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Manchester City headed to Champions League semifinals

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—Kevin de Bruyne sent Manchester City into the Champions League semifinals for the first time Tuesday, securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain to build on a 2-2 draw from the first leg.

PSG’s fourth-consecutive exit in the quarter-finals leaves the Qatari-owned club still chasing a much sought-after European Cup. Instead, City is celebrating another landmark in the club’s transformation in the eight years since coming under Middle Eastern ownership — from Abu Dhabi.

“It’s an amazing night for us,” said goalkeeper Joe Hart, the only player on Tuesday’s squad who joined City before the 2008 takeover by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour. “We’ve worked hard in this competition.

“I’ve been here since the start of this Champions League run and we did struggle to start with, but we started to piece together results and this speaks volumes.”

The 3-2 aggregate win ensures Manuel Pellegrini, who reached the semifinals as Villarreal coach 10 years ago, can still turn City into European champions before handing over power to Pep Guardiola in May.

This was a night when rival strikers both misfired. Sergio Aguero missed a penalty for City in the first half and PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic had two free kicks saved and a goal disallowed for offside.

“Both this evening and last week in Paris, we weren’t clinical enough, we weren’t efficient,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said through a translator. “City is a good team, not a particularly spectacular team, but they are efficient and they get the job done . . . imposing their physicality without creating many opportunities.”

De Bruyne didn’t waste his opportunity in the 76th minute. After one touch to take the ball past Edinson Cavani, De Bruyne curled a shot through a crowded penalty area that took a slight deflection before landing into the bottom corner of the net.

The energetic midfielder was discarded by Chelsea in 2014, but City signed him from Wolfsburg last year for €75 million (around $ 109 million). The Belgian is proving that was a shrewd move, scoring three goals — including one in the first leg last week — in four games since returning from a two-month layoff as City has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes.

“The money is not the most important thing,” Pellegrini said. “All the clubs spend a lot of money. The most important thing is the performance of the player and the team.”

Real Madrid 3 Wolfsburg 0

Cristiano Ronaldo came through for Real Madrid again, scoring a hat trick to lead his team back to the semifinals of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg on Tuesday.

Ronaldo netted goals in the 16th and 17th minutes, then added a decisive third with a remarkable free kick in the 77th as Madrid overturned a 2-0 loss in last week’s first leg to win 3-2 on aggregate.

The Portugal striker delivered when Madrid needed a goal scorer, sending a curling shot in between a couple of defenders in the Wolfsburg wall to earn his team a place in the semifinals for the sixth straight season and avoid a major upset to the German side.

“He scored three goals when the team needed him,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “He is special.”

Ronaldo took his tournament tally to 16 goals from 10 games this season, one shy of the Champions League record he set in the 2013-14 season. He remains the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, now with 93 goals.

“For those who doubted Ronaldo, he has vindicated himself again,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “We need him.”

It was Ronaldo’s 40th hat trick for club and country, and the sixth this season.

Several minutes after the final whistle, Ronaldo and the rest of Madrid players returned to the pitch to show their appreciation to the fans who were still celebrating at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

“It was a special night. We started with tremendous intensity and showed our rival how much we wanted this,” Zidane said. “The fans were phenomenal today. We can only thank them for how they supported us.”

An elimination by Wolfsburg would have been embarrassing for 10-time champion Madrid as the German club was considered the weakest of the quarterfinalists and was making only its second appearance in the Champions League.


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