Since the Champions League draw for knockout stages came out, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was dubbed as the most mouthwatering prospect. Two of the most high-profile coaches of modern times would face yet again in a venue, where they battled hard during their playing days. Both the coaches and their teams have been facing a rough time recently with City facing a tougher time than Real – the UEFA ban has jolted the unit, but not broken time. At the end of the match, one could say, adversity motivated City to deliver the best.
In just 5 minutes Santiago Bernabeu was silenced. Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne gave a telling blow and Pep Guardiola had the last laugh. City were desperate and they achieved an important away win, which gives them the advantage at home. #UCL pic.twitter.com/K1k64UAQdW
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) February 26, 2020
Santiago Bernabeu is not the fort of Real Madrid anymore like the past, but still, the carnival atmosphere was evident and the expectations among the fans were sky-high. None wishes to see Real Madrid fail against Pep Guardiola. But Pep has conquered Bernabeu before and he knows how to bounce back and he has the players to do it for him.
Zinedine Zidane brought on Vinicius Junior to partner with Karim Benzema up front with Isco playing behind them. Fede Valverde was joined by Luka Modric and Casemiro in the midfield. Even though the first-half could be regarded as a quiet one, but Real Madrid played some brilliant football. Zidane’s tactical move with a 4-3-1-2 formation was doing very well.
Real checked Kevin De Bruyne and limiting his passing chances. He could hardly breathe and City struggled to gain momentum. But still, City found the way through – as the time progressed, Pep’s men were proving to be the better side than Zidane and at one point, Real Madrid were found wanting.
Madrid attempted three shots in the opening 45 minutes against City, their lowest total in a game at home this season in all competitions.
City lost Aymeric Laporte in the first-half and were again forced to draft in Fernandinho at the back. Guardiola came with a gameplan where he did not have Fernandinho. Instead, Fernandinho rose to the occasion, as did his team-mates, particularly De Bruyne, Jesus and Riyad Mahrez, who worked tirelessly in a forward line operating without a recognized No 9.
But Real took over.
Vinicius was brilliant. His pace and skill were very welcoming – a no-look-pass at one point in the first-half charmed the crowd. He assisted wonderfully on Isco’s goal and was able to work his way around Kyle Walker to win the ball and get the pass off to Isco from in tight.
Real Madrid takes the lead at the Bernabéu as Vinicius feeds Isco in front of goal ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/1hYtFa7erQ
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) February 26, 2020
Everything was going according to plan for Real Madrid. But things started to fell apart for the Los Blancos after Vinicius was subbed off. The game shifted as Zidane moved more towards a 4-4-2 formation with Gareth Bale on for the young Brazilian.
In the last 15 minutes, Real played some of the worst football of the season.
Gabriel Jesus gives Man City a huge away goal and equalizer #UCL
— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) February 26, 2020
It began with Gabriel Jesus off a wonderful cross from De Bruyne. Claims of a push were made by Real Madrid, but it clear that Ramos just fell over trying to win the air battle; it was a correct non-call. Then just minutes later came the De Bruyne’s crucial penalty. It was a terrible decision from Carvajal to attempt that tackle in the box on Raheem Sterling, he didn’t make contact with any of the ball.
With the match under jeopardy, Sergio Ramos received a red card when he chopped down Gabriel Jesus who was clear on goal. It was his fourth red card in the Champions League and ties with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edgar Davids for the most. Ramos would miss the crucial away league at Etihad Stadium – a big blow for Zidane.
A night to forget for Real Madrid, but City left the Spanish shores after conquering one of the most aristocratic venues in world football.
— ManCityzens (@ManCityzenscom) February 26, 2020
Without a doubt, City were the better side in the second-half with more shots on goal than Real Madrid. Pep’s decision to start with Jesus paid rich dividends. Jesus made more ball recoveries than any other City players: completed 20 of his 21 passes and had a huge impact in the final third when chances fell his way.
Kevin De Bruyne’s game by numbers vs Real Madrid:
✅ 100% goal involvement
✅ 30 final third passes (most)
✅ 6 crosses (joint most)
✅ 4 chances created (most)
✅ 3 successful take-ons (most)
✅ 3 shots (second most)
The best midfielder in the world right now! pic.twitter.com/vg2EopRI1l
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) February 27, 2020
Then there was that dynamic midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: Undoubtedly, he is the best midfielder in the world right now. Despite being checked in the first-half, he sneaked a way through to make an impact in the game.
Kevin De Bruyne with the killer assist for 1-1 and ends the Manchester City penalty jinx to put his side ahead ? pic.twitter.com/n5lGIvSVey
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 26, 2020
He assisted the first goal where Jesus jumped over Ramos to equalize and then scored the winner from the penalty spot. Last season he was overshadowed by injuries, but this season, he is all set to claim himself as the best in the world alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
In the end, Pep’s tactical master class should be credited: Guardiola started without the likes of Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling and opted for an unusual shape to his team, but City looked comfortable throughout the match – more control over the ball and enough attacking intent than the home side. Guardiola has become the manager with the most wins against Real Madrid in all competitions in the 21st century (10), surpassing Ernesto Valverde and Diego Simeone (9).
Again, Guardiola has become the manager with the most wins in Champions League knockout stages (28), surpassing Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti (27).
Manchester City are the third English side to conquer Bernabeu after Arsenal in 2006 and Liverpool in 2009.
All is well at Manchester, but the mood is gloomy at Bernabeu.