How Manchester City practically mauled Real Madrid

Manchester City, Practical mauling, Real Madrid, EUropen Champions League, Semi final

How Manchester City practically mauled Real Madrid

Manchester City practically mauled Real Madrid Wednesday night in the Champions League semi-final at the Etihad.

It was a breathtaking start to the game from Pep Guardiola’s in-form side, who dominated for large spells in the opening period.

Los Blancos, meanwhile, struggled to keep hold of the ball. In fact, with 22 minutes played, the away side had only mustered 26 accurate passes compared to City’s 180.

And moments later, the brilliant Bernardo Silva celebrated scoring the opener with a powerful effort.

City, who have been relentless throughout this season’s Champions League campaign, continued to make Madrid look distinctly average.

And 14 minutes after his opener, Silva grabbed a well-deserved brace with a cushioned header past a helpless Thibaut Courtois.

One fan commented on the goal, saying: “Bernardo Silva is one of the best big-game players you will ever find. That is a such a difficult header, empty net or not. E l i t e.”

A second wrote: “Manchester City have been different gravy this first half. Outstanding,” while a third said: “Unbelievable squad. Nobody comes close to them.”

A fourth added: “That was one of the most complete 45 minute performances I can ever remember seeing.”

Real Madrid had such a terrible day.

Then, a second-half own goal from Eder Militao and a late strike from Julian Alvarez completed the mauling of the defending champions

Stranded before game

Ahead of kick-off, the Los Blancos squad were left stranded outside Manchester airport ahead of their Champions League showdown against City.

Upon arriving in England, the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were surprised when their bus failed to pick them up on time.

It’s believed the team were waiting outside Terminal 2 for around 40 minutes. They were eventually shuttled to the Hyatt Regency hotel to continue with their pre-match build-up.

Naturally, Ancelotti wasn’t impressed as he stood outside the terminal doors waiting for the bus to transport them to the hotel.



What now for Ancelotti, Modric and Kroos?

Asked on Spanish TV before the game, Ancelotti said that “If we win, to the final, if we lose, the door.” When the reporter paused for a second, the Italian quickly clarified that he meant his team leaving the competition, not him leaving his job as Madrid coach.

The mini-confusion was due to so much speculation over Ancelotti’s future through recent months. Blancos president Florentino Perez dismissed the possibility after Madrid won the Copa del Rey against Osasuna earlier this month, but the Bernabeu hierarchy have been unhappy at how their team gave no challenge at all to Barcelona in La Liga this year.

Perez has often complained about how City being owned by Abu Dhabi makes it impossible for his club to compete with them financially. So it would be incoherent to then sack a coach for being unable to beat them in a UCL semi-final. But then Perez is a man who makes his own rules. And losing to Pep Guardiola will have hurt him personally.

Just like last year, Ancelotti took off both Modric and Kroos with his team needing two goals late in the second half. The Croatian, 37, and German, 33, are out of contract at the end of June, so in theory this could have been their last games for Madrid in the competition.

Both have been seen as more likely to renew for one more year, but how City dominated midfield in large periods of both legs may make Perez think again about pushing harder for Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham.

Although Karim Benzema, 35, also struggled to have any impact on the tie, the current Ballon D’Or will stay at the Bernabeu next year. Madrid scoring just once across both ties against City could well mean he has competition from another top striker next year however.

Real Madrid: Bizarrely blunt

It was a night every single one of Real’s players will be desperate to forget — seriously, the Madrid press pack are going to need Geiger counters when they sift through the wreckage of this one — but the three forwards came up particularly short.

At his best, Rodrygo is a subtle, nagging force, adept at finding little pockets of space. Here, he was subdued to the point of absence. An overhit through ball to Karim Benzema was his only contribution to the first half and the only surprise was that he lasted until 80 minutes before being hooked.

Vinicius Junior had a couple of fleeting moments of promise at the start of the second half, getting two City players booked with trademark surges, but that was pretty thin gruel compared to what we have come to expect. It was notable that he spent the latter stages of the game miles away from the left wing — as good a summary as any of how well Kyle Walker managed him all night.

Benzema was arguably the biggest disappointment of all. The Frenchman barely mustered a touch of note all evening, repeatedly getting manoeuvred off the ball by Ruben Dias and John Stones. There are some mitigating factors here — he has missed three of Real’s last four league games due to lingering fitness worries — but it was galling to see such a brilliant footballer so far from his best.

Bernardo Silva: Space man

Oh, Bernardo. It is very hard not to wonder how you do it. How do you find space so effortlessly, so frequently, so naturally? One swish of that left boot to lift the ball over Thibaut Courtois. A perfectly weighted header to drop the ball into the net for a second time. The smallest man on the pitch, wearing a shirt that always seems a size too big.

Seriously, is it just an innate gift? That movement, that appreciation of space, the anticipation of knowing where the ball is going to come. And then the calmness to make sure that, if Toni Kroos isn’t going to follow your run, or Luka Modric stands as still as stalagmite, they aren’t going to get away with it.

This isn’t the first time Bernardo, given a licence to roam, has shaped a big occasion to his will. Never before, though, has this diminutive, elusive player been so effective among a Who’s Who of the Champions League’s elite.

We were reminded in the process why Bernardo is a Pep Guardiola favourite. Take the ball, cherish it, treat it like a friend. Pass it to a team-mate, keep moving, make yourself available to take it again. And repeat. Make an impact, get behind the opposition lines. It’s a simple formula, but it also takes something special to perfect it at this level. And Bernardo, plainly, is special.


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