Real Madrid find a way to final again as late Joselu double breaks Bayern hearts

by 24britishtvMay 8, 2024, 11 p.m. 24
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Just ridiculous. Just Real Madrid. The team that appear to own this competition, that have some mystical hold over the trophy they refuse to let go of, are in the final again because, well, of course they are. Late on another wild, magical night here, the Santiago Bernabéu launched into a familiar chant. “That’s how Madrid win,” it goes. Again and again and again, each time more epic, more absurd than the last, this team a force that cannot be contained. The closer you think you are, the further away it is, as Bayern Munich found like so many others before them.

Thomas Tuchel’s team had held on, survived a storm, and scored, Alphonso Davies smashing in a superb shot to give them a 1-0 lead, 3-2 on aggregate, and a foothold in the final. They should have scored again, at last killing off the team that just will not die, but Harry Kane sent a late chance into the side-netting and Kim Min-jae then headed against the bar from three yards. Still, Wembley was so near. Less than three minutes plus stoppages remained but, as tends to happen here, it turned out to be a lifetime, much of which they will surely spend wondering what happened.

Madrid happened. Time is a different concept here; 153 seconds somehow sufficient not just for Madrid to take this to extra time, but go and win it. Two goals from the former Stoke and Newcastle striker Joselu, on loan from Espanyol of the second division and sent on as a sub, took them to the final, the Bernabéu exploding. It was barely believable, and yet it was so very believable.

It had happened again and it was so cruel. Manuel Neuer – Bayern’s best player, standing up against Vinícius – dropped the first at Joselu’s feet on 87.27 and the forward turned the second over the line on 90.02. A goal, the goal, that was at first disallowed for offside but then reinstated, the delay only adding to the drama.

There was even time for Bayern to be denied a twist, a lifeline, of their own: the chance to let Madrid feel what it is like. With the clock on 103 minutes, Matthijs de Ligt fired into the net only to see the linesman’s flag up. It had been raised so early it infuriated Bayern, but there was no way back, royalty heading through to another final and another chance to wear its crown. This would be a game of waves, Tuchel had said. Bayern had withstood many of them, released some of their own, but the last of them came crashing through his team, washing them away.

The very first nearly had too, Vinícius sprinting up the right and winning a corner after just seven seconds, standing there imploring the stadium to roar. What no one could have imagined is whose name they would end up chanting loudest, Joselu pushed before the fans, an unexpected hero.

Madrid had started well, Dani Carvajal’s early ball going all the way across the face of goal and just avoiding Rodrygo. Soon after, Carvajal was there again, slipping it to Vinícius, near the corner of the six-yard box. Neuer somehow pushed it against the far post and stopped Rodrygo’s ­follow-up from the floor. Neuer would be there again late in the half, tipping away a swinging cross from Vinícius that threatened to go in at the far post.

There was action at the other end, although for Bayern it was not so much chances missed as chances not quite made. Toni Kroos slid in superbly to stop Kane’s pass aimed at Leroy Sané. Serge Gnabry and Sané both wasted opportunities to deliver the key pass deep inside the box. Kane then flashed a superb volley out of nowhere just past Andriy Lunin’s post. He would draw two saves from the Ukrainian in the second half.

It was Vinícius, though, who was emerging as the key figure, repeatedly beating Joshua Kimmich, Bayern unable to contain him. A wonderful run which provided for Rodrygo’s shot to slip just past the post was only the start. Neuer saved Rodrygo’s free-kick and then produced a brilliant stop as Vinícius came racing inside to let fly.

Thanks to him, Bayern were still in it; soon they led. First, Jamal Musiala was denied by Lunin. And then, it happened, with a move that began on the edge of their area. Kane delivered a superb pass to the left to Davies, who turned inside and smashed an extraordinary shot into the net.

Madrid would have to come back again, to do their thing. They thought they had equalised almost immediately. Nacho turned in a corner but he had pushed Kimmich in the face before. Bayern had the chance to end it, twice, when Musiala found Kane inside the area and then when Kim reached a corner three yards out. Instead, it slipped into that time and place where Madrid rise again. For Bayern, it was all about resistance, but their task was impossible: to hold back this irresistible force.

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