The moments where they rise and come back into the game in the first half I think we gave them as our build-up was so nervous. Normally we are so safe and so good. Also they press really good and strong. All around the world and for Manchester City, we are so proud. But it is about reaching the final and sometimes football happens. We go to Madrid to try to win the game.
“We went out of the Champions League to Tottenham when Llorente with the hand. Today it is a hand for Laporte. It happens. All we can do is perform as we perform. The quality of Real Madrid is such they can punish you.
“What we have done with the ball and without the ball, creating chances and chances and chances I can’t ask anything else. I say to the players to rest. Leeds now is the most important thing and we go to Madrid to win. Both teams want to attack and have the quality to play. Football is a fantastic spectacle. Congratulations to Carlo and his team as they are so good. At the same time, we saw ourselves that we can be there.”
Ancelotti: We reacted really well
Madrid have already dug deep to edge past Paris St Germain and Chelsea to reach the semi-finals, and the Bernabeu is primed for another special night next week. Ancelotti’s side had looked in danger of being blown away at times on Tuesday but somehow escaped trailing by one goal.
Ancelotti told BT Sport: “As a supporter of football it was a fantastic game. As manager of Real Madrid, I think I have to take into consideration we scored three goals and that was really important, but we didn’t defend so well.
“We conceded two goals so early in the game and then we were able to react really well. We kept the game open until the end and of course now we have a great dream to play the second game in the Bernabeu and have the chance to go to the final.
“The first 20 minutes were really difficult but after that, slowly we were able to come back into the game and keep qualification open.
“We are going to play against a really strong team. They showed fantastic quality today but we competed and we have to compete more in our stadium.”
What’s next for Man City & Real Madrid?
Manchester City continue their quest for the Premier League title with a trip to Leeds on Saturday evening at 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports. City hold a one-point lead over Liverpool, who visit Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime.
Real Madrid can win the La Liga title on Saturday with a victory at home against Espanyol. Second-placed Barcelona missed the chance to cut into Real’s 15-point lead after losing 1-0 at the Nou Camp to Rayo Vallecano last weekend.
To be rearranged: Wolves (a) Premier League
April 30 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 4 – Real Madrid (a) Champions League SF second leg
May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Aston Villa (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress