Real through to Champions League final

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    Defending champions Real Madrid withstood an early onslaught by Atletico Madrid to reach a third Champions League final in four years despite a 2-1 loss to their city rival on Wednesday.

    Atletico, who trailed 3-0 after the first leg, scored twice in the first 16 minutes at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to move within a goal of sending the semi-final second-leg into extra time.

    But Francisco “Isco” Alarcon netted a crucial away goal for Real before half-time to secure a 4-2 victory on aggregate and a spot in the final against Juventus on June 3 in Cardiff.

    “We knew we were going to suffer but we are extremely happy to have made it to the final,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said.

    “It’s been a very long road and it hasn’t been easy. And to do it for the second year in a row, we need to congratulate everyone in this club.”

    Realwill try to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the competition’s new format was created in 1992. They will be the first team to have a chance to defend their title since Manchester United made it to consecutive finals in 2008-09.

    Atletico kept their hopes alive by scoring two early goals to ignite the crowd at the packed Calderon.

    Saul Niguez netted the first goal with a header off a corner in the 12th minute, and Antoine Griezmann added to the lead four minutes later by converting a penalty kick after Fernando Torres was fouled by defender Raphael Varane inside the area.

    Griezmann, who had missed a penalty kick in last year’s final against Madrid, slipped slightly just as he was taking the shot, and goalkeeper Keylor Navas got his hand to the ball but was not able to fully deflect it.

    “They started strongly but eventually we were able to find our game,” Zidane said. “In the second half we were much better.”

    The goals left Atletico only one away from sending the match into extra time, but Diego Simeone’s team was not able to keep pressuring as it did in the first minutes of the game.

    The match was even when Karim Benzema came up with a spectacular move to set up Isco’s goal. The French striker was surrounded by three Atletico defenders by the end line but found a way to get past all of them with a pair of quick touches.

    He sped into the area and sent a backward pass to Toni Kroos, whose shot was initially saved by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, but Isco was nearby and picked up the rebound to easily score from close range.

    “After the game I asked Benzema how he was able to do that, but he didn’t know either,” Zidane said.

    The goal all but ended Atletico’s hopes of advancing, and the second half was played at a much calmer pace, with few significant scoring opportunities for both teams.

    “This performance was the least that we could have done,” Atletico captain Gabi said. “I thought we were excellent in the first half. A moment of genius from Benzema ended our dream but we never stopped fighting and I’m proud of everyone.”

    © AAP 2017