Over a year ago, Manchester City’s hearts were broken against Real Madrid inside the Santiago Bernabeu. After being 5-3 ahead on aggregate in the 89th-minute of their semi-final leg, no one would have foreseen that they would lose the tie 6-5.
Yet again their Champions League dream was shattered. So when City were drawn against Madrid in the semi-final for the second year running, this tie was always going to be a test of character as well as skill. But unlike last year, City have got the second leg at home.
On Tuesday evening, Pep Guardiola’s side fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 as Kevin De Bruyne’s stunning strike ruled out an equally stunning goal from Vinicius Jr to tee up a huge second leg in this glamorous semi-final.
Last year, Guardiola’s substitutions when it seemed as though his side were in a comfortable position was the catalyst for their downfall, but on this occasion he didn’t make a single change. Whether that was out of fear or content remains to be seen, but it may have contributed to his side leaving Madrid with a valuable draw ahead of a huge leg on home turf at the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.
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Pep Guardiola’s men started the game in total control and knocked the ball around as though they were the home side. Madrid couldn’t get anywhere near them, but to their credit their structure was excellent which made City have to settle for a lot of sideward or backward passes.
It took a while for Los Blancos to come to life, largely due to them not seeing much of the ball, but it took a through ball from Rodrygo into Karim Benzema, which was comfortably gathered by Ederson, brought the home crowd to life, which in turn energised the players in white.
This is what City feared would happen and all of a sudden the game became a contest. They were suddenly able to get a string of passes going, beating the press and as we have become so accustomed to over the years, they took the lead. Vinicius Jr, who didn’t have a great deal of service for much of the opening 45, fired the hosts in front with a powerful drive which left Ederson with no chance. City were once again facing a huge test at the Bernabeu.
The visitors came out in the second half trying to play a bit quicker to try and penetrate Madrid’s defence, while Carlo Ancelotti allowed Eduardo Camavinga to drift into midfield from left-back to try and overwhelm City’s midfield.
City were letting themselves down early in the second half with deliveries and passes to try and spring them away on the break and they had to deal with Benzema, Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr getting into a rhythm.
The Cityzens needed something to lift them and from out of nowhere they conjured up an equaliser, and it was that man Kevin De Bruyne. The midfielder was teed up on the edge of the area and he unleashed a stunning strike with the outside of the boot which crashed into the back of the net.
It felt like a huge moment for the English club, as though a huge psychological mountain had been climbed. However, they still had to fight to leave the Spanish capital with the tie level. Ederson was called into action to deny a Dani Carvajal header from close range. The Brazilian shot-stopper then pulled off a strong save to deny substitute Aurelien Tchouameni a winner in the dying minutes.
City defended resiliently to ensure they left with a draw and they will be delighted with the position they are in heading to the Etihad next week. The Bernabeu is one of the most formidable places to go to, particularly on a Champions League night, so to come away with the tie level will give them a massive boost.