Manchester City earned a historic Champions League first-leg victory over Real Madrid, their first-ever at the Bernabeu, on Wednesday night. Coming from behind, the Premier League heavyweights clinched the vital win through Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne to put Pep Guardiola’s side in the driving seat.
Here, The Sportsman looks at five things we learnt from the game.
Pep is always a tactical genius… but not everyone took that view in Madrid
The former Barcelona manager’s reputation as a football mastermind was further reinforced as City got the better of his old foes on their old turf. His team selection raised eyebrows, leaving key men Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Fernandinho on the bench, but it paid off handsomely.
However, former City goalkeeper Joe Hart, moved on from the Etihad by Guardiola, claimed as a BT Sport pundit: “I think a conventional Manchester City line up beats that team by more goals, they were too strong when they stepped up in those stages but with Aguero and Sterling they could do more damage.”
That did prove true, Sterling’s introduction on 73 minutes for Bernardo Silva helped swing the game for the visitors.
Sergio Ramos will never change - and that's OK
Sent off after clumsily fouling Jesus - not everyone is convinced it was a straight dismissal - this was the 26th red card of his career. Yep, you read that right, 26 times he has been sent off. That’s more than Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Duncan Ferguson combined in the Premier League.
What sets Ramos apart is that he isn’t particularly violent or hot-headed, he just has no care for bending the rules and gaining any advantage possible by any means. Whether it’s a sly trip or shove, or, as seen in the 2019 Champions League final as he hauled down Mo Salah, he will do what it takes to win, even if that means taking a suspension.
He is a dying breed though, some arguing since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real that he is the only Madrid player who will do all it takes to win and win well.
The 2️⃣6️⃣th red card of his career 🔴
Was he unlucky this time? 🤔
Thibaut Courtois is proving the doubters wrong but still has work to do
In La Liga, Real Madrid have conceded just 17 goals, the joint best record in Europe alongside Liverpool and it’s down in part to the form of Thibaut Courtois. The former Chelsea man took plenty of criticism during his debut season but has been much more assured this term.
While he is certainly back to his best, he’s still not peerless, diving but fumbling Jesus equaliser. Not a howler but he should have done better. Make no mistake though, it will be another tough task for City to get the better of him in the return leg.
De Bruyne is City’s man from the spot
The Cityzens have been cursed from 12 yards out this season. Since only December, Raheem Sterling, Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Sergio Aguero have all missed penalties. The struggle got so real, Guardiola even hinted to reporters that goalkeeper Ederson could be the man on spot-kick duty going forward.
“Ederson is the best. Believe me, he's the best taker we have in penalties. Eddy has no blood in his veins, he's so calm so he could do it.”
That case may be but Ederson, stand down, for KDB is the man who should be taking City’s penalties. A sumptuous kicker of the ball with steely focus and accuracy, he can roll them in, whack them but, most importantly, make sure they hit the net, as he did against Real.
Kevin de Bruyne grabs his 5️⃣0️⃣th Man City goal, he won't have scored any bigger!
Man City have finally scored a penalty 👊
Aymeric Laporte has no luck
Boy, have City missed the French centre-back this season. Out injured for much of the campaign, Pep has had to patch up the backline with midfielder Fernandinho most-trusted in the centre-back spot ahead of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones.
Returning for the recent wins over West Ham and Leicester, he started at the Bernabeu but was forced off in the first half.
Having been out with a knee injury since August, it looks like he could be set for another spell on the sidelines having limped out and, though the Premier League title race is all but over, it’s a blow for City’s stuttering season, especially ahead of the second leg on March 17. They’ll be desperate that he’s back for that one.