Real Madrid – Manchester City: match notes
Real Madrid’s new exploit tonight, with a comeback at the very end of regulation time. Thanks to a double from Rodrygo, author of a fantastic entry.
After Liverpool’s qualification on Tuesday night thanks to a rematch with Villarreal (3-2, 5-2 on aggregate), the second semi-final second leg of the Champions League saw Real Madrid and Manchester City clash in the emblematic Santiago Bernabeu. In the first leg, City won in front of their home crowd (4-3), but they came within a goal of each other thanks to Karim Benzema’s great performance. The Frenchman, the top scorer in this edition of the Champions League, was a starter in Carlo Ancelotti’s team alongside Federico Valverde and Vincius Jr in attack. As for Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard lined up his two full-backs, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, and chose Gabriel Jesus in the lead. In an atmosphere of excitement, Real Madrid quickly set up their pressure to thwart the first opposing relays, forcing Ederson to clear his balls.
The first warning came from the inevitable KB9, but he did not cross his head enough on Dani Carvajal’s good cross to find the frame (5th). The French international then did it again, this time with his left foot, and was again just off target (12). City finally reacted in the opposite camp through Kevin De Bruyne, his shot easily caught by Thibaut Courtois (15th). After Vinicius Jr’s missed shot in the box (18th), Bernardo Silva had to deal with a vigilant Courtois (20th) but was unable to stop the powerful curl (23rd). Although there were fewer chances until the break, the pace of the match remained just as intense, sometimes too much so (26th, 28th, 32nd), before Phil Foden woke up the Belgian keeper with a chest-volley combination (40th). Benzema was finally flagged offside, but missed his one-on-one with Ederson before half-time (43rd). A scoreless draw at the break, sending Manchester City into the final.
A Dantean scenario
After the break, Real Madrid quickly put pressure on their opponents’ rearguard from the start and could even open the score when Vinicius managed to bring down the cross at the far post (46th). Another Brazilian tried his luck on goal, in the person of Jesus, and saw his shot saved by Courtois (50th). Luka Modric was more dangerous after the break, but his attempt was well defended by Ruben Dias (52). In the second half, if the Skyblues kept their domination with the ball, they seemed in danger at each attack of the White House, especially on the left side of Vinicius. But if Real seemed closer to opening the score, Riyad Mahrez finally delivered the Cityzens before the last quarter of an hour: on a superb opening of the incoming Ilkay Gündogan for Bernardo Silva, the Portuguese took the ball alone in the area before sending the Algerian on the right flank, who crucified Courtois with a powerful shot in one touch (1-0, 73e). This was the seventh goal of the number 26 in the Champions League, City’s top scorer. Karim Benzema thought he had put the two teams back on an equal footing for his first valid duel with Ederson, but the Brazilian intervened to keep his side ahead (82nd).
City came close to breaking the deadlock in the final 10 minutes, but neither Cancelo, who was denied by Courtois (86th), nor Grealish, whose shot was cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy (87th), were able to make the breakthrough. The opportunity for the newcomer Rodrygo to take advantage of the hazardous exit of Ederson to put the count at zero on a service of Benzema (1-1, 90th). The Brazilian even headed in a brace to give Real the chance to go into extra time (2-1, 90+1). After a free kick by Fernandinho, Foden, who was unmarked in the box, could not find the top left corner of the net (90+3). After this Hitchcockian scenario, the two teams had to go into extra time. After the short break, on an attack initiated by Vinicius, Benzema was not far from taking advantage of an error of hand of Ederson, who caught the ball in two steps (92e). The Frenchman then won a penalty for Ruben Dias’ illegal tackle before taking the law into his own hands, catching the Auriverde keeper off guard (95th). Then, from Cancelo’s cross, Foden was denied by Courtois’ superb save, followed by Fernandinho who failed to put the ball away (105+2). As in the first leg, City paid for their inefficiency and could not do anything against Madrid’s realism. Despite a few late forays into the Madrid area, the score remained the same: Real Madrid overthrew Manchester City (3-1, 6-5 on aggregate) and joined Liverpool in the final.
Man of the match: Rodrygo (8) entered the game at the 67th, he was quickly involved. And above all, he scored two goals in a row to allow his team to win the extra time! In a register of foxes of the surfaces that we did not know him necessarily. But he was not only a scorer, far from it, since he was a real poison for the United defense, being in all the good shots in front and diabolic between the lines. What confirms his superb form of the moment…
Courtois (7) : serene and concentrated from the beginning of the game, where he was called upon to help the Citizens with their long-range attempts. He was also present for Bernardo Silva’s great chance (20th) and for Foden’s shot (39th). At the end of regulation time, he also made a good save on a cross-shot from Grealish, as well as on a header from Foden (105th). A more than satisfactory performance from the Belgian, in short. It’s hard to blame him for Manchester City’s only goal tonight, as Mahrez did a good job of getting his shot away.
