Penalty pain to Wembley winner: Bernardo Silva’s sleepless and draining week

Bernardo Silva and Andriy Lunin

As Jack Grealish bounded over to Bernardo Silva, wrapped his Manchester City team-mate in a giant bearhug and then hoisted him up in the air, the Portugal midfielder looked like he could collapse there and then. Physically, Bernardo was shot.

Barely 20 minutes of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final had elapsed and he was already running on empty, wondering how he could carry on. But it was not just the acute physical fatigue of another gruelling game less than 72 hours after playing 120 minutes against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Emotionally, Bernardo was also drained, the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out miss that contributed to City’s European exit having had an additional sapping effect on both body and mind. That he was able to hang in there as long as he did, and not just that but pop up to score the 84th-minute winner against Chelsea that helped to sneak the Cup holders into another Wembley final, spoke volumes for the character of a player small in size but giant in personality.

No wonder Pep Guardiola was so relieved he had decided against substituting Bernardo just when he was ready to take him out.

By his own admission, Bernardo had endured a rough, sleepless night on Wednesday, doubtless reliving in his mind that moment he chipped a weak penalty straight into the arms of Real’s stationary goalkeeper, Andriy Lunin.

“Yeah, it was tough,” he said. “First night, I didn’t sleep much. Second night, you sleep a bit better. The third night you sleep almost the whole night but it is what it is. It’s football, it’s our profession, and we have to deal with those emotions. It’s the physical part that I think is a little bit less acceptable.”

Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva
Jack Grealish envelops Bernardo Silva in another bearhug at the final whistle - James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

The raw outpouring of emotion that greeted his late winner against Chelsea, then, was totally understandable. The dream of an unprecedented “Double Treble” may have died that night against Real but the Double dream lives on and, for Bernardo, that goal was cathartic.

“Yeah, because it was a frustrating night for me [against Real],” he said. “A frustrating week for me personally, for the whole team, because we wanted to go after another historic season. We can still go for it, but it was a big disappointment to get knocked out of the Champions League. The way the team performed on the pitch, I don’t think we deserved it, but it’s football. You have to get on with it.”

So what happened with the penalty? This correspondent wondered if Bernardo had been caught in two minds and likened his almost apologetic chip straight at Lunin to a dad gently lobbing the ball to his young son or daughter. But Bernardo says he had seen Lunin move for City’s first penalty that Julán Alvarez converted and thought the goalkeeper would do something similar with him, hence the decision to go down the middle rather than into one of the corners. Sadly for him, Lunin remained rooted to the spot.

“So basically, I had two options, I had in my mind one of the sides – I’m not going to tell you which – and the middle,” Bernardo explained. “I was waiting. I wanted to be the second or the third penalty to see the reaction from the keeper in the first or the first two penalties.

“And he moved early, that’s why I thought the middle was good because in moments of pressure the keepers– 99 per cent of the time – they move. But he chose not to move and fair play to him, well done. And yeah, it is what it is.”

There had been a delay in the ball being retrieved from the stands before Bernardo’s penalty but the Portuguese insisted the wait had no adverse impact on him. “For me no, because my decision was made,” he said. “I was gonna shoot the penalty in the middle. So for me, no.”

Bernardo says he would not forget the love and support he received from his team-mates, staff and Guardiola in the hours and days after the miss. Erling Haaland had chaperoned him off the pitch, shoving an intruding television camera out of the way at one point, and everyone else since has rallied around. “They were unbelievable,” he said. “It’s like a family, like brothers the way we support each other when someone misses.

“The guys were unbelievable with me this week. We stick together and we go for it. Now we have the FA Cup and the Premier League to go for and we’re going to do our best to win those titles.”

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