Champions League: Advantage, Manchester City
Feb 29, 2020
Advantage, Manchester City as they go back to Etihad with two away goals.
Starting XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos (C), Mendy, Casemiro, Valverde, Modric, Isco, Vinicius, and Benzema.
There was a lot of speculation on what Zidane's line-up be for the big Champions League game. He did manage to give us a few surprises as Kroos was on the bench as Modric, and Valverde started in the midfield. Isco played in the right while Vinicius made an appearance instead of Bale. The team was sorted in a 4-3-3 formation and morphed into a 4-3-1-2 as the game went on.
Manchester City was pressing high but settled in a mid-low block when Real Madrid bypassed their press. Guardiola sent his team out in a strange formation with Jesus and Mahrez playing out wide while De Bruyne and Silva played through the middle as two false nine's. Pep wanted his wide players to bring in an immense amount of work rate both defensively and offensively. Jesus repaid his manager's faith in starting him; He was running up and down the field, pressing high and tracking back.
Both teams were working hard off the ball and limiting any progress in the attacking third. Manchester City got the first opportunity at goal when De Bryune got some space on the ball and slipped a pass to Jesus. The Brazillian forward switched the ball to his right foot and a shot on goal. Courtois made a good save to keep the score at nil-nil.
City had the middle of the pitch packed and made it difficult for Real Madrid to find space through the center. Los Blancos maneuvered the ball wide to create chances. Their first chance when Mendy put in a perfect cross for Benzema. The Frenchman's header got saved by Ederson low to his right. Manchester City almost got the lead going into halftime. A loose ball fell to Jesus; his shot (going wide) got deflected towards goal. Valverde cleared the ball off the line to go into half time at zero goals.
Half Time (Real Madrid 0 - 0 Manchester City)
An even first half of football. Neither team wanted to take to many chances and expose themselves in the back. They have both looked good on the ball, but neither team managed to get a breakthrough.
The Citizens came out flying in the second half. They put more pressure on Real's backline. A mistake from Casemiro allowed De Bryune to lead a counter-attack. He passed the ball to Mahrez, who cut in and took a shot from the top of the box. His shot went inches wide. The game settled down again after the initial pressure from City. Around the hour mark, Modric intercepted Rodri's attempted pass and releaded the ball to Vinicius. An error from Kyle Walker sent the Brazillian winger through; he squared the ball to Isco, and the Andalusian slotted the ball into the far corner to go Los Blancos the lead.
After the opening goal, Real Madrid gained momentum and started pushing high. They created some danger for City but couldn't find a way to increase the lead. Bale came in for Vinicius who got a standing ovation while leaving the pitch.
Against the run of play, Kevin De Bryune produced a cross for Jesus out of nothing, which the City striker got it past Courtois for the equalizer. Pep switched his formation to a regular 4-3-3 by introducing Raheem Sterling. His introduction and the equalizer shifted the dynamics of the game to the team from Manchester. Five minutes later, Sterling makes a great run down the left, Carvajal makes a rash challenge bringing the Englishmen down in the penalty box for a penalty. De Bryune stepped up, sent his fellow countrymen in the opposite direction as he slotted the penalty into the back of the net. Real Madrid seemed flustered after the turn of events. They went from a goal up and in control to a goal down. Casemiro had his worst game of the season. His poor pass back to Ramos sent Jesus through on goal. El Capitan, in a desperate attempt to get back brought down Jesus outside the box. He got his marching orders for his trouble and will miss the next leg in Etihad stadium. Los Blancos had an opportunity to equalize late in the game when Vasquez found Mendy unmarked in the box. However, he could not manage a shot on goal.
Final Score (Real Madrid 1 - 2 Manchester City)
Casemiro had his worst games of the season. For Real Madrid, the timing couldn't have been any worse.
Carvajal too had a poor game and probably the biggest culprit in the two goals conceded.
Real Madrid had good sequences throughout the game and went toe-to-toe with City. However, City exploded on them in the last 15 minutes. Los Blancos need to maintain their nerves and stay focused for the full 90 mins. This has been a trend for the entire season; the players need to take responsibility for it.
Zidane could have done a lot better with his substitutions. Especially when Pep switched to 4-3-3 and introduced Sterling.
Three stars of the match
Vinicius: He caused all sorts of trouble for City's right side. He took on players and looked dangerous. He also had an assist for Isco's goal. Best Real Madrid player on the day.
Isco: His work-rate was second to none. He helped the team get out of the press and had the best ball progression stats. He also scored the only goal for Los Blancos.
Courtois: Courtois was immense in goal. He can't be blamed for the two goals. He made brilliant saves in important phases of the game and kept the team alive in the fixture.