Carvajal (6.5): as in the first leg, he was a bit hesitant on some interventions at the beginning of the game. But in the end, he quickly recovered and also managed to offer some good interventions. He was not really worried by Gabriel Jesus and cut off several potentially dangerous actions. Well helped by Valverde, he often dived in the axis to give a hand to the central defenders, pushing back some dangerous balls. He was the author of an excellent cross that Vinicius did not take advantage of at the very beginning of the second half, and then of a caviar for the second Merengue goal. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him at this level.
Nacho (6): lined up in the center of the pitch after the withdrawal of David Alaba, the Spaniard clearly did not make a difference. As usual, he gave a more than honest copy, being always well positioned and always present in the duels. Maybe a bit too much of a wait-and-see attitude for the Citizens’ goal, but we won’t hold it against him, especially since he managed to stop several hot situations for the Citizens after that.
Militão (6) : his performance during the game in Manchester was cataclysmic. So he had to do it again tonight. His first steps were rather hesitant, like this mistake which would have cost a goal if Courtois had not been decisive (20th). Fortunately, he managed to recover as the game progressed. A little short on some actions, but never guilty of mistakes or defeated in duels. Fairly good mention. Injured at the end of the game and replaced by Vallejo (113th)
Mendy (6) : The Frenchman held his position well tonight during most of the game. He was only rarely caught out by his opponents, being generally well placed and intelligent in his decisions behind. Until this goal of Mahrez, where he let the Algerian kick and hit far too easily. He made up for it in the 86th minute by saving a ball on his line, which turned out to be decisive. His offensive contribution was correct, without more.
Casemiro (5,5) : absent during the first round between the two teams, we felt that his return was good tonight. His volume of play and his activity in front of the defense prevented Pep Guardiola’s troops from projecting themselves as easily towards Courtois’ area. He was also author of some rather limited interventions, without consequences for him and beneficial for his team. He left his place to Asensio (5.5) in the 75th, but the Spaniard’s entry was rather mediocre.
Kroos (4.5): placed in number 6 in the first leg, he recovered his position tonight, and we logically saw him in a better light. But he was not the best Kroos. Several good balls for the best positioned partners in front, like this perfect opening for Carvajal on the opportunity missed by Vinicius Junior at the beginning of the second half. But also a lot of time where we hardly saw him, and where he was content to play too simple. Replaced by Rodrygo (8), whose commentary is available above.
Modric (4) : the Croatian was a bit disappointing tonight when we know what he is used to in these games of higher level. Overall, he had little influence in the game and few actions where we could admire the extent of his talent. However, there were some good defensive interventions, like this return at the end of the first half. The comparison with Bernardo Silva hurts tonight. Ancelotti brought him out at 15 minutes to the end for Camavinga (7), who has made the game fluid in the middle and has done some great ball handling. A performance of a boss considering the context and his young age.
Valverde (5.5): The Uruguayan was the fourth midfielder in Ancelotti’s line-up and fulfilled his role. He covered a lot of ground on the right side in defensive sequences, preventing the Cityzens from being really dangerous on their left flank. On the offensive sequences, we could perhaps expect a little more in the projections forward before the crazy turn of events. Rather winning bet for Ancelotti tonight.
Vinicius Jr (6) : Vinicius of the bad nights at times, with a lot of clumsiness on some situations, like this big opportunity (18th), or this huge miss just after the break. But also a very good Vinicius on other phases of the game, like this individual action that Modric did not take advantage of (52nd), or several overflows on the left side. One thing is sure, he tried, as usual, and created a lot of danger against a Walker who was in trouble, especially during the second half. Ancelotti took him off in the 114th minute to make room for Lucas Vazquez, who was not really able to show himself.
Benzema (5.5): difficult to judge his game. During most of the game, he was not very involved, and even clumsy on the rare situations where his partners served him. The Lyon native showed his attacking prowess with his decisive pass to Rodrygo at the very end of regulation time, and then he scored the third goal for Los Merengues from the penalty spot (95th). Showing who is the offensive boss of this team. Overall, a little below what he has shown since the beginning of the season, but no one will blame him. Replaced by Ceballos (104th), who served to block the middle.
Ederson (4) : the Manchester goalkeeper often favored long play at the beginning of the game against the heavy pressure of the opposing forwards. Despite a few chances for Madrid, he did not have to make any saves. At the end of the second half, he could have been defeated very quickly on a beautiful combination of Real but Vinicius Jr. did not manage to hit his volley at the far post (46th). At the end of the game, he made a great intervention in front of Benzema to prevent the Frenchman to equalize (82nd), then he lost twice in a crazy end of games, twice against Rodrygo. The first on a cross volleyed by the Brazilian (90th, 1-1) and the second on a beautiful header from the Madrid striker (91st, 2-1). On Benzema’s penalty, he was caught off guard by the Real striker (95th, 3-1).
