Real Madrid host Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League Round of 16’s marquee game and look to build up a formidable lead in the first-leg before the trip to the Etihad. It was actually Pep Guardiola’s side who got the last-laugh, managing a late comeback to win 2-1 & take a huge upper-hand in this tie.
The first-half saw both sides cancel each other out with some high-octane end-to-end stuff. Thibaut Courtois and Ederson both made a few crucial saves to keep things level heading into the break. Real turned up the heat in the second-half and forced City to make a mistake in the 60th-minute, as Isco coolly finished off a thunderous swift-break to give Los Blancos the lead.
But Pep Guardiola’s side bit back as Kevin de Bruyne cleverly set up Gabriel Jesus with a smart header in the 78th minute. They went onto complete a stunning comeback five-minutes later when substitute Raheem Sterling’s blistering movement inside the area won them a penalty, which De Bruyne duly converted.
And just like that, Real’s CL ambitions have taken a huge blow. They’ll have to pull out a colossal effort to turn things around at the Etihad, that too without Sergio Ramos who got sent off late on. Pep put up another masterclass at the Bernabeu to make a statement of how devastating his side remain despite all the recent FFP troubles.
Real Madrid player ratings vs Manchester City
Zinedine Zidane (5.0) –
Zizou opted to play a 19-year-old Vinicius instead of a proven star in Bale. Of course, Vinicius did assist but also wasted many opportunities. His tactic for settling down after taking the lead failed miserably as City made the comeback. His substitutions were perhaps too late when players were already exhausted and worked to City’s advantage. Pep wins the battle of the balds today.
Thibaut Courtois (5.5) –
Courtois faces against an old foe. Forced to showcase flash-like reflexes in superbly keeping out Jesus’ 20th-minute shot. Almost had a heart-in-mouth moment before the break when his botched clearance allowed a shot to be cleared off the line. Redeemed that with two sublime back-to-back saves off Mahrez before the hour-mark.
Perhaps could’ve saved Jesus’ header but KDB’s penalty totally outwitted him. Made late saves off Mahrez & Sterling to stop it from becoming a rout.
Dani Carvajal (4.5) –
Carvajal’s playing further forward than usual to pressurize the visitors. Ventured into the area with vigor in the 70th but lacked that final pass. He kept out Mendy’s crosses but when tested against Sterling’s pace, he made a poor challenge to concede the penalty. Not at all as efficient as usual.
Raphael Varane (6.5) –
Skipping into all the right areas to make timely clearances early on. Blasted a shot over in the 15th-minute. Couldn’t really do anything to avoid either strike. But apart from that, he looked the most composed defender for Real. Made some excellent tackles & interceptions to sniff out danger and did his best to limit City’s threat.
Sergio Ramos (4.0) –
Captain Ramos seems cool as a cucumber dealing with the intensity. Aided Casemiro with the late first-half clutch clearance with a slight tip to parry out danger. Saw his shot from close-range blocked over in the 71st. Should’ve done better defending against Jesus’ goal, getting ousted by him too easily.
Things got from bad to worse as he got sent-off in the late stages for bringing down Jesus outside the area. Bit harsh that, but Ramos was completely ousted by Jesus today and let his side down.
Ferland Mendy (6.0) –
Mendy held his ground against the tricky Mahrez early on. Whipped in a terrific cross for Benzema’s chance at the half-hour. Missed an excellent equalizing opportunity in added time after making a clever run into the box but putting his awkward shot wide. But he dealt with Mahrez really well and nullified City’s supply through his side with timely challenges.
Fede Valverde (5.0) –
Zizou’s special weapon is pressing City hard in the early stages. Unable to pack the powerful punch to drive Madrid ahead in the first-half. His overeagerness got him booked minutes after the break for a blatant cynical challenge on Gundogan. Showcased impressive energy to constantly close down City players but outwitted by De Bryune for the equalizer, allowing him to cross in Jesus’ header too easily.
Casemiro (5.5) –
Casemiro faces a stern task dealing with Kevin de Bruyne. Despite being outwitted on occasions, his expert positional-sense allowed making crucial interceptions. Bailed out Courtois before half-time by superbly clearing a shot off the line. Eventually outworked by KDB, who sped past his mark to inspire the comeback.
Luke Modric (6.0) –
Modric is ever-demanding of possession to carve out chances for his attackers. Showcasing impressive energy in trying to carry his side forward. Made an impressive interception and beautifully placed Vinicius through in the 54th, only to see him scuff it.
Then again won possession with persistent pressing before sending Vinicius through for Isco’s opener. Troubled City’s with his clever incisive passes but his attackers couldn’t justify his work.
Isco (6.5) –
Seems to be enjoying his free role moving all over the attacking-third. Lacking that something special despite looking dangerous with his movement. Jumped over Mendy to place a weak header straight at Ederson in the 58th. Made no mistake slotting past him two-minutes later with a sweet drive into the bottom-corner. Clinical when required but subbed late on.
Vinicius Jr (6.0) –
A surprise start for the teenager over Bale. Dribbled past Walker a couple of times before the half-hour but lacking that lethal final touch. Wiggled into a prime scoring area in the 29th, but scuffed an easy tap-in from yards out. Wastes another chance after being put through on goal in the 54th before eventually running out of steam.
But redeems his mistakes by showcasing hunger to pounce on City’s error before cleverly finding Isco for his strike. Learnt well from his errors throughout but should’ve scored one.
Karim Benzema (4.5) –
Benzema seems intent on capitalizing on City’s defensive vulnerabilities today. Leapt beyond both defenders to power a header straight at Ederson in the 29th, but unlucky not to see Vinicius capitalize on the rebound. Fizzled out in the second-half, barely being able to escape his marker onto promising positions.
Gareth Bale (5.0) –
Forced a strong save off Ederson minutes after coming on but looked barely bothered to get amongst the goals after things became desperate.
Luka Jovic (N/R) –
Brought on very late to make any real impact, but he couldn’t get into any scoring positions late on.
Lucas Vasquez (N/R) –
Couldn’t really help Real churn out any definitive chances.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Isco did score Madrid’s only goal and looked the most promising in attack which maybe makes them their best player tonight. But it was the Kevin de Bruyne show tonight. He deserves the MOTM all night long.