Record-chasing Ronaldo and taming the Wolves - Real Madrid´s route to the Champions League final
Real Madrid are chasing European title number 11 when they face Atletico Madrid at San Siro on Saturday.
A campaign that started with a 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk will end with a repeat of the 2014 final, when Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid claimed the fabled ‘Decima’ against their city rivals.
Zinedine Zidane has replaced Rafael Benitez since they romped through this season’s group stage, overseeing dominant victories and more than one nervy moment en route to Milan.
Here, we take a look at how Madrid reached the final.
Madrid made a reasonably tough-looking group including Paris Saint-Germain, Shakhtar and Malmo look supremely straightforward.
Five wins, one draw, 19 goals scored and just three conceded tells the story of a team who looked determined to mount a serious challenge for European glory despite question marks over their domestic title hopes.
A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick inspired the opening 4-0 win and the Portugal star reached 500 for club and country – and drew level with Raul’s Madrid record of 323 – with a double in a routine win away to Malmo.
French champions PSG wasted chances in both a 0-0 draw in Paris and Madrid’s unconvincing 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, before Benitez’s side almost let a 4-0 lead over Shakhtar slip away in the final 13 minutes in Ukraine.
But with top spot in Group A assured, Madrid celebrated with an 8-0 destruction of Malmo on matchday six, in which Karim Benzema hit a hat-trick and Ronaldo scored four to become the first player to reach double figures in the group stage.
Round of 16 - Roma (4-0 agg)
Zidane’s coaching debut in the competition could not have gone much better, as a sublime Ronaldo strike and a late breakaway goal from Jese Rodriguez sealed a 2-0 triumph away to Roma in the first leg.
Ronaldo found the breakthrough after 57 minutes, rifling into the top corner from 20 yards with the first shot on target of what had hitherto been a cagey encounter, before Jese swung the tie firmly in Madrid’s favour with a strong run and finish after just four minutes on the pitch.
The second leg looked set to be a formality, but Luciano Spalletti’s side had other ideas. Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah in particular spurned a number of golden opportunities early on and Keylor Navas produced a fine display to keep the Italians at bay.
Ronaldo turned in Lucas Vazquez’s cross to calm the Bernabeu nerves just past the hour mark, before James Rodriguez added a second four minutes later to seal a quarter-final spot.
Quarter-final - Wolfsburg (3-2 agg)
If the Roma scare was meant to serve as a warning to Madrid, they did not heed it.
Having been given what was widely considered the favourable draw against Wolfsburg, Zidane’s side came close to throwing the tie away with just one leg played, as Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty and a Maximilian Arnold finish sealed a 2-0 victory for the Germans.
Ronaldo issued a public rallying cry prior to the return match and the Portugal captain answered his own call for a hero. Two goals in the space of 90 seconds wiped out Wolfsburg’s advantage after just 17 minutes and he slipped a free-kick through a crack in the visiting wall to send his side into the last four, moving to one goal behind his record for 17 in a single campaign in the process.
Semi-final - Manchester City (1-0 agg)
Madrid’s 27th appearance in the last four of Europe’s top competition saw them pitted against Manchester City, who were making their first after edging out PSG. It proved to be 180 minutes of tension.
After days of speculation, Ronaldo was ruled out of the first tie at the Etihad Stadium after failing to recover from a hamstring problem, while Benzema managed just 45 minutes before succumbing to an injury of his own. City could not find a breakthrough, but they did at least deny Madrid an away goal, thanks to Joe Hart’s fine saves to deny Pepe and Gareth Bale.
Ronaldo returned for the second leg, but looked short of full sharpness, though City suffered a blow of their own when skipper Vincent Kompany was forced off in the first half. They never seemed to recover.
Bale fired a deflected cross off Fernando and over the head of Hart to snatch the advantage with 20 minutes played and, although they failed to find a killer second, Madrid kept City at arm’s length for the majority of the final hour. Six wins from six on home soil were secured and the capital became a party zone as a second all-Madrid final in three seasons was celebrated.