City match Real stride-for-stride in first-leg stalemate
There’s nothing to separate Real Madrid and Manchester City at the midway point of this UEFA Champions League (UCL) semi-final, as a goal either side of HT forced both sides to settle for a draw, setting up a grandstand showdown at the Etihad next week.
Making a visit to a cathedral of European football, Manchester City would’ve been forgiven for making a conservative start at the Santiago Bernabéu. However, they made quite the opposite start, pinning Madrid firmly in their own half. Kevin De Bruyne was first to try his luck, stinging the palms of Thibaut Courtois as City visibly grew in confidence, before two quick-fire Erling Haaland efforts proved just how evasive he can be to even one of the best defences in Europe.
Madrid were offering precious little in an attacking sense, but when Rodri’s lackadaisical pass was pounced upon by Vinícius Júnior, only a last-ditch Rúben Dias block denied Karim Benzema his 30th goal of the season. Regardless of Madrid’s lack of attacking intent, their affiliation with this competition is unrivalled and they once again proved they have UCL magic in their bones when Vinícius unleashed an absolute rocket from 25 yards which flew past Ederson’s desperate dive.
‘More of the same’ would’ve been the message from City boss Pep Guardiola at HT, and his side almost got off to the perfect start after the break when De Bruyne ghosted in behind only to see his effort repelled by Courtois. The pair were soon thrust into battle again, and this time it was City’s Belgian getting the better of his compatriot, thundering an effort home from the edge of the area to level the scores and set up a mouthwatering last 20 minutes.
That equaliser seemed to shock Madrid into life, and spurred on by their will to take a first-leg advantage to Manchester next week, Benzema came close to edging Los Blancos back ahead, but his effort was beaten away by Ederson. City’s desire to find a winner wasn’t quite as desperate, as they’ll return to a sold-out Etihad a week on Wednesday, with Guardiola likely happy to exit his native Spain with the tie still firmly in the balance, knowing City have won their last seven UCL home games.