Soccer-Self-belief helped Madrid through quarter-final panic attack

By Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

 

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid have suffered a number of nervy Champions League moments in recent seasons and could draw on a vast bank of European experience as they survived a heart-stopping quarter-final second leg against Juventus on Wednesday.

 

Serie A leaders Juve staged a stunning fightback in the Spanish capital after losing the first leg 3-0, levelling the tie with two goals from Mario Mandzukic and a tap in by Blaise Matuidi.

 

Yet Madrid, who are chasing a third straight Champions League title, were awarded a hotly-contested penalty in stoppage time which Cristiano Ronaldo hammered home to send them into the semi-finals for a record-extending eighth year in a row.

 

Wednesday's thrilling encounter ranks alongside three other close-shaves for Madrid in the competition's quarter-finals.

They lost 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund in 2014, going through 3-2 on aggregate and scraped into the semis two years ago by the same aggregate score after a 2-0 defeat to VfL Wolfsburg.

Last year they suffered a 2-1 reverse at home to Bayern Munich before reaching the last four after extra-time.

Real went on to win the competition in each of those years and defender Dani Carvajal said those experiences helped his side keep their composure after they fell 3-0 behind after 60 minutes against Juve.

"Since I've been here there's always been a bad performance in this competition and I always believed we would come through," Carvajal said.

With Barcelona dramatically exiting the competition to AS Roma on Tuesday, after surrendering a three-goal advantage from the first leg, there was a real possibility Madrid would suffer the same fate.

'IMPOSSIBLE DREAM'

Madrid left back Marcelo, however, said his side were made of sterner stuff.

"What happened to Barca was never going to happen to us, we're Real Madrid," said the Brazilian, channeling Madrid's usual self-confidence, which has not waned even following a dismal domestic campaign which has seen them drop down to fourth in the Liga standings, 15 points behind leaders Barca.

"The champions survive the resistance," proclaimed Spanish newspaper Marca, also repeating late Real midfielder Juanito's famous line: "93 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu is a very long time".

Daily AS declared on its front page that Madrid went "from panic to the semi-finals".

"Juventus climbed towards their impossible dream and for half an hour walked over a confused, dazed and cowardly Madrid," said their report.

"But Madrid came back. Madrid always come back."

Real coach Zinedine Zidane made two early changes in bringing on wingers Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio for Casemiro and Gareth Bale at the start of the second half and said he gave his players a firm message.

"The most important thing is to keep believing," said the French coach, who would become the first Real boss to lift three European Cups if his side go on to win the competition for a 13th time.

"At halftime I told them things had to change and we couldn't continue like this. Juve beat us and made things very difficult for us with their tactics but our willingness to keep trying to get back in the game eventually gave us our goal.

"Now we have to forget all of this and focus on the semi-final."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)

 
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