Sunday, May 26, 2024

Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City: Talking points as current Champions League holders and record-number winners go into second quarterfinal leg as equals

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The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal between Real Madrid and Manchester City, played on Tuesday at the Santiago Bernabeu, unsurprisingly turned out to be a thrilling encounter of two fantastic teams, with neither able to quash the hopes of the other.

City took the lead after less than two minutes, thanks to some brilliant thinking and accurate shooting from Bernardo Silva. Real equalized 10 minutes later as an Eduardo Camavinga shot picked up a deflection off Ruben Dias and cheated Stefan Ortega in the City goal. Another two minutes later, the Spanish giants were ahead as Vinicius Junior released the run of Rodrygo Goes and the latter somehow poked home despite the best efforts of Ortega and Manuel Akanji to stop him. In the 66th minute, the score was level again as Phil Foden fired a rocket into the top corner, and Josko Gvardiol put City ahead again with an equally fine strike in the 71st. However, the pick of the bunch was arguably the volley which Federico Valverde caught perfectly to leave Ortega stunned and set the final score with 11 minutes left.

The game

The match started in an extremely lively and seemingly chaotic manner, which, despite City’s early lead, appeared to suit Real’s pacey attackers a lot more than the controlling approach usually employed by Pep Guardiola’s side. City mostly dominated possession and that remained the case throughout, finishing the game with having the ball for 62% of the time, while Vinicius and Rodrygo, particularly in the absence of Kyle Walker, represented a constant threat by moving quickly and very directly towards Ortega’s goal.

There were, on the other hand, a few very good opportunities at both ends in the second half, particularly one for Real which Vinicius squandered by shooting over the bar from a good position while the score stood at 2-1, and one which City winger Jack Grealish wasted by running into a huddle of opponents inside Real’s box after some intricate team play by his teammates.

Real only responded with stronger attacking intent after conceding for the third time, obviously wanting to avoid ending the home leg with a deficit to chase, and it eventually led to Valverde’s equalizer. It’s worth pointing out that Erling Haaland didn’t do much considering his goalscoring prowess, and especially the fact that all of City’s goals came from outside the box.

Referee Francois Letexier mostly let the game flow, reluctant to blow his whistle too frequently, which undoubtedly played a part in the game remaining very dynamic and exciting from start to finish. Though players of both teams occasionally felt aggrieved as they felt fouls should’ve been given in their favour, there were no real controversies that would need to be discussed afterwards.

Given the way the scoreline fluctuated, the contest was a roller coaster of emotions for both sets of fans, and in the end, the draw was probably a fair result.

Into the second leg

As it stands, everything will obviously be decided in Manchester on April 17th. Both teams and their coaches have been able to get some notion of what the opposition is capable of, and they’re likely to be extremely prepared for the rematch, which shouldn’t be any less exciting.

An important thing to note is that Guardiola left Kevin De Bruyne out of the fray completely, after the Belgian apparently wasn’t feeling too well before the game. The 32-year-old Belgian playmaker remained an unused substitute, which obviously impacted City’s levels of creativity and goes a long way to explain the notable lack of clear-cut chances for the visitors. Guardiola will certainly hope De Bruyne proves ready for the second leg, and the same goes for Walker whose pace at the back will be needed to deal with Real’s fast attackers at the Etihad. There is a chance of Nathan Ake recovering in time from his own injury too. Foden was the only City played to come off in Madrid with what appeared to be an injury, but Guardiola later revealed it was no more than a dead leg and the England international should return to action swiftly.

Meanwhile, Real will travel to Manchester without Aurelien Tchouameni. The France international was one of the four Los Blancos at risk of a suspension and having started in central defence ahead of Nacho Fernandez, he picked up a yellow card early for the foul which resulted in Bernardo Silva’s opener.

However, Tchouameni’s absence shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Carlo Ancelotti, with Eder Militao back from an ACL injury. The Brazilian should reach full match fitness by the middle of next week. There is also Nacho to consider, should all else fail, and the experience of the 34-year-old could prove a valuable asset for the La Liga leaders.

All in all, the week in between the two legs should arguably be of more use to City, particularly with De Bruyne set to return to the starting XI. His presence will likely provide the Premier League champions with more opportunities in front of goal, and Haaland should thus represent a greater danger for Real than he did in Madrid.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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