Poor Haaland, Vini Jr. outstanding in the Man City-Real Madrid draw

MADRID – Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne scored stunning goals from outside the box as Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Manchester City in Tuesday’s first leg of the Champions League semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois was the busier goalkeeper in the first half, saving shots from De Bruyne and Rodri. Madrid threatened when Vinicius Junior nearly found Karim Benzema in the box before Vinicius put them ahead in the 36th minute with a shot past goalkeeper Ederson from distance.

After the break, Courtois made a good save for De Bruyne – only for the offside flag to go up – before De Bruyne equalized City with a clinical finish. Ederson saved Benzema’s header as Madrid pressed for a second, but the match ended 1-1 and the tie was set to be decided in the second leg on May 17 in England.

Quick reaction

1. The first leg missed the fireworks of last year’s matchup, but both teams can feel comfortable with a draw

Last year’s Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Manchester City set the bar high. It started with an exciting first leg at the Etihad where Man City prevailed, but only narrowly, winning 4-3, which did not reflect their superiority. This was followed by the second leg at the Bernabeu, in which Madrid somehow scored three goals in injury time.

How could this season’s semi-final compare to this? Not the first leg. But it was still a fascinating competition.

City were in the lead for the entire first half – recording 68% possession, almost twice as many contacts and six shots – but Madrid were quite content to sit back, defend deeply and wait for their chance. With Real Madrid in the Champions League, opportunities like this always come up.

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Here, Vinicius put them ahead with a fierce shot from nowhere, set by the versatile Eduardo Camavinga. Madrid grew in and led the game until a similar superb quality, this time De Bruyne, leveled the game midway through the second half.

Neither team will be too dissatisfied with the end result, and both will back each other to finish the job next week at the Etihad.

2. Haaland disappoints on debut at Bernabeu

Real Madrid, meet Erling Haaland. It was Haaland’s first time facing Madrid in a friendly match, and Bernabeu fans could be forgiven for thinking: is that all the fuss?

Haaland only had 22 touches, the fewest of any starter. He fired three shots, but none posed a real threat.

Man City’s intentions were clear from the start as Ederson immediately wanted to go long to Haaland. But Madrid centre-backs Antonio Rudiger – who enjoys physical combat more than anyone else – and quick, clever David Alaba handled the Norwegian striker admirably. Rudiger tried to get close to Haaland while Alaba was always ready to slide in quickly and collect the ball.

There was one Haaland header in the first half, straight for Courtois. And then there was one excellent final tackle by Alaba at the start of the second half when Haaland was in goal getting ready to shoot. That summed up his night.

3. No one can touch Vinicius Junior now

Three days after appearing in Madrid’s Copa del Rey final, Vinicius played again on Tuesday. Increasingly, this is the player you expect to consistently define big games with decisive contributions at key moments.

Just look back at Vinicius in the last few Champions League seasons. His goal against Liverpool in Madrid’s 3-1 win in April 2021. There was his goal against City in last year’s semi-final first leg and his winning goal in the final in Paris. He scored twice against Liverpool at Anfield in February this year. And now one of the best goals of the 22-year-old’s career so far.

It was not a typical Vinicius goal. These usually come in from inside the penalty area, one-on-one with the goalkeeper after a mad run, or perhaps curl into the net after a left-hand cut. It was more central, done quickly, and more about power, flying past Ederson before he could react.

Vinicius has already scored seven goals in the Champions League this season, three of them in the knockout stage. Karim Benzema may still be Madrid’s main player, but Vinicius is increasingly winning games.

The best and worst performers

Best: Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid

A moment of pure quality gave Madrid the lead.

Best: Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid

He’s getting more and more convincing at left-back.

Best: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

His goal was brilliantly scored and brought City back to a draw.

Worst: John Stones, Manchester City

He fought Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

Worst: Manuel Akanji, Manchester City

He had had a bad night dealing with Rodrygo’s wiles.

Worst: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

He didn’t get as much of the ball as he wanted and couldn’t influence the game.

The most interesting and noteworthy moments

Vinícius Júnior doesn’t normally score from outside the box, but he put Real Madrid ahead with a sensational long-range strike in the 36th minute.

Kevin De Bruyne saw Vini’s shot and after the break decided to equalize it with his own from outside the box.

In the 67th minute, De Bruyne was at the end of Ilkay Gündogan’s ball and smashed it to equalize for Manchester City.

After the game: What the managers and players said

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti: They had more on the ball in the first 30 minutes but we weren’t worried because we were well positioned at the back and waiting for a good change. We played better from the back in the second half. We could have won, but the feeling is good.”

Ancelotti in the rematch: “We have to be able to play like we played tonight. I don’t know if it’s possible, maybe they’re pushing a little bit at home, but the strategy was good, we weren’t worried when they had possession and then in the second half the game was completely different. We were able to move the ball, create chances, we are happy.

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information Research)

  • Vinícius Júnior scored in 10 straight matches for Real Madrid, extending the longest such streak of his career. He also scored 42 goals in all competitions this season, making him the third-most player in Europe’s top five leagues (Erling Haaland 59, Kylian Mbappé 44).

  • In the opening 42 minutes, Real Madrid’s only shot was from Vinicius.

  • Vinícius Júnior scored his fifth goal for Real Madrid from outside the box and his first outside LaLiga, and it was his second longest distance (28 yards) after Real Madrid’s goal. Manchester City haven’t conceded a goal from outside the box since January against Manchester United.

  • Kevin De Bruyne scored 11 of his 14 UCL goals for Man City in the knockout stages. His 11 goals in the knockout stage is the most in Champions League history of any Man City player.


Real Madrid: Los Blanco they will return to LaLiga action on Saturday, May 13 when they take on Getafe (watch live on ESPN+ at 3pm ET). Then there’s the Champions League return leg, with Real Madrid facing Man City on Wednesday 17 May in the deciding semi-final.

Manchester: The city returns to the Premier League with Everton visiting on Sunday May 14. Man City then face Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday 17 May.

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