Manchester City will take a slender lead to the Bernabeu after a thrilling 4-3 win over Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first-leg.
City led the tie after 94 seconds when Kevin De Bruyne scored with a diving header before Gabriel Jesus put them two-up inside 11 minutes.
Karim Benzema, on his 600th appearance for Real Madrid, pulled one back with a superb volley but Phil Foden headed in City’s third shortly after half-time.
Real hit back within two minutes through Vinicius Junior’s wonderful solo goal although Bernardo Silva restored City’s two-goal advantage until Benzema coolly chipped a late penalty down the middle after Aymeric Laporte handled the ball to cap a classic Champions League tie.
How City and Real played out a thriller
City led after just 94 seconds when Riyad Mahrez was afforded too much space and time to cut inside from the right and drift in a cross for De Bruyne to steer past Courtois with a diving header.
Real were passive in their defending during the opening 20 minutes, summed up when De Bruyne was allowed to measure a ball into Jesus from the left, which David Alaba failed to clear, and the striker was handed a simple finish for City’s second.
Pep Guardiola made four changes to his team that beat Watford 5-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.
John Stones suffered a knock in City’s victory over Brighton last Wednesday, but was fine to come back into the team at right-back. Regular right-back Kyle Walker missed the last three games and was unavailable again while defender Joao Cancelo was suspended for the tie.
Jack Grealish, City’s £100 million man, was dropped to the bench with Phil Foden coming in. Raheem Sterling also missed out and was replaced by Riyad Mahrez. Fernandino was benched with Bernardo Silva chosen ahead of him.
Carlo Ancelotti was able to rest some of his big hitters during their last match, a 3-1 win at Osasuna on Wednesday.
Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior both came back into the starting line-up against City along with Toni Kroos.
Daniel Carvajal and Ferland Mendy, who hadn’t played since suffering an injury in the quarter-final first-leg against Chelsea, were re-introduced at right-back and left-back respectively as Lucas Vazquez and Nacho were benched.
Eduardo Camavinga, Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio also made way. Casemiro was only able to make the bench due to injury.
The visitors had sizzled with a fine display at Chelsea in their quarter-final first leg but never reached those heights at the Etihad. Carlo Ancelotti’s side should have been three behind after 25 minutes when Mahrez crashed an effort into the side-netting on a City breakaway before Foden then dragged a chance wide on another counter-attack.
Benzema had been starved of service during the opening 30 minutes, deciding to turn provider by delivering a cross for Alaba which the centre-back headed narrowly wide. But the Real Madrid talisman only needed half a chance to grab his 13th Champions League goal of the season. The 34-year-old superbly volleyed Mendy’s cross in off a post with his left foot to get the visitors back into the game.
City had been in control but were soon on the back foot with Ederson having to save from Rodrygo before John Stones was forced off with an injury and replaced by Fernandinho at right-back.
Alaba was replaced by Nacho at half-time but Real’s defensive woes continued. Eder Militao missed his clearance as last man which allowed Mahrez through on goal. His shot hit a post with Foden’s close-range follow-up crucially cleared off the line by Daniel Carvajal.
Man City: Ederson (6), Stones (6), Dias (6), Laporte (5), Zinchenko (6), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (9), Bernardo (8), Mahrez (8), Jesus (7), Foden (8).
Subs: Fernandinho (6), Sterling (6)
Real Madrid: Courtois (5), Carvajal (5), Militao (5), Alaba (5), Mendy (6), Kroos (5), Modric (6), Valverde (6), Rodrygo (6), Vinicius Jr. (7), Benzema (8).
Subs: Nacho (5), Camavinga (6), Ceballos (n/a), Asensio (n/a)
Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne
City weren’t to be denied for long, though, as Fernandinho intercepted Mendy’s pass to Vinicius Junior before delivering a pinpoint cross for Foden to comfortably head home.
But two minutes later Real had reduced the deficit again when Vinicius Junior out-foxed Fernandinho with a clever dummy on the halfway line before bursting through and finishing past Ederson.
City responded with centre-back Laporte firing straight at Courtois and then Silva put them two-ahead once more. Oleksandr Zinchenko was brought down by Toni Kroos on the edge of the Real box but referee Istvan Kovacs played advantage as Silva picked up the ball before firing high past Courtois at his near post.
Mahrez nearly made it five as he shot wide at the end of one of his trademark runs with the drama far from over. Laporte handled the ball when rising for a header in the City box, conceding a penalty in the process which was brilliantly chipped down the middle by Benzema to keep Madrid firmly in the tie.
Analysis: City fail to finish off Real
Sky Sports News’ Melissa Reddy at the Etihad:
“City will certainly curse three crucial periods in this epic match where they allowed Real to get too close for comfort and remain alive in the tie.
“The first was the three missed chances ahead of Benzema sparking the visitors’ fightback, and then their inability to manage the game conceding so soon after Foden and Bernardo scored their third and fourth, despite again having golden opportunities to make it curtains.
“A breathless game that adds plenty of spice and jeopardy to the second leg.”
Opta stats: Can Real end first-leg curse?
- Manchester City are only the third team to win three consecutive UEFA Champions League matches against Real Madrid, after Bayern Munich (four in a row, 2000-02) and Juventus (three, 2005-08).
- This is the sixth time Real Madrid have lost the first leg of a UEFA Champions League semi-final – they’ve failed to reach the final on any of the previous five occasions they’ve lost in the first leg.
- This was only the second ever UEFA Champions League semi-final match to see both sides score three or more goals, after Dynamo Kyiv 3-3 Bayern Munich in April 1999. It’s the joint-highest scoring semi-final, along with Ajax 5-2 Bayern Munich (April 1995) and Liverpool 5-2 Roma (April 2018).
- Kevin De Bruyne’s goal after 93 seconds for Manchester City was the fastest ever goal scored in the semi-final of a UEFA Champions League match; the previous quickest was scored by Joshua Kimmich in May 2018 for Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (2 mins 44 seconds).
Champions League semi-final second legs:
Villarreal vs Liverpool – Tuesday, May 3, 8pm KO
Real Madrid vs Man City – Wednesday, May 4, 8pm KO
Final to be played in Paris at Stade de France on May 28, 8pm KO
What’s next for Man City & Real Madrid?
Manchester City continue their quest for the Premier League title with a trip to Leeds on Saturday evening at 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports. City hold a one-point lead over Liverpool, who visit Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime.
Real Madrid can win the La Liga title on Saturday with a victory at home against Espanyol. Second-placed Barcelona missed the chance to cut into Real’s 15-point lead after losing 1-0 at the Nou Camp to Rayo Vallecano last weekend.
To be rearranged: Wolves (a) Premier League
April 30 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 4 – Real Madrid (a) Champions League SF second leg
May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Aston Villa (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress