Madrid's miracle well runs dry in Manchester
Real Madrid's miracle well ran dry in devastating fashion in Manchester on Wednesday, leaving the 14-time European champions stunned and licking their wounds on the way back to the Spanish capital.
Carlo Ancelotti's side were hammered 4-0 by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with Pep Guardiola's side earning revenge for last season's defeat by Los Blancos at the same stage.
This time the second leg was not at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Madrid produced a string of astonishing moments to overcome Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and City on the way to winning last season's competition.
Madrid, who have won five of the last nine Champions Leagues, have grown used to pulling off spectacular and sometimes inexplicable comebacks in Europe.
Even when Madrid have been outplayed, they have clung on by their fingertips and found a way through. Many across the continent thought it was about time for that to change.
However, the way the match began seemed to set things up for another Madrid survival masterclass.
Guardiola's City dominated, just as they did last week at the Bernabeu in the 1-1 first leg draw, before Vinicius Junior sucker-punched the English side on the counter.
At the Etihad, Erling Haaland was foiled twice by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the second of which was a brilliant, bewildering save.
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However, unlike in the first leg, Bernardo Silva broke free of Eduardo Camavinga's shackles and was decisive.
The Portuguese midfielder struck twice, leaving Madrid with an uphill struggle -- although they have come back from those before.
Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos hit the crossbar with a rocket from distance.
"On this occasion things didn't go our way like they did last year," lamented Courtois, referring to the German's piledriver.
Last season Rodrygo Goes struck two late goals in less than two minutes to force the second leg to extra-time, and Madrid improved after the break, with a comeback still not off the table.
However, City eventually stepped up another gear to whisk the game away from Madrid, scraping around for another moment of inspiration but finding the cupboard bare.
Eder Militao deflected Manuel Akanji's header into his own net for City's third and Julian Alvaraz rolled the fourth past Courtois to wrap up their emphatic victory.
"Evaluating what happened in this moment what happened makes no sense to me," Ancelotti told Movistar.
"It's a defeat that hurts but sometimes it can happen in football, in the Champions League semi-final against a strong opponent that played better than you."
The Italian coach said he was planning on seeing out the last year of his contract, which expires in June 2024.
Madrid's board and president Florentino Perez have backed Ancelotti staying over the past couple of weeks, at least in public, but his future will inevitably be debated during the weeks ahead.
When Madrid's magical concoction of individual skill, never-say-die spirit and luck runs out, questions get asked.
Perez may wonder if Madrid need something more tangible than miracles next season.