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Much-maligned Madrid hero Benzema typifies Real's refusal to go away

01:28 GMT+4 02/05/2018
Karim Benzema Real Madrid
The French forward stepped up when it mattered most in a backs-to-the-wall performance which saw Los Blancos weather the storm to advance to the final

Real Madrid just do not lie down in Europe. Zinedine Zidane's side made it through to a third straight Champions League final on Tuesday as they held off an impressive Bayern Munich team at the Santiago Bernabeu. And their resolve was typified on the night by Karim Benzema.

The French forward has endured a miserable campaign with the Spanish side and had only scored nine times in 2017-18 prior to this match – with his double against APOEL his only goals in Europe this term.

But Benzema is a player who has endured poor form and criticism to stay at Real against all odds and just when it appears he has no future for the club, he usually pops up to show just why he is so highly rated by Zidane, by Cristiano Ronaldo and by the rest of his team-mates.

The former Lyon forward scored the only goal as Madrid beat Bayern in the first leg of the teams' Champions League semi-final in 2013-14, with Real 4-0 winners in the second game before claiming La Decima, their 10th European Cup, in Lisbon.

And last season, after another inconsistent campaign, he produced a wonderful piece of skill to set up Isco for an all-important goal against Atletico in the second leg of the semi-final, after Los Blancos had gone 2-0 down at the Vicente Calderon (having won the first match 3-0).

This time around, his presence in the team was a surprise, yet it was Benzema who dug them out of a whole with his two goals, the first a fine header from a superb Marcelo cross, the second a gift after Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich inexplicably left a back-pass and allowed the striker an open goal.

Either side of Real's two goals, Bayern netted twice themselves, Joshua Kimmich opening the scoring in the first few minutes and James Rodriguez firing home with just under half an hour left.

One more goal would have won the tie for the Germans on away goals and, after dominating the first leg without reward, the same thing happened here to Jupp Heynckes' side.

Chances came and went, were missed or were blocked by Madrid with last-ditch tackles and, on a couple of occasions, some superb shot-stopping from goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Their appeals for penalties, meanwhile, also fell on deaf ears.

In Munich, Bayern had 17 shots to Madrid's seven, yet Real found a way to win the game – even without a Ronaldo strike. And it was a similar story on Tuesday as the Germans fired 22 attempts at Navas' goal, while Los Blancos shot just nine times.

The only statistic that matters, though, is the final result and that shows Madrid won 4-3 on aggregate in a chaotic and ragged tie which most of the time really did not look like it was being disputed by two of Europe's elite teams.

Not that the aesthetics will bother Zidane, who has now led Real to a third straight final in his tenure and is yet to lose a knockout tie in the competition as coach.

Even when they look second best as they did on Tuesday, Madrid just will not go away. And after this timely return to form, neither will Benzema.