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Zac Lee Rigg: Close but no cigar for Real Madrid

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Ronaldo's representative unsure of Real Madrid star's future
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Ronaldo's representative unsure of Real Madrid star's future

"Si se puede," the Real Madrid fans chanted.

But, no. They could not.

Real Madrid lost 4-3 on aggregate to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals despite a 2-0 win on Tuesday. For the first time since winning the competition in 1997, Dortmund advanced to the final.

A decade and a half ago, these two teams met at the semifinal stage. In the infamous Torfall match, when a goal frame fell over and delayed kickoff of the first leg for 75 minutes, Real Madrid advanced to the 1998 final. The result resounded through the next decade. Real Madrid went on to win three Champions League trophies in six years. Dortmund narrowly escaped bankruptcy twice.

A loan from potential fellow finalist Bayern Munich saved Dortmund on one occasion, and, since, financial prudence has built a young, mobile team capable of hauling the club to the pinnacle of European soccer for the second time in its history.

"It's what everyone in our team dreamed of as a child, and some of us are still children,” Mats Hummels told ITV.

With a cheeky nod to history, Real Madrid placed extra goals on the sidelines during warmups, as AC/DC's Thunderstruck blared on the PA.

Only one team has overcome a three-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League – Deportivo La Coruña against AC Milan in the 2004 quarterfinals. Madrid intended to join them.

The Blancos poured forward with menace from the kickoff. Within eight minutes, they had earned four corners, double what they had in the first leg. In the 14th minute, Mario Götze came off with a torn left hamstring.

BVB could barely catch a breath, let alone a breather on the ball, in the opening 20 minutes.

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke sat next to King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

"I was so nervous the king held my hand," Watzke told Sky. "He is a nice guy."

As the match moved deeper into the first half, the tension eased. Madrid didn't have the stamina to maintain the pressure, and Dortmund began making inroads.

Both teams wished the extra goal frames had remained. Sloppy finishing and sharp goalkeeping combined to rule over 30 combined shots ineffective.

The lack of scoring favored the visitors, who looked set to coast into the final without overdue strain. Then, the last 10 minutes happened.

First, Kaka fed Mesut Özil along the right, finally getting behind Dortmund's back line, and the German international crossed in front of goal. Karim Benzema popped up between defenders to tap home.

BVB goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller fell on the ball to prevent a quick restart. It felt like Madrid had already fallen on its sword.

The sustained, frantic pressure continued. A full eight Real Madrid players were in the box when Benzema pulled the ball back and Sergio Ramos thwacked it into the ceiling of the net to make it 2-0 in the 88th minute.

"At 2-0 I went to the bathroom, closed the door and covered my ears," Watzke said.

Former Real Madrid player and coach Juanito once said that "90 minutes in the Bernabéu is a very long time." Dortmund found out just how excruciatingly long, as the match dragged into the sixth minute of stoppage time with Madrid only a goal away from progression.

Jürgen Klopp subbed in Felipe Santana and Sebastian Kehl, taking of first leg hero Robert Lewandowski, to try to hold onto the slender advantage.

"I have to admit, we played too little football today," Klopp told Sky.

They played enough.

Cristiano Ronaldo tied the Champions League record in the first leg by scoring in six straight matches. He did not score in the seventh. Reportedly, 8,000 Dortmund fans traveled to Madrid. They took to chanting "Messi" at Ronaldo.

When Howard Webb's whistle eventually ended the match, Real Madrid became the first team to lose three straight Champions League semifinals. The dream of La Decima is decimated, for this season at least.

Jose Mourinho has lost five CL semis. He likely won't be with Real Madrid next season. "I want to be where people love me," Mourinho told ITV after the match.

Eight years after narrowly avoiding bankruptcy, Dortmund advanced to the Champions League final, which will take place in Wembley Stadium on May 25. Bayern Munich, leading Barcelona 4-0 after the first leg, is the likely opponent.

Bayern has already wrapped up the Bundesliga title. Dortmund and Bayern meet in the league on Saturday. First, Dortmund will celebrate.

"I myself will have a beer at the hotel but I won't go out," Klopp said. "But I can't keep the boys in there, too. And if we get hammered by Bayern, that will be the happiest defeat in the history of the Bundesliga."

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