And breathe! What a game of football. We may have witnessed one of the greatest classics in the Champions League. A scintillating contest with super attacking and poor defending from both sides but in the end, it was Manchester City who took the spoils. Karim Benzema continued his fine form with a brace taking his champions league tally to 14 goals. The red-hot Frenchman has also now scored 42 goals in all competitions for Real Madrid this season.
The La Liga champions-elect lock horns with the Premier League holders in the semi-final of the Champions League. Manchester City welcomed Carlo Ancelotti’s men to the Etihad Stadium for the first leg in what would be the seventh meeting between these sides.
Manchester City have not lost a game at the Etihad in the Champions League since a 2-1 loss to Lyon in September 2018. Pep Guardiola’s men have scored 13 goals in their five home matches in the tournament this season. They kept clean sheets in both legs against Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon.
Their defensive record will be under threat against Real Madrid. Should Guardiola find a way to overcome the current obstacle between him and a second successive Champions League final, he would be the first manager to eliminate Real Madrid from the Champions League three times. The Spaniard is more desperate than ever to finally bring the European crown to the blue side of Manchester.
Real Madrid are on the verge of wrestling the La Liga crown out of Atletico’s grasp. Carlo Ancelotti’s side went into the game on the back of a win against Osasuna in the La Liga. They have the league title within reach and have set their sights on a 14th European crown.
Real Madrid came into the match on a six-game winning streak away from home across all competitions. Both sides are familiar foes, having clashed seven times in the Champions League. Manchester City claimed successive 2-1 wins in 2019-20 last 16, but Los Blancos had previously won 1-0 over two legs in the 2015-16 semi-finals before Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester.
City started as they meant to go on and struck first after just 90 seconds into the game. Riyad Mahrez glided past a sea of Real Madrid defenders before picking out Kevin De Bruyne, who headed home, and the game sparked straight into life. It was the quickest goal ever scored in a champions league semi-final tie. City struck again in the eleventh minute when Gabriel Jesus turned David Alaba and slotted past Thibaut Courtois, and with that, City established dominance.
The Citizens were relentless. They pressed on looking for a third as they dominated possession but kept snatching at their chances. They were made to pay by the in-form Karim Benzema, who directed Ferland Mendy’s cross with a first-time shot and Ederson had no answer. Benzema reignited the game before halftime.
Manchester City were undeterred having been pegged back by Benzema’s goal in the first half, and they started the second half the same way they did the first. Minutes after the restart, Riyad Mahrez pounced on Eder Militao’s sloppiness and was through on goal. Thibaut Courtois was beaten, but his shot crashed off the left post and came back out to Foden. Foden did well to put his first-time shot on target, but it was cleared off the line by Daniel Carvajal, and Real Madrid survived.
Pep Guardiola’s men piled on the pressure and controlled the midfield. After a prolonged spell of passing play, Phil Foden was on hand to head home an inch-perfect cross from Fernandinho and re-established their two-goal lead in the 52nd minute.
Pep Guardiola had a selection headache as City were depleted at right-back before the game. With Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker injured, John Stones came in to cover, however the Englishman could not continue after 36 minutes and was replaced by Fernandinho. The Brazilian was always going to have a problem dealing with his compatriot Vinicius and two minutes after Foden’s goal, Vini replied. The Brazilian rolled past his compatriot and went all the way to slot past Ederson, and Madrid were back in with a shout. Carvajal’s cross was guided towards goal by Militao, but Ederson was on hand to gather cleanly.
City played out of their box with relative ease, beating Madrid’s press for fun. A combination of patient play and good refereeing saw Benardo Silva rifle home a belter to restore City’s two-goal lead for the second time. Mahrez dribbled past three defenders while darting into Madrid’s defense, but he dragged his low shot agonizingly wide.
A game like this always produces twists and turns, and this exhilarating match was no exception. Madrid were awarded a penalty after Laporte handled the ball in the box, and Benzema slotted home from 12 yards to bring Los Blancos back in the game, and not for the first time. The Frenchman dispatched an audacious ice-cold paneka, his 41st goal of the season.
The exciting thriller served up seven great goals, and even though the managers would not be too proud of their team defending, the spectators witnessed a spectacle, one enough to last a lifetime. City would travel to the Santiago Bernabeu in eight days having maintained their home unbeaten run. Pep Guardiola is now 45 minutes away from becoming the first manager to knock out Real Madrid three times.