Game in a sentence
In a pulsating affair at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid go behind twice in the second half, come back to level each time and then stun the visitors when Cristiano Ronaldo’s 90th minute strike wins it.
- It was a magnificent game of football and one that Manchester City may take some time to get over. The visitors were excellent for the most part yet will board a jet out of Madrid this evening absolutely stunned they got nothing.
- City have endured some painful lessons in their short life in this competition but this one will sting the most. With just twenty minutes to go in the game, and the score still at 0-0, a counter-attack drawn up on the training pitch put the visitors ahead. Sitting deep in their own half they pounced when Pepe slipped and Yaya Toures’ blistering run deep into Real Madrid’s half was almost as good as his pass to Edin Dzeko and the substitute did the rest, sliding it past Iker Casillas. For Dzeko, just on for David Silva, it was another example of a fine finish in a 1×1 situation, a difficult one for strikers but one he always seems to thrive in.
- It was no surprise to see the goal come through Toure, however. Twice in the first half the Ivorian, playing just off Carlos Tevez in a 4411, attempted two other such counter attacks but had come up short.
- The lead lasted seven minutes and it was no surprise to see where the equaliser came from. City with Maicon and no traditional right winger struggled to deal with Real’s left flank and when Marcelo cut in he surprised City by choosing his right foot and he blasted the home side level.
- It seemed like it was heading to a 1-1 draw until the 85th minute when Aleksandar Kolarov’s brilliant free kick deflected off Xabi Alonso and past Casillas. 1-2. Madrid had once again conceded from a set piece.
- Two minutes later, Madrid responded when another substitute Karim Benzema turned well on the edge of the box and put the ball just past Joe Hart in the corner of the goal. It seemed like that was the last chapter but Ronaldo had other ideas and once again it was a goal that had been on the cards throughout the game.
- As the clock ticked towards 90:00, Ronaldo cut in once again and unleashed a shot that got past Hart. It was an awful goal for City to concede in so many ways and questions will be asked why they constantly didn’t show Ronaldo out on his left, why Vincent Kompany didn’t clear and why Hart didn’t stop it. The Madrid faithful didn’t care as the Bernabeu erupted and Jose slid on his knees across the turf.
- It turned out to be a magnificent game of football played by brilliant players but it was one definitely influenced by the managers. For an hour the game was tight but both managers were very positive with their changes and it opened the game. Mancini kept two up top and Dzeko got the goal, Mourinho countered with Ozil and Benzema and the pair had a big impact.
- In a matchup between such high profile managers this was always going to be about Jose Mourinho vs Roberto Mancini and the two gaffers made headlines before a ball was kicked with their team selections. The biggest surprise from Mourinho was the decision to drop Sergio Ramos while opting for a slightly defensive midfield three, choosing Michael Essien over Mesut Ozil. Raphael Varane, the replacement for Ramos, wasn’t the only teenage centre-back who started as City boss Mancini boldly went with Matija Nastasic instead of Joleon Lescott to ensure the game had two defenders from the start born a year after the Champions League began (1993).
- With midfield three’s of Alonso-Essien-Khedira up against Garcia-Barry-Toure it was always going to be tight and that was how the first half played out. The home side were the most dangerous, being comfortable in wide areas specifically through Ronaldo who gave Maicon more than a few problems. In truth, if it wasn’t for Joe Hart, Madrid would have walked off at half-time with a comfortable lead. The English number one brilliantly denied Ronaldo on eight minutes and then showed great instincts to react quickly and deny Gonzalo Higuain twelve minutes later.
- Hart’s performance may be questioned by some but his dominance for the majority of this match should not be forgotten and elevated him into a different level of goalkeepers. The key in his development appears to be a characteristic that all great goalkeepers have, an ability to remain calm and slow the game down when his team needs him the most. He never looks nervous, has superb positioning and doesn’t commit silly fouls on forwards when he could easily do so. That was what made the final two Madrid goals difficult to understand. You could make the case that he may have gotten to Benzema’s shot and should have reacted better to Ronaldo’s winner but it will be difficult to find anyone who will blame this loss on Hart. Without him his team would have been out of the game before the dramatic climax.
- He also showed great leadership qualities postgame when he told ITV: “It is not on. We can only blame ourselves. We cannot go up 2-1 with five minutes to go and lose.” He was right, of course, and showed just how far City have come that they will not accept a good performance when the result doesn’t match it.
- In the other dressing room the mood could not have been more different. Jose walked out the room and towards the ITV cameras and boldly stated: “The DNA of my team is back.”
- It was hard to argue with that. He will know that win, lose or draw on this night this was a performance that Real Madrid expects of its players. It just so happens it turned out to be a win for the Special One as it oh so often does.
- Yaya Toure
- Cristiano Ronaldo