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Real Madrid reaches 3rd straight Champions League final with draw vs. Bayern Munich

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after defeating Bayern

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after defeating Bayern at the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Credit: AP / Francisco Seco

MADRID — Real Madrid conceded early again but held on to draw 2-2 against Bayern Munich on Tuesday and reach its third straight Champions League final 4-3 on aggregate.

Joshua Kimmich scored for Bayern in the third minute to set the stage for another comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu, like the one Juventus nearly pulled off in the quarterfinals. But the hosts reacted quickly this time, with Karim Benzema equalizing early in the first half and scoring again just after halftime after an embarrassing mistake by Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich when trying to meet a back pass into the area.

Bayern came within a goal of eliminating the European champions when former Madrid player James Rodriguez scored in the 63rd, but it was not enough to avoid its third straight elimination against the Spanish club.

The Germans, who have now been knocked out in the Champions League semifinals in four of the last five seasons, pressured until the end but couldn’t keep alive their hopes of a treble.

By successfully defending its 2-1 win from the first leg last week, Madrid stayed on track for a third consecutive European title, and fourth in five seasons.

Europe’s most successful club with 12 trophies, Madrid will play the final against either Liverpool or Roma, who play Wednesday in Italy. Liverpool won the first leg 5-2 at home.

Bayern started well and easily created scoring chances, while Madrid tried to control possession but only threatened on counterattacks with the speed of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Asensio up front.

It didn’t take long for Bayern to strike first.

Kimmich netted from inside the area after Madrid captain Sergio Ramos failed to clear a ball crossed into the area by Corentin Tolisso.

It was an eerily similar start to Madrid’s match against Juventus, when the hosts conceded in the second minute while trying to protect a 3-0 first-leg advantage. Madrid conceded twice more but eventually advanced thanks to Ronaldo’s injury-time penalty.

This time, Madrid reacted a lot more quickly, with Benzema equalizing in the 11th with a firm header from close range after a well-placed cross from the left by Marcelo.

Benzema hasn’t been playing regularly as a starter and was a surprise addition to the lineup by Zinedine Zidane. He had scored only once in his last 12 appearances in all competitions.

The French striker put Madrid ahead again early in the second half after a terrible blunder by Ulreich after a pass into his own area from Tolisso. The goalkeeper appeared to lose his footing while trying to get to the ball and seemed to hesitate to stop it with his hands as it could have been considered a deliberate back pass, and it ended up going underneath his arm as he went to the ground. That allowed Benzema to run onto the ball for an easy finish into an open net.

Bayern wasn’t done yet and Rodriguez equalized in the 63rd with a low shot from inside the area. The Colombian playmaker didn’t celebrate, instead raising his hands in an almost apologetic gesture to the home fans.

Bayern unsuccessfully appealed for a handball by Marcelo just before halftime, when the Madrid defender appeared to be just inside the area.

Madrid, playing in its 250th Champions League match, is the first team to make it to three European finals in a row since Juventus from 1996-98.

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