Carlo Ancelotti says he is dreaming of reaching another Champions League final with Real Madrid after edging into the semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid last night.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez scored a late winner to end Atleti’s seven-match unbeaten run against Madrid and send his side into the last four alongside Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
It also helped to alleviate the pressure on an under-fire Ancelotti for the time being and moved the Italian closer to becoming the first coach to successfully defend the European Cup in its current format.
“At the moment we are living a dream, that of playing in another final,” he said after last night’s win. “We are still in with a chance and we are dangerous when we’re in with a chance. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Ancelotti has had little faith in giving Hernandez minutes on the pitch since his season-long loan move from Manchester United. Last night was just his fifth start across La Liga and the Champions League but he made it count with one of the team’s most important goals of the season.
“We have to congratulate him because it has been a difficult year for him,” Ancelotti acknowledged. “He hasn’t played much but he has always trained well, fought hard and made sacrifices. At the end of the day he deserves this. He played really well, he was very lively. He deserved to score that goal, a hugely important goal for us.”
The Madrid coach put everything on the line by fielding Sergio Ramos in a midfield role given Luka Modric’s injury absence. Midfielders Asier Illarramendi, Lucas Silva and Sami Khedira were all left on the bench. He did not have to think twice about his decision.
“Minutes after Modric fell injured I decided that Sergio Ramos was going to play there,” Ancelotti said. “Varane and Pepe are good in the air and provide us with defensive assuredness for set pieces. Ramos sacrificed himself for the team because he knew he would be important.”