This season’s Champions League is hotting up as we reach the semi-final stage, and for the final four teams, all roads lead to Paris – with the 2022 Champions League final taking place on May 28th, at the Stade de France.
There could be the thrilling prospect of an all-Premier League or all-Spanish final, with the best betting exchange predicting Liverpool to be the outright winner. But as we look ahead to the semi-finals getting underway later this month, let’s recap the action from the last round.
Benzema breaks Blues’ hearts
Karim Benzema netted a first-leg hat-trick for Real Madrid, as they took a two-goal advantage to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The Frenchman – who landed the match ball in the previous round – grabbed two goals in three minutes, before Kai Havertz pulled one back for Chelsea, five minutes from time. Straight after the restart, Benzema landed his third of the evening at Stamford Bridge, handing Los Blancos the advantage.
In the second leg, Chelsea hit back – and goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rüdiger, and Timo Werner turned the tie on its head. Thomas Tuchel’s side could have been further in front, with VAR ruling out Marcos Alonso’s goal, due to a handball in the build-up. And with time running out, Rodrygo forced extra time when he pulled one back for Real. And Chelsea’s tormentor from the previous fixture was on-hand to land the killer blow – with Benzema’s header sailing past Mendy.
Ill-discipline to Atlético’s detriment
Manchester City scraped through to the final four for the third time in their history – courtesy of a 1-0 win at the Etihad. After the hour mark, both sides made a triple-substitution and Pep Guardiola got it spot on, with Phil Foden making an instant impact. He teed up Kevin De Bruyne, who slotted the ball past Jan Oblak.
Having had no shots on target in the first leg, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid came out fighting on home soil – literally, as well as metaphorically. The goalless stalemate – and progression for City – was marred by injuries to KDB and Kyle Walker, while Foden felt the brunt of Felipe, who was sent off having elbowed the England international, and then dangerously followed through. In the melee that followed Felipe’s dismissal, Stefan Savic then appeared to get involved in a round of handbags. And Guardiola claims his squad needed 71 physiotherapy treatments after their Champions League clash.
The Yellow Submarine sank Bayern Munich
In the biggest shock of the tournament, Villarreal knocked out the 2020 winners, Bayern Munich. What better way to mark your first quarter-final appearance since 2009, than with a one-goal advantage? The current holders of the Europa League had landed an early goal through Arnaut Danjuma, and managed to stave off the attacks of Robert Lewandowski and co.
Of course, Unai Emery has pedigree in European competition – having guided Sevilla to a hat-trick of titles in the Europa League. And while, Lewandowski (who else?) levelled the aggregate score in the second leg, Villarreal left it late, but in true smash-and-grab style, Samuel Chukwueze swept in Gerard Moreno’s cross. It’s only the second time that Villarreal have reached the Champions League semi-finals.
Historic quadruple still on for Klopp and co.
While they played out a six-goal thriller in the second leg, it was Liverpool’s two-goal advantage that sent them through to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in three seasons. Luis Diaz came back to haunt Benfica, when he added Liverpool’s third goal late on to ensure the first leg finished 3-1 to the Reds.
It proved to be a thrilling second leg, and although Liverpool extended their lead on aggregate, through Ibrahima Konate’s bullet header, Goncalo Ramos pulled one back on the night for the Portuguese outfit. The win wasn’t in any doubt once Roberto Firmino grabbed a second-half brace, although Benfica restored some pride. Both Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Nunez’ efforts had been ruled off initially for offside, but VAR overturned them both to ensure the score on the night ended 3-3 – with Klopp’s side marching on as 6-4 winners.