It felt like one of those old flicks they show on Saturday afternoons in which the gang successfully gets together for one final, big heist. Except, even without Mbappe, you suspect this won't be their last -- not when there's a guy like Ancelotti, one of the few men who can pull off the cardigan-cigar-shades combination and lead a team in transition to a league and cup double. Not with young guns - Vinicius, Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, Rodrygo - already with the "big one" under their belt. Not with Courtois, in the prime of his career, staking a claim as the world's No. 1 between the posts and getting a few things off his chest. ("We showed again who is the King of Europe.")
Liverpool thought they had scored eight minutes from the end when Salah ran at the retreating Madrid defence, turning them one way and then another until he only had Courtois to beat. He hit his right foot shot sweetly enough but Courtois produced a quite brilliant save to push it away with his right hand. Salah beat the turf in frustration. He and this Liverpool team will have to wait for another day for their revenge.
It is Real who will now face Liverpool - the third time the two clubs will have met in the final. As for City, the wait goes on. After this humbling, brutal experience, it is anyone's guess as to when it will ever end.
The period in which Madrid returned to life aside, this was largely a tight game, with few chances. It looked as if would be decided by City’s goal 17 minutes from time, which gave Manchester City a two-goal aggregate lead. It coincided with a spell in which the hosts began to experience the first signs of self-doubt. The streets around the Bernabeu were raucous and overwhelmed before the game, the noise within, deafening. A giant banner of talisman Benzema was unveiled.
Liverpool march on in their pursuit of the Quadruple. Though they can now prepare for a 10th Champions League final later this month, against either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris, it required another display of the club's incredible resilience in European competition on Tuesday to seal a 3-2 win against Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica.
Eintracht Frankfurt winger Ansgar Knauff opened the scoring in the first minute as they beat West Ham United 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday, with both teams seeking their first European final in over 40 years.
Even just watching their last game, where Everton frustrated their rivals by sitting deep and playing to Anthony Gordon to get in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold – a role Danjuma could happily play – Emery will have heaped plenty of ammunition for his players to fire.
City had been so dominant that they really shouldn't have been trying to hold on for a 4-3 win in the final minutes, but they have now conceded 8 goals in three games against Liverpool (twice) and Real in recent weeks, so their frailities against the top sides will be a concern ahead of the second-leg. Real have shown real spirit and determination at the Bernabeu in the knock-out stages, fighting back from losing positions to eliminate both PSG and Chelsea in previous rounds, so City will be entering the Lion's Den. But their most dangerous opponent will be themselves if they fail to defend themselves properly.
The final two goals, scored late, summed it up. City thinking they had the job done, Madrid reckoning otherwise. It was like that throughout the game. City led 2-0 which became 2-1; they led 3-1 which became 3-2; they led 4-2 which ended up 4-3. So Madrid trailed for 88 minutes and 27 seconds of this match, and yet are somehow still very much in it.
But he was far clearer, more expansive, on the big picture at City. How a heavy dose of his remit since 2016 has been to create a culture of constantly cementing places in the latter stages of this competition, while mindful that he will be judged on whether he wins the whole lot.
The days of stage fright and reasons for falling short are long gone. It was the same in Porto last season, which is probably why it remains such a sore subject, but after 14 years of investment and elite recruitment, it's time for City to deliver in the Champions League.
The dream is alive, the dream is still tantalizingly feasible yet agonizingly remote. Liverpool are in a third Champions League semi-final under Jürgen Klopp and if a fantasy for a plethora of reasons but mainly its sheer, basic difficulty, a historic quadruple remains on for the German band that blends artists and artisans.
A few more are likely to be nursing knocks after a bruising encounter but at a stage of the competition when City have fallen short before, this time they proved up to the test. They have had some impressive Champions League performances under Guardiola and this was another - just for different reasons.
Liverpool could also have scored more goals. They were the better team. But maybe that serves only to increase, not lessen, the sense of alarm.
They cheered their team to the rafters even on the way out. Again, it’s puzzling. Atletico’s first shot of the tie came after 126 minutes and in three hours they failed to achieve the point of the game. The best team won, despite the late tension. And as the aggregate score suggests, City are even better at defending.