- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MADRID (AP) - A jubilant Real Madrid celebrated the opportunity to play for “La Decima” on Wednesday after coach Carlo Ancelotti quenched an obsessive 12-year wait to reach the Champions League final.

Madrid sailed there for the first time since 2002 thanks to Tuesday’s 4-0 win at titleholder Bayern Munich for a 5-0 aggregate semifinal victory.

Ancelotti said he could literally taste Madrid’s desire to play for a record 10th - La Decima - European Cup after landing in the Spanish capital last summer.

“When I arrived in Madrid I understood the importance of this competition, you could taste the desire to win ‘La Decima’ in the air,” the Italian coach said after the victory. “That’s why we’re in the final. I hope we have this same attitude in the final.”

Ancelotti’s achievement eclipsed former coach Jose Mourinho as the Spanish giant ended a three-season semifinal losing streak in the competition. The last time Madrid played in the final it beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 under another mild-mannered coach, Vicente del Bosque.

Spanish sport daily AS ran the headline “Scorched Munich” in reference to Bayern’s promise of its Allianz Arena being an inferno for Madrid’s visit, while Catalan sport daily El Mundo Deportivo screamed “Shipwreck!” above a photo of Bayern coach Pep Guardiola.

A victory in the May 24 final at Lisbon’s Estadio do Sport would see Ancelotti match former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley’s record of three European Cup victories.

“Truthfully, I don’t have any personal ambition. Football has given me so much and I am totally motivated at working to bring this club, its fans, and its players to the top,” said Ancelotti, who has already guided Madrid to the Copa del Rey trophy this season. “The objective was so great, I am so proud to have achieved it.”

Ancelotti, a two-time Champions League winner with AC Milan, has a personality that is quite contrasting to predecessor Mourinho, who managed to divide Madrid’s squad, fans, and the media during three ill-tempered seasons in charge that netted no appearances in the final.

Since Del Bosque’s exit, Madrid has gone through 10 coaches in search of the one to get it back to Europe’s top. The diplomatic personality of Ancelotti has been the best fit.

“That’s my way of working,” said Ancelotti, who has united the dressing room following the turbulent seasons past, and a poor start in his rookie campaign. “(President) Florentino Perez is very happy and he congratulated everyone. Getting to the final is not easy, but it was our No. 1 objective. We’ve had a fantastic Champions League campaign, now let’s see what happens next.”

While the arrival of Gareth Bale has improved Ancelotti’s team, forward Cristiano Ronaldo is enjoying one of his best seasons. The Portuguese international scored twice against Bayern to stretch his European record goal tally in one campaign to 16 goals.

“A final is always complicated to win. But I don’t care if Mourinho or another coach is there,” Ronaldo said of his fellow Portuguese. “It’s going to be in my country, and I want to win it.”

Madrid must quickly harness the momentum from the victory and translate it to the Spanish league race, where it sits six points behind leader Atletico Madrid with one game in hand. It hosts Valencia at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday.


Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP



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