Everything was ready. The Real Madrid players got an adrenaline-pumping reception from the Bernabeu crowd. But after the first 90 minutes, Real Madrid’s Champions League campaign is hanging by the thread. A total collapse in concentration again(!) caused Real Madrid dearly as they ended the game with a 1-2 deficit. In addition, Sergio Ramos saw a red card, that’ll keep him out of action at the Etihad. Real Madrid’s season is crumbling and breaking down with every passing moment. Here’s how it unfolded on a devastatingly disappointing night in Madrid:
Zidane had a couple of surprises in his team. He benched Toni Kroos and started with Vinicius instead of Bale. Madrid used an asymmetrical formation as Isco had a free role but Vinicius wasn’t really a second striker. He played the role of a left-winger. Pep Guardiola laid out a tactical masterclass, the type only he can pull off. He started Gabriel Jesus virtually as a left central midfielder who was tracking Carvajal’s runs for most parts of the first half. Bernardo Silva and De Bryune were the false strikers for Man City. Real Madrid tried to figure this out and failed miserably even when City actually shifted back to a traditional 4-3-3 formation.
The game started in a typical manner. Manchester City did most of the creative work while Real Madrid were just trying to survive. They could’ve survived better if Carvajal and Casemiro were not having one of the worst nights of their campaigns. Madrid had no shape or no plan to go ahead in City’s final third with any real authority. Their robust game of horizontal passes was not troubling Guardiola’s side at all. If anything, even this horizontal passing based scheme was looking very much at bay without Toni Kroos.
Madrid pressed City very high up the pitch but Pep took a conservative approach that took Vinicius out of the game. Kevin De Bruyne was pulling the strings even playing out of his preferred position. City got the first go at the goal after De Bruyne found Gabriel Jesus with a pin-point through ball. Varane and Carvajal tried and failed to get a touch on the ball. Courtois saved Madrid on this occasion with a great save. Madrid were doing their usual bit by creating sporadic chances from the flanks and finding no one in the box. They created one decent chance from this approach in the first half though. Mendy’s cross found Benzema but his header was saved by Ederson. Vinicius couldn’t complete a simple tap-in from the rebound as he slipped under no pressure.
City had to make an untimely change as Laporte injured himself and Fernandinho replaced him at the back. As the clocked kept rolling, Manchester City was gradually taking complete control of the game. They got another great chance before the end of the first half. De Bruyne’s shot couldn’t find the goal but Jesus was in a much better position in the aftermath. His effort was saved from the goal-line.
Neither team made any more changes to begin the second half. But Man City were visibly the superior team by this point. Real Madrid’s only attempt to shove the ball to the flanks and pointlessly passing it horizontally was completely found out. Manchester City got more comfortable on the ball and were creating dangerous chances. Three of these chances came from Riyad Mahrez. Firstly, he dragged three Real Madrid defenders with him to curl one from distance which went wide of the goal. His second effort was from a closer range which was covered well by Thibaut Courtois. Madrid were caught completely off guard on his third chance form a long ball but Courtois came to their rescue again.
Vinicius Jr got a chance that was similar to the one missed by Jesus in the first half. The Brazillian picked the ball high up the pitch and ran close to the goal but his run never ended and the ball went past the line for a goal kick. Vinicius was Madrid’s only bright spot going forward in this game. Walker was caught napping in the 60th minute and Vinicius stole the ball from him. He squared the pass to Isco who took an extra touch and slotted home from close range. The euphoric Bernabeu crowd had no idea how shortlived their joy would be.
Real Madrid briefly regained control of the game. They were passing it around at a good tempo and Manchester City were now the more desperate of the two teams. All Real Madrid had to do was to hold their fort, in their home ground, in front of a great crowd, for just 12 more minutes and they failed at that miserably. Dani Carvajal was ball-watching when a cross was delivered for the first goal. He could have covered his defensive partner to prevent the cross. Ramos failed to clear and Jesus finally scored. Raheem Sterling’s inclusion made City more dangerous while Vinicius was taken out for Bale who had no impact on the game. Carvajal brought down Sterling with a terrible tackle and De Bruyne got his reward for all the hard work with a calmly placed penalty.
Zidane took out two central midfielders to bring in Vazquez and Jovic who made Madrid’s system even more asymmetrical. City had no issues dealing with a hapless Real Madrid side who have no one to lead the team into the final third of the opponent. Manchester City have just conceded 12 goals at home this season in the premier league and Real Madrid have a mountain to climb in the return leg. With an El Clasico in three days, things are not looking good for Zidane and his team.
Key events and Line-ups
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Casemiro, Modric, Valverde, Isco; Vinicius, Benzema.
Goal(s): Isco (60′).
Substitution(s): Bale for Vinicius (75′), Jovic and Lucas for Modric and Isco (84′).
Booking(s): Valverde (48′), Modric (54′), Sergio Ramos (sent off, 86′).
Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez; Gabriel Jesús.
Goal(s): Jesus (78′), De Bruyne (penalty, 83′).
Substitution(s): Fernandinho for Laporte (33′), Sterling for Bernardo Silva (73′)/
Booking(s): B. Mendy (29′).
Referee: Daniele Orsato, Italy.