Manchester City took full advantage of some major mistakes by Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane to progress into the Champions League quarter-finals. City stepped out onto the pitch at the Etihad with a 2-1 aggregate lead over Los Blancos. Early on, City looked the better side, but there is a reason that Real Madrid hold the record for the most Champions League trophies, and got themselves back into the game.
Manchester City Ride Real Madrid Mistakes to Lisbon
All Manchester City in the First Half
Man City came out with a similar pressing setup to what they used in Madrid. Gabriel Jesus was wide to the left, pressing one centre-back, and Raheem Sterling wide to the right, pressing the other. With Phil Foden in the middle pressing Casemiro, it was working from the off.
Jesus and Sterling were causing nightmares for Madrid centre-back pairing Raphael Varane and Eder Militao. For the first twenty minutes, Militao looked like the moment was too big for him. Yet it was Varane who was dispossessed by Jesus to square the opener for Sterling.
It was clear that was Pep Guardiola’s target was to pressure the Madrid backline. Without Sergio Ramos they were clearly in over they’re heads at the start. But, as Sam Lee pointed out, Ramos was certainly trying to help as much as he could.
As the half wore on Madrid did manage to get more control into the game. Their equaliser came from a very nice bit of play between Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Rodrygo Goes. The latter, an 18-year-old Brazilian, put in a nice ball that stayed in the air perfectly for Benzema to head it in.
As the second half began, City were already making changes. The false nine press was out the door replaced by a more traditional lineup. Jesus was back up top, with Sterling on the left and Foden on the right. And it saw some early benefits, with both Foden and Sterling getting opportunities to score early on in the half.
But neither got as big of a chance as Ilkay Gundogan. The German inexplicably tried to walk it into Sterling instead of shooting from a wide-open position at the top of the box. It was the type of miss that people pray doesn’t come back to haunt them. And luckily for City, it did not.
Manchester City got the benefit of another howler from Varane. The World Cup-winning defender tried to head a bouncing ball back to his goalkeeper, and instead headed it straight into the path of Gabriel Jesus. Jesus, to his credit, did really well to finish around an onrushing Thibaut Courtois, to give City a huge two-goal advantage.
And from there, City saw out the result they needed. There were a few nervy moments. Immediately after scoring the second they almost gave up another equaliser to Benzema, but Ederson made a great save.
Somehow, Manchester City are looking at a quarter-final against Lyon in Lisbon for a spot in the Champions League semi-finals. The French club ousted Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus 2-2 on away goals in a major upset.
If City play half as well as they did against Madrid, they have a real chance at going through to the next round. And it will be without the traditional two-legged tie. Each game in Lisbon is a one-off win or bust knockout game.