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Benzema is a cut above as holders Real survive big scare to reach final

Atletico Madrid 2 - Real Madrid 1 (Real Madrid win 4-2 on aggregate)

By Robert Jones

Karim Benzema's brilliance booked Real Madrid a place back in the Champions League final - where they will face Juventus in Cardiff on June 3 - as the holders lost 2-1 to city rivals Atletico at the Vicente Calderon but comfortably progressed on aggregate.

Early goals from Saul and Antoine Griezmann gave Diego Simeone's men realistic hope of hauling back a 3-0 first-leg deficit before a goal from Isco late in the first half effectively ended the contest.

And it was Benzema who shone brightest as Real ultimately cruised to a 4-2 aggregate win, setting up Isco's effort and having a major impact on a better second-half showing from his side.

The hosts had been indebted to goalkeeper Jan Oblak for keeping their slim hopes alive in the early stages when the Slovenian made a brilliant save to deny Casemiro.

But Simeone's men would capitalise on their lucky escape and pulled their first goal back after 12 minutes when Saul rose highest to power home from a Koke corner.

The goal raised hopes of a sensational comeback and they were lifted further four minutes later when Atletico reduced their aggregate deficit to a single goal.

Sweeping irresistibly forward, Fernando Torres was fouled by Raphael Varane in the box and Griezmann calmly slotted home the resulting penalty.

Simeone's intentions were clear as he urged his team and fans on, but Real drew on their Champions League experience to weather the storm and limit the damage.

And the visitors grabbed what would prove to be a crucial goal three minutes before the break when Isco fired home after a moment of magic from Benzema.

The Frenchman wriggled out of a seemingly impossible situation surrounded by three Atletico defenders and crossed for Toni Kroos, whose initial effort was blocked by Oblak before Isco shot home the rebound.

The goal took the sting out of Atletico who, from the cusp of an improbable leveller, suddenly found themselves needing to score five times on the night.

Real started the second period on top, with Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick from a tight angle well saved, but Atletico were in no mood to give up as Griezmann looped a free-kick just over.

Kevin Gameiro also should have done better on the end of an Atletico counter-attack but then Ronaldo was unlucky to have a 69th-minute effort incorrectly ruled out for offside.

Griezmann forced a fine save while the brilliant Benzema saw a diving header flash wide and Real played out the final quarter of an hour to ease into the final.

ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak, Gimenez (Thomas 57), Godin, Savic, Filipe Luis, Gabi, Saul, Koke (Correa 76), Carrasco, Griezmann, Torres (Gameiro 56).

Subs not used: Moya, Lucas, Tiago, Nico Gaitan.

REAL MADRID: Keylor Navas, Danilo, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Kroos, Casemiro (Lucas 76), Modric, Isco (Morata 87), Benzema (Asensio 77), Ronaldo.

Subs not used: Kiko Casilla, Nacho, James, Kovacic.

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

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