Amazing what came out between a team with a sick obsession for the game and the goal, and another that does nothing but resuscitate when it is to be given the last rites. Manchester City and Real Madrid smoked to the delight of the entertainment industry. If you had to go out and sell football as a show, the 90 minutes in the Etihad Stadium They don’t have a second to waste.
The first leg of the semifinals of the Champions League it was 4-3 for Manchester City, which was always up (2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2 and 4-3). Action and reaction; hit and kickback; two titans who challenged each other in each set. They played as if they were doing it for the last time, but fortunately there is another chapter, next Wednesday, at the Santiago Bernabéu. They set the bar very high, they will be awaited with tremendous expectation. What results from the retaliation does not condition the gratitude for what they delivered in the first leg.
it was a match imperfect, from now on With failures and concessions, too. Even with an unusual remains of Camavinga before Bernardo Silva’s goal, waiting for the referee to sanction a foul. Disputed more from the heart and feeling than from the coldness of reason. A maelstrom without respite since Manchester City took the lead after two minutes with a header from Kevin De Bruyne. The goal portrayed what Real Madrid would look like: grouped in their field, but without pressure on rival possession or rigor in individual duels. Absent Casemiro, the midfielder was left without its main defensive commissioner. Kroos was constantly overwhelmed by the local touch and the rest were also late for cuts and coverage. Real Madrid sleepwalking on the ledge that leads to a cliff, once again.
The highlight of a match
When Real Madrid is going under, Karim Benzema rescues him, makes him bring his head to the surface. Spectacular season of the Frenchman, a delight for the spectator. He scored the first of the discounts, 1-2, with an exquisite definition. 10 minutes from the end he again shortened the figures of the defeat with the 3-4 penalty. He had just missed two penalties against Osasuna. Nothing to crack his convictions. In a game that made anyone’s nervous system collapse, Benzema shot the penalty with a shot that entered a few centimeters from the crossbar. In the middle of the hive, the best striker in the world at the time resolved with astonishing serenity. “It’s confidence. If you don’t take charge of a penalty, you will never miss it. And I have a lot of confidence in myself.”
Benzema is already the goal scorer of this Champions, with 14 of the 25 Real Madrid in the competition. Since the knockout playoffs began, he has scored three against Paris Saint Germain, four against Chelsea and two against Manchester City. In this official season, his average is one goal per game (41 in 41).
Benzema was not the only figure of the night. De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva stood out on the premises. When Manchester City won 2-0, Guardiola cursed and lost control with the goals that his team missed. He knew that Real Madrid is a giant that wakes up at some point. The day before, he had recognized his admiration for a team that has plenty of players to raise their hands and assume the reconstruction when things go wrong. It was what happened. Real Madrid went from virtual elimination to getting back into the series. Outraged that his team could not avoid the rival blows, Guardiola protested to the referee for a mistake. The Catalan coach was the first booked in a semifinal that only had two players with a yellow card: Fernandinho and Nacho.
It is true that the defensive imbalances of both contributed a lot to the incessant carousel of emotions. The two suffered absences in the last line (Cancelo, Walker, Casemiro) and during the battle more soldiers fell due to injuries (Stones and Alaba, who physically arrived with just enough). In an emergency, Pep Guardiola sent the central midfielder Fernandinho onto the pitch as right back. The Brazilian was the architect of the third goal, with an advance to Vinicius and the projection by the band. But two minutes later he was upset by a turn in the middle of the field by Vinicius, who ran 45 meters to the goal. And the Manchester center-backs for coverage? Absent without notice. On those defensive licenses, complemented by the great individual category of most of the forwards, a great game was also amassed.
Both Benzema and Carlo Ancelotti invoked the support of the fans and the magic of the Bernabéu to get excited about qualifying for the final. They also recognized that they must defend better. “It is too much to receive four goals,” they acknowledged. The voices of the protagonists were repeated about how fantastic the match had been. The aesthetic aspect was also highlighted by Guardiola, who at the press conference was very laconic, monosyllabic in the answers, surely repressing an annoyance because the victory had been very short in relation to the dominance and number of situations that his team had created. And he has to go to Madrid.
In a tense and sharp atmosphere, the following dialogue took place between a journalist and Guardiola:
Was it like a boxing match?
–So it has been.
–Does something bother you to be so surly?
-You ask me, I answer. It is what I have been doing in these 13 years as a coach.
– Did you like the game?
– What if I liked it? Are you serious? No, you’re not serious… There may not be anyone in the world who hasn’t enjoyed this match, with these fantastic goals. Yes, 4-0 would have been better. In fairy tales, on Mars or Jupiter, yes, but in football matches, that doesn’t happen.
That yes, within his secrecy, Guardiola advanced what his team should not do: “If we play like in the second part of the Wanda (the rematch against Atlético de Madrid), we will not have any option”.
As if this Tuesday had been little, both will have a weekend of high tension. real Madrid can be champion of the League of Spain against Espanyol and Manchester City will defend the first place in the Premier League opposite Leeds. When they want to agree, once again they will be seeing each other’s faces with the eyes of the football world on them.