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Gallant Galatasaray can’t keep Real Madrid from third straight semifinal

Apr 9, 2013, 6:23 PM EDT

Turkey Soccer Champions League AP

“I’m happy for Galatasaray,” José Mourinho told Sky Italia after the match, certainly trying to avoid the patronizing tone his words couldn’t help but convey. “Going out like this is great, and it is a satisfaction for them.”

He’s right. Galatasaray’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid should give the hosts some satisfaction, even if an early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo meant the Turkish Champions needed five goals to overturn Real’s then 4-0 lead. They came close, with goals from Emmanuel Eboué, Wesley Sneijder, and Didier Drogba between the 58th and 72nd minutes putting Gala within two of the semifinals. They wouldn’t even need to be half as miraculous as Borussia Dortmund to pull off one of the greatest upsets in Champions League history.

Then the expected happened. Real Madrid woke up. The team that was better for all but 15 minutes of the two-legged tie locked the match down. When Cristiano Ronaldo scored three minutes into stoppage time, the final more accurately depicted the imbalance between the teams. Real Madrid was moving on, 5-3.

For the second time, Galatasaray has beaten Real Madrid at home in a Champions League quarterfinal, though their other meeting was 12 years ago. Then, Gala also fell behind before scoring three unanswered goals. But just as this year, they were considerably second-best over two legs in 2011, forced to accept the fact that they were never truly a threat to Real Madrid.

But they did put a scare into the favorites on Tuesday, Mourinho confessed afterward. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos-less defense was disorganized. Only after giving up three goals did they realize the stakes, tighten things up, and put the tie to rest. In the end, Gala was never within strike distance. For 20 minutes, they were within two strikes’ distance.

It wasn’t pretty, but for José Mourinho, Tuesday’s win crowned an admirable achievement. With two different clubs (Inter Milan, then Real Madrid), he’s made fourth consecutive Champions League semifinals. In 10 tournaments, he’s made the final four six times, a record that would make Mike Krzyzewski blush.

Now resumes the question for Real’s decima. If Mourinho’s pre-match expectations hold, Real Madrid and Dortmund will be joined in the semifinals by Barcelona and one of Bayern Munich or Juventus, giving Mourinho three potentially weighty semifinal options. Barcelona are Madrid’s biggest rivals, Bayern knocked Real out of last year’s Champions League, while Dortmund took four points from Los Blancos during group stage.

Even with today’s win, Real Madrid’s chances to claim their decima may be no greater than the 25 percent Mourinho ascribed on Monday. The road to his third Champions League title is still three difficult matches long.

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