Real Madrid scrapped their way into a third consecutive Champions League final on Tuesday and coach Zinedine Zidane said he would not have wanted it any other way.
After their last-gasp win over Juventus in the quarter-finals, Real were left hanging on against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu as Karim Benzema’s double secured a 2-2 draw and 4-3 win on aggregate.
When Joshua Kimmich gave Bayern an early lead and James Rodriguez levelled with 27 minutes remaining, Real looked in danger of surrendering their 2-1 advantage from the first leg.
By the end, Real’s fans were begging for the full-time whistle and if it is to be Liverpool in the final in Kiev, Jurgen Klopp’s men will take heart.
Zidane, however, insists the grit his team have shown to overcome Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, and now Bayern, should not be underestimated.
“In football, you have to suffer,” Zidane said. “You cannot be in the final without suffering, it’s even better, more beautiful when you win like that.
“Madrid never gives up. It is the same in adversity, we believe in what we do and we get things done by believing in ourselves and fighting.”
Real, and Zidane, are now on the brink of a third consecutive Champions League triumph, and 13th overall in Europe’s premier tournament.
Whether it be Liverpool or Roma they face in Kiev, Los Blancos will be strong favourites to lift the title.
“We are only in the final,” Zidane said. “You can be happy, you have to be, it is not normal to be in the final for the third consecutive time.
“But now that we are, what we have to do is try to win. We will fight to defend our title.”
– ‘Spectacular’ Navas –
Benzema’s two goals were also credit to Zidane, who had picked the striker despite a poor run of form that had included only one goal in 12 games.
“He never gave up and I’m happy for him,” Zidane said. “I defended Karim as I defend all my players, I defend them until the end.”
Bayern, meanwhile, are left wondering what might have been after dominating large spells of the two legs but paying a heavy price for individual mistakes.
Benzema’s second, which proved decisive, was a gift, with goalkeeper Sven Ulreich making a mess of Corentin Tolisso’s under-hit back pass and allowing the Frenchman to slot into an open net.
“If you look at both games it is quite apparent we were the best team,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.
“I’m very disappointed in the result. We dominated, I believe, and they should thank Keylor Navas for his performance in goal, he was spectacular, particularly towards the end of the match.”
On Ulreich’s error, Heynckes added: “He had a little blackout, he got confused, he didn’t realise he couldn’t pick it up with his hands.
“It’s terrible for a player to live through such a moment, but nevertheless we did have a lot of opportunities, and all in all our ‘keeper performed well.”