Real Madrid into Champions League quarterfinals after draw vs Leipzig. Ancelotti downplays tax case

MADRID (AP) — A tough day for Carlo Ancelotti ended on a good note as Real Madrid advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the fourth straight season despite a lackluster performance against Leipzig on Wednesday.

After being accused of tax fraud by Spanish tax authorities during the day, Ancelotti saw Madrid struggle in a 1-1 draw with Leipzig that was just enough to put the European powerhouse into the last eight thanks to the 1-0 win from the first leg in Germany three weeks ago.

Madrid was outplayed during parts of the match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, drawing some jeers by the home crowd, but held on to advance 2-1 on aggregate.

Earlier, prosecutors in Madrid accused Ancelotti of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of 1 million euros in 2014 and 2015 during his first stint with the club. Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of four years and nine months for the Italian coach, claiming he used a shell company to hide parts of his income from image rights.

Ancelotti addressed the accusations after the match and denied wrongdoing.

“It’s an old story that started eight years ago because of a tax declaration for 2015,” Ancelotti said. “The tax authority says that I was a resident at the time and I don’t think that I was a resident. I already paid the fine, the money is with them, and now the lawyers are talking to try to find a solution. I’m convinced that I’m innocent, that I was not a resident in 2015, and they think that I was a resident. Let’s see what the judge says.”

Ancelotti said the tax issue was not affecting him.

“Hopefully it can be resolved soon,” he said. “I don’t have any problems, I’m very calm. The only problem I have is that the team has to play better.”

Ancelotti said it wasn’t the best night for Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Vinícius Júnior put the hosts ahead after an assist by Jude Bellingham in the 65th and a gritty Leipzig side equalized with captain Willi Orbán in the 68th.

Leipzig had several chances to pull off the upset after a lackluster performance by Madrid, the record 14-time European champion. Dani Olmo’s attempt hit the crossbar in stoppage time.

“It was a bad match, we didn’t play well,” Ancelotti said. “They have quality and played with nothing to lose, while we had the brakes on. We suffered in the end but what mattered was to reach the quarterfinals and we did it.”

Leipzig ended with 21 total attempts against 12 by Madrid. The German side also had more attempts on target — four against three by the hosts.

“We did feel like we had their number at times today,” Leipzig coach Marco Rose said. “I respect Real Madrid a lot, the whole team, and I congratulate them on making it through. But I have to repeat my praise for my team. To travel here in a knockout game with such a result from the first leg and to show that you really believe, that’s something extraordinary.”

In the other round-of-16 match on Wednesday, defending champion Manchester City defeated Copenhagen 3-1 at home to advance 6-2 on aggregate.

Madrid, celebrating its 122nd anniversary, got off to a slow start and struggled against a Leipzig team that was well set up. The German side threatened on several occasions, forcing Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin to make a few good saves. There were some jeers by the crowd at the Bernabeu at halftime, when Madrid finished with no attempts on target.

“Mission accomplished,” Madrid defender Nacho Fernández said. “It wasn’t our best match this season. They played well and we didn’t, but we have to be happy because we are in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.”

The hosts finally broke the deadlock with Vinícius Júnior scoring from inside the area after a pass by Bellingham following a breakaway. The Brazil forward celebrated by sitting on

But Leipzig kept pressing and equalized three minutes later with a header by Orbán after a well-placed cross by David Raum.

Leipzig wanted a red card for Vinícius Júnior after he shoved an opponent early in the second half, but the referee showed him a yellow. The Brazil forward then exchanged words with Rose near the sideline.

“We were close, just needed to be a little bit more efficient,” Olmo said. “We played the 180 minutes with quality, we deserved a bit more. But against Madrid you have to play a lot better than them to be able to win.”

Since being eliminated in the round of 16 in 2019-20, Madrid has reached at least the semifinals each season. It won its record-extending 14th European title in 2022.

Leipzig was playing in the competition’s knockout round for the fourth time in five seasons, having reached the semifinals in 2019-20, when it lost to Paris Saint-Germain. It was eliminated in the round of 16 the last two seasons.

Madrid has drawn four of its last seven matches in all competitions. It has a seven-point lead over Girona in the Spanish league.


AP soccer:

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