MADRID — Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne each scored superb goals from outside of the box as Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois was the busier goalkeeper in the first half, saving shots from De Bruyne and Rodri. Madrid threatened when Vinicius Junior almost found Karim Benzema inside the 6-yard box, before Vinicius put them ahead in the 36th minute, firing past goalkeeper Ederson from distance.
After halftime, Courtois saved well from De Bruyne — only for the offside flag to go up — before De Bruyne put City level with a clinical finish. Ederson saved Benzema’s header as Madrid pushed for a second, but it ended 1-1, with the tie to be decided in the second leg on May 17 in England.
1. First leg lacked fireworks of last year’s matchup, but both sides can feel OK with draw
Last year’s Champions League semifinal clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City set the bar sky high. It started with a thrilling first leg at the Etihad, where Man City emerged victorious but only just, in a 4-3 win that didn’t reflect their superiority. It was then followed by an all-timer of a second leg at the Bernabeu, with Madrid somehow scoring three goals in added time to go through.
How could this season’s semifinal possibly live up to that? This first leg didn’t. But it was still a fascinating contest.
City were on top throughout the first half — registering 68% possession, almost twice as many touches, and six shots — but Madrid were quite happy to sit back, defend deep and wait for their chance to come. For Real Madrid in the Champions League, those chances do always come.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)
– Read on ESPN+: What next for Messi? Analysing his options
Here, Vinicius put them ahead with a fierce shot out of nowhere, set up by the all-action Eduardo Camavinga. Madrid grew into the game and were edging it by the time a moment of similar, outstanding quality, this time from De Bruyne, levelled the game midway through the second half.
Neither team will be too unhappy with the end result, and both will back themselves to finish the job next week at the Etihad.
2. Haaland disappoints in Bernabeu debut
Real Madrid, meet Erling Haaland. This was the first time Haaland had faced Madrid in a competitive game, and the Bernabeu crowd could have been forgiven for thinking: is this what all the fuss is about?
Haaland had just 22 touches, the fewest of any starter. He had three shots, but none of real danger.
Man City’s intentions were clear from kickoff when Ederson immediately looked to go long to Haaland. But Madrid’s centre-backs Antonio Rudiger — who relishes a physical battle more than anyone — and the quick, clever David Alaba coped with the Norwegian striker brilliantly. Rudiger tried to get close to Haaland, while Alaba was ever ready to nip in and win the ball early.
There was one first-half Haaland header, straightforward for Courtois. And then there was one outstanding, last-ditch slide tackle from Alaba early in the second half, just as Haaland was in on goal and shaping to shoot. It summed up his night.
3. Nobody can touch Vinicius Junior right now
Three days after starring in Madrid’s Copa del Rey final win, Vinicius delivered again on Tuesday. Increasingly, this is a player who you expect to consistently define big games with decisive contributions in key moments.
Just look back at Vinicius over the past few Champions League seasons. There was his brace against Liverpool in Madrid’s 3-1 victory in April 2021. There was his goal against City in last year’s semifinal first leg, and his winning goal in the final in Paris. There were his two goals against Liverpool at Anfield in February this year. And now this, one of the best goals of the 22-year-old’s career to date.
It wasn’t a typical Vinicius goal. Those tend to come from inside the box, one-on-one with the keeper after a mazy run, or perhaps curled into the net after cutting in from the left-hand side. This was more central, taken quickly, and more about power, blasting past Ederson before he had time to react.
It’s now seven Champions League goals for Vinicius this season, three of them in the knockout stages. Karim Benzema might still be Madrid’s main man, but Vinicius is increasingly becoming their match winner.
Best and worst performers
Best: Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid
A moment of his pure quality put Madrid ahead.
Best: Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid
He’s becoming more and more convincing at left-back.
Best: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City
His goal was superbly taken and put City back in the tie.
Worst: John Stones, Manchester City
Struggled up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Worst: Manuel Akanji, Manchester City
He had an uncomfortable night dealing with Rodrygo’s trickery.
Worst: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
Didn’t get as much of the ball as he would have liked and couldn’t impact the game.
Highlights and notable moments
Vinícius Junior doesn’t usually score goals from outside of the penalty box, but he put Real Madrid ahead in the 36th minute with a sensational long-distance strike.
Kevin De Bruyne saw Vini’s strike and decided to match it with one of his own from outside of the box after the break.
In the 67th minute, De Bruyne got on the end of a Ilkay Gündogan ball and smashed it, equalising for Manchester City.
After the match: What the managers and players said
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti: “They had more of the ball in the first 30 minutes, but we weren’t worried, because we were well positioned at the back and we were waiting for a good transition. In the second half we managed playing the ball out from the back better. We could have won, but the feeling is good.”
Ancelotti on the second leg: “We have to be able to play like we played tonight. I don’t know if it’s possible, maybe at home they push a little bit, but the strategy of the game was good, we didn’t worry when they had possession, and then in the second half the game was completely different. We were able to move the ball, create opportunities, we’re satisfied.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Vinícius Júnior has a goal contribution in 10 straight games for Real Madrid, extending the longest such streak of his career. He also now has 42 goal contributions in all competitions this season, third most by any player from Europe’s top five leagues this season (Erling Haaland 59, Kylian Mbappé 44).
Through the first 42 minutes, Real Madrid’s only shot of the game was Vinícius’ goal.
Vinícius scored his fifth goal for Real Madrid from outside the penalty area, and his first outside of LaLiga, and it was his second-longest distance (28 yards) on a goal for Real Madrid. Manchester City hadn’t conceded a goal from outside the penalty area since January against Manchester United.
Kevin De Bruyne has scored 11 of his 14 UCL goals for Man City in the knockout stages. His 11 knockout stage goals are the most by any Man City player in their Champions League history.
Real Madrid: Los Blancos return to LaLiga action on Saturday, May 13 when they host Getafe (watch live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET). Then, it’s the return leg in the Champions League and Real Madrid will visit Man City on Wednesday, May 17 in the deciding leg of the semifinals.
Manchester City: It’s back to the Premier League for City, who visit Everton on Sunday, May 14. Then, Man City host Real Madrid in the return leg of the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday, May 17.
Source: Read Full Article