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The bad news is the game had to end.
The good news is we get to do it all again in the Spanish capital next week. But who will go on to triumph and book a place in the Champions League final is impossible to predict following a night of captivating chaos and carnage at the Etihad.
This felt like football's equivalent of a Picasso, painted by two European artists hell bent on creating an absolute classic. And to think UEFA want to tinker with the format of the Champions League?
It's impossible to mend what isn't broken and there's nothing wrong with a competition that can give us Manchester City versus Real Madrid, seven goals, a host of missed chances, some sublime performances all over the pitch and a Panenka penalty.
Such was the drama of this incredible evening, City were always ahead but never in complete control as Real refused to cave in after deciding to indulge in a slugfest for the ages. It's difficult to know where to begin, so pay attention.
It took City just 11 minutes to storm into a 2-0 lead and make the kings of Europe look like a pub team. Pep Guardiola's men were ahead inside 93 seconds when Kevin De Bruyne met Riyad Mahrez's cross to guide a diving header past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.
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Gabriel Jesus then doubled the advantage on 11 minutes, meeting De Bruyne's ball into the middle and spinning past the hapless David Alaba before beating Courtois with a calm finish. Carlo Ancelotti has seen it all in his long and glorious career, but right now he looked like he'd seen a ghost instead.
It was the first time in Champions League history Real had been 2-0 down inside the opening 11 minutes of a game. The visitors were being ripped to shreds and only the selfishness of Mahrez and some poor finishing from City stopped them from leaving Real dead and buried before half time.
Mahrez fired into the side netting when he should have picked out the unmarked Phil Foden, while a flowing move involving Mahrez and De Bruyne ended with Foden dragging his shot just wide. Guardiola was raging on the sidelines, and his mood got even darker when Karim Benzema pulled one back for Real out of the blue before half time to reduce the deficit and light a footballing fire at the Etihad.
But how Real remained in the game was astonishing. Mahrez hit the post and Carvajal blocked Foden's effort on his own line, but Real's luck ran out on 53 minutes when Foden headed home Fernandinho's cross to restore City's two-goal cushion.
Yet the advantage lasted just two minutes before Real hit back again. Vinicius Junior picked up the ball on the halfway line and nutmegged Fernandinho, before racing unchallenged into the City box and beating Ederson with a cool finish.
It was the game that kept on giving. Aymeric Laporte could have scored a fourth, but Bernardo Silva did on 74 minutes with a thumping finish into the top corner to make it 4-2.
But this rollercoaster clash had one final twist inside the last 10 minutes, when Laporte handled under pressure from Benzema to concede a penalty. Benzema stepped up to convert his second of the night and leave the European dreams of both these teams right in the balance ahead of the second leg in the Bernabeu. And we can't wait.
- Manchester City FC
- Real Madrid FC
- Champions League
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