National player Antonio Rüdiger looked for a moment after the penalty he scored over the inside post for the semi-finals of the premier class, just to be sure. Then there was no stopping the Real Madrid defender on his way to the cheering bunch with his teammates.

The 31-year-old was the match winner for the Royals in their 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over defending champions Manchester City – and not just because of the decisive penalty.

“He gives the team a lot, a lot, he proved that once again today,” said team-mate Toni Kroos, who will now face his former club Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, after the quarter-final second leg on DAZN. In the first and second legs, Rüdiger made City star striker Erling Haaland a marginal figure almost throughout.

“I don’t think Haaland is often substituted in games like this. It’s a great credit to Antonio that this happened,” said the midfielder enthusiastically. While the Norwegian Haaland sneaked off the pitch disappointed, Kroos Rüdiger was the first to jump into his arms. “You can show emotions?” the defender joked on Instagram after the game in the direction of the sometimes Nordic-cool Kroos.

Emotional rollercoaster

Rüdiger himself took a quick breather as his colleagues jumped in front of the Real fans who had traveled with him, before he resumed the celebrations. “We always fight – we always believe, we never give up!” he wrote on Instagram.

Because the Berlin native could have also become a tragic figure. Before the English equalized to make it 1-1 in regular time, he had unfortunately cleared the ball at the feet of Kevin De Bruyne. “Rüdiger, from mistake to ecstasy at the Etihad,” wrote “Mundo deportivo”.

“Maximum pity for City,” said “Sport”. The English champions had tied up the Madrilenians with their possession football for practically 120 minutes – and in the end had to bury their dream of a second treble in a row. As in 2022, the English despaired of the Spanish’s callousness.

Thanks from Guardiola

Towards the end of the game, “a bit of a penalty shootout” was the goal, Kroos admitted, “because City were significantly closer to scoring another goal.” But the 34-year-old didn’t want to know anything about a lucky semi-final entry for the Royals: “If you take both games together, I think it’s not undeserved that we progressed.”

“We did everything,” said City coach Pep Guardiola and could hardly blame his players. “We created the chances, but football is about scoring goals and Madrid did better from the penalty spot. But I have the opportunity to thank these players from the bottom of my heart. The performance, the effort was unusual.”

Bayern are now waiting for Real in the semi-finals. The last time they met in 2018, the Royals made it to the final. “Sure, we’re looking forward to it,” said Kroos, who initially only had his sights set on this Sunday’s Clásico against FC Barcelona. With a win you could “perhaps tick a small box” in the championship, said the midfielder. Then the possible win of the 15th Henkel pot in the club’s history can come into focus again.