It was a strange night because, as Pep Guardiola later noted, Real Madrid scored as Manchester City took control, then City equalized when the game looked dangerous. He’ll take it.
Although Carlo Ancelotti also claimed to be happy with the result – and will support Vinicius Junior and the rest to cause problems on the counter-attack – that was the more daunting half of City’s task in this draw. It also brought back bad memories.
It was the scene of that improbable downfall a year ago when City succumbed to Madrid’s sheer willpower on a mission. After suffering so much, the last thing they needed was even a hint that their opponents had more know-how.
When Vinicius’ shot hit the net, it will be a challenge to the determination of Guardiola’s players. Much has been said about the manager’s long wait for this trophy to be lifted again, but none of the players on this ground for his side have yet won this Champions League.
If there are doubts, then they appear. When Madrid seemed comfortable giving away possession, they soaked up your best shots and punished you at half-time. Then the trademark appeared in them. It was a nerve test for City.
They got through it courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne. Since Erling Haaland received special attention, someone else had to step in. Good thing it was him. “He helped us when we needed it most,” said Rodri. How important could that be.
Fourteen times in 14 attempts at the Etihad Stadium in 2023, City won the game. Do it in the second leg next week and they will play in the Champions League final. On an awkward evening in Madrid, that means some sort of result for Guardiola and his players.
Rudiger shows how Haaland can be stopped
Within 90 seconds, Antonio Rudiger was in front of Haaland after an aggressive save which led to a foul being awarded. He ran back into position, provoking the attacker. It’s easy to forget that Haaland is still learning the game at 22, and Rudiger was clearly keen to test his composure in the heat of the Champions League semi-final. There aren’t many defenders in world football who have the confidence, authority and experience to go one-on-one with a Manchester City striker – but Rudiger is that player. It was in his ear, tugging on his shirt and just generally being a bit of a nuisance.
Of course, it cannot be completely canceled as he managed three shots in 90 minutes, but the trials only yielded an expected goal tally of 0.3, highlighting how Rudiger kept the odds dwindling to low probability ones. Rudiger showed that stopping the record-breaking phenomenon is possible.
Vinicius is the star of the show
Here it is again, poking the ball into the net to tip the tie in your team’s favour. The Brazilian is talented, but it is the speed with which he is able to perform these skills that sets him apart.
Kyle Walker was on edge trying to stop him, which only made you wonder what someone who wasn’t lightning fast himself would look like. City is well prepared for promotion. But there can be no complacency with Vinicius in the team sheet.