Eliot K. Raman Jones | Sports Editor
Manchester City have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League after recording a 2-1 (4-2) second leg win against Spanish champions Real Madrid. City were the favourites to go through after Pep Guardiola’s side picked up a 2-1 away win in the Spanish capital back in February, and the Citizens managed to progress at the expense of Real after winning the second leg by the same scoreline.
City will now play Lyon in the new one-game-knockout format in Lisbon, after knocking out record 13-time winners Real Madrid following a vintage City performance in Manchester. The Premier League runners-up showcased all of their manager’s tactical nous against the recently-crowned Spanish champions, as Guardiola’s chosen high-pressing doctrine forced Real into two fatal errors. The first came just nine minutes into the match, as World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane dawdled on the ball for too long and was robbed by lurking forward Gabriel Jesus, who himself had plenty of time to pick out Raheem Sterling for City’s first of the night and the Englishman’s 100th for the club.
Those who feared a comprehensive drubbing of the Spanish side was in the works had to endure twenty more minutes of City dominance before breathing a sigh of relief. After wasted chances from Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, it was the Frenchman who would equalise for the visitors, getting on the end of a sumptuous ball from Rodrygo to flash a header past Ederson. Despite Real’s demonstration of their ability in front of goal, the quality of their defending was not buoyed by Benzema’s equaliser, with ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois almost gifting City the tie not long after the goal when his poor clearance went straight to the feet of a City man, but the Belgian custodian’s blushes were spared when Phil Foden’s effort fizzled wide. Kevin de Bruyne had one more chance just after the second half began, a cheeky near-post shot directly from a corner, but it was kept out at the last moment by Courtois.
Real Madrid fans would have wanted their team to start out the second half on the front foot, but the Spanish side offered very little for the first fifteen minutes after the restart. Despite the match having half an hour plus added time left on the clock, it appeared as if the game was getting away from Real, and usually competent players were appearing as anything but. Four-time Champions League winner Dani Carvajal wasted several good crossing opportunities, while another four-time Champions League winner and World Cup winner Toni Kroos blasted a wild shot uncharacteristically over from a promising position. Only Karim Benzema, who had scored the equaliser, looked like he was truly playing out of his skin, but despite his enthusiasm, he was unable to score again before City got their second.
If the first defensive error from Raphael Varane was poor, then this was nothing short of a shocker. After a lofted long ball from Rodri, Varane contrived to miss his headed clearance under pressure from Gabriel Jesus, and his second effort, this time an attempt to pass back to his goalkeeper, was far too short. Jesus seized on the second mistake and produced a stunning finish to get the ball past the onrushing Courtois and into the net. The second goal from a defensive mistake essentially killed the game off as a contest, and it seemed that both Real Madrid fans and players were united in attempting to will away the remaining twenty-two minutes of the match until the final whistle blew.