Manchester City Vs real Madrid: As Madrid bayed for blood, City as an underdog had little to lose.
The first leg of the semi-final at Etihad kicked off without Cristiano Ronaldo who was expected to be fit for the game. Lucas Vasquez replaced him and was flanked by Bale with Benzema at the center as Real Madrid played a 4-3-3 formation. City had to leave Yaya Toure out and decided to go with the tried and tested defence of Gael Clichy, Nicolas Otamendi, Bacary Sagna and skipper Vincent Kompany. The holding midfield duo of Fernando and Fernandinho who had had a great game against Paris Saint-Germain were off to a flying start in the first half with their interceptions and winning tackles. Otamendi and Kompany were having an excellent game ensuring that the ball was won back and remained in City possession.
Jesus Navas on the right flanks was excellent in tracking back and aiding in keeping Vasquez and Kroos in check. While Modric and Bale struggled to get any movement forward, Marcelo and Carvajal lost possession often with misplaced passes. Marcelo appeared very uncertain on the ball and seemed to have his attention focused more on defensive duties than moving forward. Silva picked up an injury tackling Bale from behind and was subbed off in the 39th minute by Iheanacho. The first half ended 0-0.
Real Madrid came off a bit stronger in the second half with Jese coming in for Benzema. Silva’s deft touches in the midfield were missed while Bale and Kroos took control. While Kompany and Clichy were able to keep the attack at bay for the most part, Jese hit the bar as Madrid seemed to pose more of a threat. Two clear chances to score from set pieces went begging as Casemiro’s header was saved by the trailing left leg of Hart and an offside Pepe’s point blank hit was saved by Hart again.
Towards the end of the second half, Aguero’s pass to Raheem Sterling who had come in for Jesus Navas in the 82nd minute was tackled well by Pepe in the box. A 90th minute run by De Bruyne was foiled by Carvajal who was yellow carded and City earned a free kick and a corner in quick succession but both came to a nought.
On the whole, barring Aguero who was excellently marked by Pepe and Ramos, and De Bruyne, all the City players played excellently. This game saw the other side of Kevin De Bruyne. A player who neither tracks back meaningfully nor marks attacking midfielders. Moreover, he neither created chances in the midfield with tackles nor penetrated defense with incisive passes. It was possibly his worst performance till date in City shirt .
As the match ended 0-0, one wonders what the managers might be feeling. City didn’t concede an away goal, on the other hand, Real Madrid go into the fortress at Bernabeu with the confidence of a win that would take them to the Finals in Milan. For those who considered City to be an easy draw sure must be revising their opinion. But the acid test for the Blues will come in a week’s time at Bernabeu when Ronaldo may find himself at the center stage of the biggest European competition.