Walker (6) : very strong at the beginning of the game, the English fullback countered well the ascents of Vinicius by staying quite low on the pitch. Because of his position on the pitch, he did not bring as much offensively as usual. He delivered a very nice duel against the Brazilian. At the end of the second half, he marked the physical stagnation and was therefore in more difficulty against the repeated ascents of the winger of Real. He was logically replaced by Zinchenko (4) in the 72nd minute of play. The Ukrainian made a serious entry on the right side, not hesitating to go up to bring the danger through crosses. But defensively he was sometimes in trouble, especially in the strong moments of Real. The fullback was logically cautioned for a foul on Rodrygo (113th).
Ruben Dias (3.5): Solid in duels, the Portuguese was called upon a lot and always managed to keep the danger away from Real’s attackers. Thanks to his reading of the game he made good interventions. At the very end of the game, he completely sank and was overtaken on the two goals scored by Real Madrid in the extra time. He then conceded a penalty for a late intervention on Benzema, which allowed Madrid to score their third goal (95th, 3-1).
Laporte (4): quickly warned for an altercation with Modric (9th), the Spanish defender had difficulty in his first interventions, but then he came back well in his game and often imposed himself in duels, especially with his head. Like his teammates in the defense, he was totally overwhelmed by events for the two Real goals at the end of the game.
Cancelo (5): positioned high on the field he was very provocative on the left side and managed to send good crosses to his strikers. Defensively, he was sometimes a bit far from his direct opponent, who was therefore able to cross. In the second half, he stayed much lower and did not support City’s attacks as much as in the first half. At the end of the game, he did not manage to face the very high pressure put by Madrid.
Bernardo Silva (6.5): He had a good game. At the beginning of the match, he used his technical skills to get out of complicated situations in the middle of the field. The Portuguese then took the measure of his opponents and went up to become omnipresent in the midfield. He could have opened the score but his half-volley was well saved by Courtois (20th). The former Monegasque also made good defensive returns, especially when Real put pressure. Perfectly served by Gundogan, the Portuguese was able to move up the field to perfectly offset Mahrez who could open the score (73rd, 0-1). At the end of the game, he was less visible like his team.
Rodri (6,5) : very present in the duels in the middle, the Spaniard recovered many balls. He managed to often cut off the opposing attacks thanks to his interventions and was then able to cleanly build his team’s game. He also compensated for many situations in the middle of the field to keep the danger away. He was replaced by Sterling in the 99th minute. The English winger tried a lot up front but could not make the difference.
De Bruyne (4) : The Belgian was disappointing tonight, making only a few differences thanks to his technique and his passing quality. He was a little bit in trouble in the middle of the field, but he gave some good balls to his teammates, especially to Bernardo Silva (20th). In the second half, he did not manage to exist against the pressure of Real. He was replaced by Gundogan (5.5) in the 72nd minute. The German immediately made his mark by delivering a wonderful hidden pass for Bernardo Silva, who eliminated the entire opposing midfield, which led to Mahrez’s goal (73rd, 0-1). In the middle of the field, his vista and technique allowed him to make beautiful differences against the Real midfielders.
Mahrez (5): very little found by his teammates, the Algerian made the first shot on target of his team, but his free kick was too axial to worry Courtois (10th). But the winger missed his first half. At the end of the second half, it was a bit better even if he was below his usual standards. The winger was finally decisive, well served by Bernardo Silva, he sent a powerful shot into the top corner of Courtois, who could not do anything (73rd, 1-0). He was replaced by Fernandinho in the 85th minute. The Brazilian had a little trouble getting into his game, under pressure from Real’s midfielders. But he was present in the duels in the midfield during the extra time. The City captain could have put his team back in the game but he failed to straighten the ball out in Courtois’ goal (107th).
Gabriel Jesus (4): made numerous deep calls to destabilize the Madrid defense. The Brazilian almost scored on his first chance, but his sudden shot went just over the Real goal (23rd). Replaced on one side in the second half, he had a lot of waste in his ball taking and did not manage to make any difference. He was replaced by Grealish in the 78th minute. The Englishman made a good entry by being very active on the side and creating opportunities. He could have even scored if Ferland Mendy had not saved the ball on his line (87th), the turning point of the match.
Foden (5,5) : very active on the left side, the Englishman put a lot of pressure on the opposing defenders. Very comfortable technically, he often made the difference and was able to send good balls into the Madrid area. He almost deceived Courtois with a floating volley, but the Belgian goalkeeper managed to push it away in two steps (40th). He came up against the Real keeper again, who pushed his header away well (107th).