The Champions League: Manchester City vs Real Madrid, Live!
by Ian | Apr 26, 2016
Good evening everybody, and welcome to our coverage of this evening’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid. New money versus old money. Middle-Eastern oil barons versus a club so much of the establishment that they have the Spanish word for “Royal” in their name. If you want an idea of the extent to which this is a clash of the arrivistes and the old guard, consider this somewhat extraordinary comparison – this is Manchester City’s first appearance at this stage of the Champions League or European Cup whereas, by contrast, Real Madrid have played at this stage of the tournament on a previous twenty-seven occasions. Real have won this competition ten times whereas, prior to the introduction of cold, hard cash into the equation a few years ago, City had only ever played two matches in the competition.
The story of Manchester City’s doomed venture into Europe in 1968 is a curiosity of its times. City had won the league on the last day of the previous season, but this achievement was slightly overshadowed by Manchester United becoming the first English club to win the European Cup shortly afterwards. City, therefore, might have been persuaded to take the European Cup seriously the following season, but assistant manager Malcolm Allison – who did most of this sort of work, under the genial Joe Mercer – didn’t get his opponents, the Turkish champions Fenerbahce, watched properly prior to the first leg. A crowd of almost 38,000 people saw them draw that match nil-nil, and Fenerbahce won the second leg to dump City out of the tournament at the first hurdle. It would be forty-three years before they returned.
Those of you that have looked at the team lists below will have noted that Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t play for Real Madrid tonight. He can’t even muster a place on the substitutes bench. Manchester City, meanwhile, are missing Yaya Toure. On the flip-side for both teams, Karim Benzema, who had been an injury concern for Real, and Vincent Kompany both start for their respective teams. Kick-off is at 7.45 (in the UK) and I’ll be back then for the whole of what is a most difficult to call Champions League semi-final.
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Jesus Navas, De Bruyne, Silva, Aguero. Substitutes: Caballero, Zabaleta, Sterling, Kolarov, Delph, Mangala, Iheanacho.
Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Lucas Vazquez, Benzema, Bale.
Subs: Casilla, Varane, James Rodriguez, Kovacic, Jese, Isco, Danilo.
Good evening, brothers and sisters! It’s a beautiful spring evening in Manchester, so let’s get ourselves settled down for some hot soccer action, specifically this Champions League semi-final between Manchester City and Real Madrid. Manchester are shooting from left to right in the first half in sky blue and white, and Real Madrid are wearing their very dark blue change kit.
As is being reported all over social media, there’s RonaldNO this evening. Cristiano is crocked. Crocktiano. He was wearing an astonishingly opulent pair of gold headphones as he wandered around pre-match. They’re probably powered by the sighs of angels, or something.
It’s all been a bit cagey so far, as though both sides recognise that this is a one hundred and eighty minute tie rather than ninety minutes. A little bit clattery at times, but both teams seem to be settling down into an agreeable enough groove.
Manchester City have been doing an impressive amount of pressing and attacking over the last ten minutes, though nothing much has come of it. They’re a curious cove of a team, Manchester City. We’ve seen some distance from them in the Premier League this season, but in Europe they’ve kept going on the blindside, occasionally sparkling and always hard-working. They’ve not been able to master that against more moderate opposition, this season. And they desperately missed Kevin de Bruyne when he was injured, as well.
On the subject of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane, hmm? So, he’s… the best qualified person on earth to manage one of the two or three biggest football clubs, then, is he? Okay. Fair enough. Thing is, Zidane is three months older than me. He’s got a lot of his career left to go, presuming he maintains his interest to retirement age, which is what the great coaches do tend to do. If he isn’t to leave Real Madrid – and, let’s face it, that usually means under a cloud – then he’s going to need to stay in place at the Bernabeu for a very, very long time indeed. I don’t know why, but I worry about that.
About the highlight of the first half was David Silva withdrawing injured with five minutes to play of this half. I doubt that many of us would have guessed that Real Madrid would play so… conservatively. On the whole, they’ve sat back and let Manchester City come to them. And to be fair, Manchester City have created a big ole’ sack o’ nuttin’. It’s not been boring, as such. Manchester City have been excellent, but one merely assumes that Real Madrid are waiting to unleash… something or other. Half-time and it’s goalless, with not a great deal to report.
Very quickly, and as there’s nothing happened in the first half of this match, here’s some scores from elsewhere: Hull 2-0 Brentford, Walsall 2-0 Shrewsbury, Wimbledon 0-1 Portsmouth. Local to me, it’s Worthing 2-0 Hythe Town in one of the Ryman League Division One South play-offs that’s going on tonight. (I’m likely off to Bognor Regis Town vs Dulwich Hamlet on Thursday night, as if anybody cares). Oh, and Truro City 0-0 Whitehawk in the National League South. Christ, that’s a journey on a Tuesday night at the end of the season, isn’t it?
While I was out by the front door, I might have heard another goal in that Worthing play-off match. All of which is a convoluted way of saying welcome back for the second half, we’re five minutes in and nothing’s happened yet.
Actually, Real Madrid have started the second half a little more assertive than they finished the first. Perhaps that was idea – sit back for the first half, take advantage of your astonishing fitness levels in the second half and press on a little bit. Who knows? Not me, for sure.
Finally, a chance! A cross from the right-hand side and Sergio Ramos’ free header is rather too comfortable for Joe Hart. He probably should have made a bit more of that than he did.
It’s now 4-0 in that Worthing play-off match this evening. Twenty minutes to play and it’s still goalless. Manchester City need a goal, from somewhere. It’s difficult to imagine that they will be able to go to the Bernabeu and win, though not conceding an away goal will count for something.
And then a chance! Jese’s headed loops up and off the crossbar and away to safety. Real Madrid have been much better in the second half in an attacking sense, but that’s not really a great compliment.
Gareth Bale steps inside on the right-hand side of the penalty area and curls a shot around Joe Hart and narrowly wide. Couldn’t get quite enough curl on the ball. Joe Hart’s body language said he thought the ball was going wide, but his face said otherwise.
There’s been no sense of occasion about this game this evening. If anything’s felt more than a little like what European Super League match might feel like. Both cagey, willing to put off to another day what they could at least try to do tonight. And if I were one of those involved in whatever wretched format it might one day take, this match would be troubling. And they’d be right to be troubled by it, because no-one would be dumb enough to pay a premium price for this. The irony is that the Champions League has been waiting to catch light this season. The tournament itself needed a bigger match than this, tonight.
Joe Hart saves at point blank range from Pepe. It looked inconceivable that Pepe couldn’t be offside on first viewing, all of which goes to show why I’m barred from acting as or pretending to be a linesman. Great save, though.
Full-Time: Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid – Probably a better result for the home side than the away side. Real dominated the second half, creating better and better chances as Manchester City started to look more stretched. Joe Hart made two really great saves and Jese hit the crossbar. On the whole, though, Real Madrid didn’t look like European Supergiants this evening and Manchester City will be glad of the fact that they didn’t concede an away goal. All to play for in the second leg, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that it’s a better match than this one was. Thanks for stopping by, have a great evening.