Real Madrid have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League after losing to Chelsea

MADRID – With every second tick sign, the noise increases and swells, the tick sign and tone change. It began with a whistle, reckless and urgent, only to turn into something close to a roar, formless and basic, full of anger and anticipation, so that the word itself could ward off further misery.

When the final whistle blew, it was so loud that it seemed to be bubbling from the ground or roaring from the sky. However, it proved to be a prelude: the release was yet to come, as Real Madrid and Chelsea players collapsed on the turf, the winners were defeated that day and the two-legged losers were victorious, and the Bernabeu cracked and trembled.

This is not the first time the Champions League game has ended this way, of course: the spectacular comeback and breathtaking twist has now found its way into the competition’s calling card, a feature so regular that it’s extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, every time it has the ability to surprise one way or another.

It’s also not like a rarity here. Seeing Real Madrid players, spread-eagles on the field in pure, joyful fatigue, somehow turning a sure defeat into a victory actually happens with an alarming frequency. The start was against Paris Saint-Germain just a month ago.

The Champions League does just that: creating an evening where a team at the Spanish mid-table could knock out Villarreal, Bayern Munich and still impress themselves. Real Madrid do just that: flirt with frustration, toy with disaster, and then flick a switch and win.

Even by that measure, though, Real Madrid’s defeat to Chelsea is a sensational, thrilling defeat – overall (5-4), but not in the evening (3-2 defeat) – more expulsion, more excitement, more excitement.

After all, there was not only one comeback, but two, sewn together in the same marathon: Chelsea overtook Real Madrid in a two-goal lead in London last week, seemingly making it to the semi-finals in the process, and then Real Madrid, beaten and intimidated. To snatch it from the ashes.

Everything turned into a single pass. For 80 minutes, Real fans did nothing but suffer. Carlo Ancelotti’s team reached the Bernabeu with de la Castellana in a confident pass that could have done the job. All in all, Real Madrid in the Champions League. That’s exactly how this thing works.

It lasted 15 minutes, with Mason Mount’s opening goal being hit in a flash. The Bernabeu became restless, restless. Real Madrid seem to be freezing, as if Europe’s most experienced, most grizzled team is not sure what the protocol is in this situation. The smell of Chelsea’s blood.

Just after half-time, Chelsea’s Antonio Rudigar scored – an easy goal, a header from a corner, as if it were all pretty easy – and the tie was equal. An oppressive, disturbing silence has descended, waking up 61,000 people and reminding them that, oh yes, this Real Madrid team is quite old now, so no, and it has gone a long way, and it needs a refresh.

There was a brief flicker of hope when Marcos Alonso’s goal was disallowed for the slightest of handball, but it turned out to be illusory. A few minutes later, Timo Warner skated and skidded around the edge of the six-yard box and bundled the ball over the line. Then, for a moment, it rained heavily. A few people proceeded towards the exit. Some people always go out. At this stage, everyone should know really well.

That was the mood when Luka Modric got the ball, with only 10 minutes left in Chelsea’s half. With empty and untrained eyes, he had no choice; Only Rodrigo, the young Brazilian wing, ran to the other end of the field, being dutifully tracked by a defender. Modric had no choice but to return, to change the angle of the attack, to rebuild.

Or, as it turned out, he could sweep a ball just outside the Chelsea defense with his right foot, and just above Rodrigo’s boot, inside the area, was the perfect time for him to run a shot past Edward Mendy. The pass did not exist. Somehow Modric found it, and in doing so, Real Madrid found his faith.

That goal took the game into extra time, giving the home team, the upcoming Spanish champions, a recovery. Real Madrid do not waste them.

Karim Benzema, his team’s all-time leading scorer in the first leg, put Real Madrid ahead in the 96th minute. At that stage, all sense of discipline was broken, all thoughts of planning or reasoning or strategy were thrown into the air.

Chelsea put all their players ahead. Real Madrid’s alternate left back, Marcelo, has finished the game as a forward, which is why he didn’t really understand. The scare was: a shot from Jurginho, a header from Kai Hawartz. The whole evening, the whole campaign seems to be hanging on a thread.

Always, the noise was being made, first anxious and then impatient and finally pious and demanding. It became a place and a crowd crying out for their grief. No one could hear the flute. No one could hear the flute.

They knew it was over when they saw the players on the field, pulling all the breath out of their bodies, their legs suddenly pounding, a conclusion that was once impossible and inevitable. They should get used to this now, really. This is how it all ends at Real Madrid. It doesn’t always end like this.

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