Manchester City will go into the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid with everything to play for after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Etihad Stadium.
City became only the third side to stop the 10-time European champions from scoring in this season’s competition in a captivating tie, but had Joe Hart to thank for a string of late saves.
Madrid – who were without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a thigh problem – will rue the lack of an away goal, but now have the opportunity to take control of the tie at home, while City will hope to net a crucial away goal of their own in the Spanish capital.
A cagey opening 45 minutes saw both sides struggle to create chances of note, City slightly edging proceedings while Karim Benzema wasted a late half chance.
Sergio Ramos should have done better with a header early in the second half but it was a rare sight of goal as both defences resumed control, and the ball spent a large amount of time in midfield.
Casemiro and Pepe were both denied a late winner by Hart’s heroics as it ended all squad ahead of the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on May 4.
Semi-final debutants City made a lot of the early running, with Jesus Navas particularly lively down the right, but Madrid were able to absorb the pressure.
The visitors offered little in attack in the opening 30 minutes, but City stretched the Madrid backline on a couple of occasions with Kevin De Bruyne – back after being rested in the Premier League against Stoke City – and Fernandinho both earning free-kicks in promising positions.
However, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany wasted headed opportunities from De Bruyne’s deliveries as Keylor Navas remained untested.
City’ were dealt a blow just before the break as David Silva limped off, Manuel Pellegrini unleashing young forward Kelechi Iheanacho in his place.
Benzema had the best opening in the final minute of the half from Pepe’s pull back, but the France international blazed his effort over Hart’s goal.
Buoyed by that late chance, Madrid started the second half well and Ramos should have done better after 54 minutes from Toni Kroos’ corner, but the unmarked central defender headed straight at Hart.
With 19 minutes remaining Madrid again threatened as Jese – who replaced Benzema at half-time – rose above Kompany, but his header looped onto the top of the crossbar from Dani Carvajal’s cross.
Madrid were undoubtedly finishing the game the stronger and after Hart had seen a curling Bale shot go wide, the England goalkeeper made a superb reflex stop to deny Casemiro.
And Hart was on hand again to block a glorious chance from Pepe, the City number one denying the Portugal international from three yards.
Navas had the last say, tipping over a threatening De Bruyne free-kick in injury time as the two sides head to Madrid with a place in the final beckoning.