The greatest gift Real Madrid has is the profound notion of its very own capacity to win. Again and again, in the past decade in the Champions League, Madrid has observed itself below pressure handiest for certainly one of its fantastic gamers to do something extraordinary simply when it wanted it. This season, if anything, the tendency has been ramped as much as clean heights. Madrid changed into 2d-first-rate for three-quarters of both the round of sixteen in opposition to Paris Saint-Germain and quarterfinals against Chelsea and nonetheless prevailed. And that it misplaced best 4–three to a Manchester City that threatened at times to outclass it said plenty for its excellent stackability.
The experience has been for a few years that La Liga facets can be physically dominated through Premier League groups. It came about to Madrid in the semifinals seasons ago, whilst City pressed it to distraction, prevailing some distance more effectively than the 2–1 bring about each leg would possibly propose. Pressing turned into once more the bedrock of City’s overall performance again here in what wound up tying for the best-scoring semifinal fit in Champions League history.
Madrid for lengthy spells absolutely couldn’t get out, whilst every turnover threatened to end up a possibility for the hosts. This is a growing old Madrid, an accusation that is commonly leveled at its midfield, but right here it turned into the defense that looked superannuated, with Dani Carvajal suffering against Phil Foden, while David Alaba toiled and turned into changed at halftime.
The city became beforehand after simply ninety-four seconds, with Riyad Mahrez surging in from the right as Madrid weirdly sat off, permitting him to supply a really perfect cross for Kevin De Bruyne to go past Thibaut Courtois. Nine minutes later, City had a second, with Foden developing space against Carvajal then laying it again from De Bruyne to pass for Gabriel Jesus, who grew to become and slotted in. At that degree, it felt City may want to score with almost every attack. Mahrez and Foden both missed desirable opportunities after which, from nowhere, Karim Benzema pulled one returned, his deft volley transformed from Ferland Mendy’s cross.
Pep Guardiola had reacted with fury to the Mahrez omit, largely due to the fact he went for goal while he should have squared it to Foden who could have had an open aim, but that reaction confirmed that he knew the sport was now not gained at 2–zero, no matter how dominant City seemed. This is a Madrid that maintains defying good judgment. It habitually seems at the lower back foot and yet by some means it maintains on nicking dreams simply while they may be most required. And Guardiola may additionally reflect that his groups have a habit of seeming in control in massive video games, handiest then to allow it slip with the aid of conceding a soft intention.
The sample continued after halftime. Mahrez hit the publish and Foden’s follow-up was blocked on the road with the aid of Carvajal. When Foden then headed in a move from Fernandinho, on as a makeshift proper back for the injured and initial makeshift fullback John Stones (João Cancelo became suspended, Kyle Walker out harm), the scoreline appeared an extra correct mirrored image of the game. But inside mins, Vinicius Junior had outpaced Fernandinho to pull to return to 3–2.
Where Madrid deserved credit become that it became so often capable of making the game approximately chaos, to turn the game into a contest that flowed from end to give up. When it took on an extra natural form, City gave the impression of a lot of the higher facets. Bernardo Silva capitalized on a smart advantage to make it four–2 with a left-footed laser to the top-left nook, however, then Benzema presented a fair more audacious finish with a Panenka penalty after Aymeric Laporte had been penalized for a handball, perhaps harshly so given the ball had glanced off his head.
Benzema had already turned out to be the oldest Madrid player on account that Ferenc Puskás attained 40 desires for the season. His ice-cold execution turned into all of the greater magnificent given he had overlooked consequences in one seven-minute span towards Osasuna closing week.
The city had greater than 60% possession. For the first 20 minutes, it became nearly completely dominant. It neglected opportunity after possibility, even though it won the shot count number most effective sixteen–11 and the shots-on-goal count most effective 6–five. Not for the primary time in a big recreation in Guardiola’s career, it felt like an opportunity was wasted; each league game in opposition to Liverpool this season went the equal way.
Casemiro should return next week for the second leg, which can also repair a few solidities to the Madrid midfield, however, given how Chelsea dominated in the Bernabeu inside the ultimate spherical, there’s no reason why City shouldn’t boss the sport once more, specifically with Walker and Cancelo to return.
The trouble is, thinking about Madrid’s propensity to find a way and City’s tendency to go away desires at the desk, that may not be enough.
“To win this competition, from my small enjoy, in which you have to triumph over situations as soccer gives in front of you,” Guardiola said in his put up-suit comments. “The end result might have been higher. Madrid is constantly Madrid. It doesn’t matter with 1–0 up or three usually. So you need to carry out virtually nicely two games. We performed absolutely nicely in the first one, you need to do it in the second one. It’s a good take a look at to expose our persona as a group, and we’re going to journey there to win the game.”