Manchester City and Real Madrid played a beautiful soccer match
In many ways, the fate of a match that will be remembered for a long time was established in the opening minutes. It can’t be said that Real Madrid overslept or were slow to start or anything like that. The Madrid side simply weren’t ready for the kind of pressure that the Citizens would offer from the start. Hence City’s first goal in the second minute. And to be even more accurate, in the 93rd second. Such precision from the fact that the goal was a record for Manchester City – the fastest in the history of the club in the Champions League.
That De Bruyne goal snowballed into a series of events that followed. In particular, it left Real Madrid players even more confused as they conceded a second goal – from Jesus – on 11 minutes. By the way, it is the fastest two goals conceded by Real Madrid in the Champions League. Moreover, the situation could have been disastrous as City had at least two more chances to score by the half-hour mark. In other words, Real could have been up 0-4. And judging by the game the spectators saw, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone.
But Real Madrid had their own switch – Karim Benzema. And his goal launched the universe in a different scenario. Not for the first time this season, by the way. With each such match, the 34-year-old Frenchman brings the Ballon d’Or closer to himself. But let’s dwell on this scenario in more detail.
A series of mistakes
For all the brilliance of the performers in both teams’ attacks, no amount of fun would have been had the defense matched the level of the attacking players. That was not the case in this game. Everyone was up to no good. Even if we look only at the goalscoring episodes. Each of them is the result of specific personal mistakes. Yes, every goal is someone else’s mistake. But for teams of this level, the first thing that draws attention is the actions of the great masters of attack, not the mistakes of defenders, which led to goals. That wasn’t the case in this game. Let’s go in order.
In the episode with the goal De Bruyne can even omit the fact that Marez, who gave him a pass, was not met by four people in the corner of the penalty area, which he passed. After the pass, Valverde couldn’t keep up with Kevin’s run. Or rather, he didn’t even see the Belgian rushing towards the goal. We can clearly see that Valverde looks back at a loss, and De Bruyne, who a moment ago was in front of him relative to the goal, is suddenly at the goalmouth and shoots.
City’s second goal began with Eder being “carted around” in some other way. It was done on the left flank. And then De Bruyne shot, and the powerful Alaba lost the fight on one step to Jesus who scored. David put his foot in front of the forward but could not stop him. Is this the play of a defender at the level of Real Madrid?
Benzema’s switch on the anniversary match was also not without preparation in the form of a series of ball losses under pressure from the City players in the English midfield. This was uncharacteristic of Guardiola’s team. As a result, a kind of chaos ensued, and Benzema was locked into a pass against Zinchenko, whom he had no trouble pushing away. (Just as it wouldn’t have been difficult for Alaba to push back Jezus in the previous goal, but that didn’t happen.
City’s third goal was scored by Foden – and there were several mistakes at once. First, Mendy’s pass and Vinicius’s reception – they were easily pressed and Fernandinho went to the space on the wing after the tackle. But not every feed from there is a goal. Secondly, Phil was simply on the prowl and positively outpaced the Real Madrid defenders, finding himself alone in front of goal. Carvajal was looking at the back of his head.
On the Vinicius goal episode, two minutes later, the forward returned the favor to Fernandinho by beating him without touching the ball with an elegant movement on the flank. It was beautiful. And then it was a matter of technique, and Vinicius raced 50 meters with a classic goal into the far corner.
City’s fourth goal was perhaps most telling in terms of characterizing the chaos the defense was in. Kroos brought down Zinchenko in front of the penalty box, the ball bounced to Silva, but for some reason at least half of Madrid thought the match was stopped. Kamawinga stood upright. And most unfortunate for Real Madrid, Courtois was also in that half. Bernardou slotted the ball into his near corner and the goalkeeper didn’t even realize what had happened.
Finally, Real Madrid’s third goal, scored by Benzema spectacularly from the penalty spot. It’s simple. Laporte waved his arm so wide in a struggle with Karim that he found the ball with it. In general, it’s hard to jump without making compensating movements with the hands, but somehow Emeric moved too recklessly here.
And it could go on and on. After all, these are just the episodes with the goals. And how many of them didn’t end in a goal. How many times Eder was out of action, waving the ball away and losing position. In short, it’s often not only and not so much the attacking players who are the creators of such great matches. It’s the defense that makes the difference.
But, of course, it’s not just mistakes and isolated episodes that define the game. In general, it changed several times. We can highlight the opening phase, in which City pressed with their speed and aggression. The Madrid side simply could not keep up with their opponent. However, the return of Real thanks to Benzema’s goal allowed them to psychologically shake up the game. Madrid began to better withstand the onslaught of the Citizens. Nor could they play like that all the time.
It was especially noticeable in some areas of the second half. Once again, after the break, City accelerated, turning the opponents’ heads. But this time the burst was enough for ten minutes, not thirty. And after Vinicius’ goal, the rhythm of the match became more subdued. More and more often it slowed down, concentrating on ball control, which allowed Real Madrid to better regroup and meet the opponent more compactly. At this point, the intensity was diminished. But then the Madrid stupor kicked in, and it was all over again.
The end of the match already spoke more about fatigue, as well as the teams’ attitude to the score. “Real Madrid did all they could to hold on to the minimum defeat, while City struggled to press on, feeling a little more fresh and confident. However, the Citizens can remember Real Madrid’s game with Chelsea and not be so afraid of the return match. There is no sense that the content of the game in Spain could be very different from this one.
Predictably, all the numbers speak in City’s favor. “The Citizens had 77 attacks compared to only 28 for Real Madrid. The home team took 16 shots and the visitors 11. But in terms of accurate shots, the scoreline was 5-5. Manchester City controlled the ball 57 percent of the time. Both teams were exceptionally accurate. The City completed 90 percent of their passes, while Real Madrid’s were 84 percent accurate. The hosts completed 565 of their passes, while the visitors threw 358. Guardiola’s players have run a noticeably longer distance than Ancelotti’s charges: 122.8km vs. 114.6km. Usually, the gap is not so big, by the way. More often it is one or two kilometers. But here the Citizens outran the Madrid team.
Of course, such a match couldn’t leave statistical enthusiasts on the sidelines. Benzema again made history. He became the top scorer in the Champions League this season, ahead of Lewandowski. Karim has 14 goals. And there is still a match or matches ahead of him. The Pole may surpass him in the global number of goals in the Champions League. Karim now has 85, while Robert has 86. The Frenchman is the fourth in the history of the tournament. Of course, the gap between Messi (125) and Ronaldo (140) is cosmic. But the record of Cristiano Benzema may be reached this season. But the other one is in terms of goals in one playoff game. Karim now has nine, while Ronaldo had ten in 2017.
Benzema has already scored 40 goals for Real Madrid this season, breaking that bar for the first time in his career. Only four players in history have managed that before: Di Stefano, Puskas, Hugo Sanchez twice and Ronaldo eight times.