Madrid: Kevin De Bruyne’s stunning equaliser helped Premier League leaders Manchester City peg back holders Real Madrid after Vinícius Júnior’s spectacular opener in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City came from a goal down to deny holders Real Madrid victory in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final tie, which produced two strikes worthy of any stage.
Guardiola’s side, keen to banish the memories of their dramatic last-four loss here last season, dominated the opening stages, enjoying sustained spells of possession but unable to convert that into clear-cut chances.
Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and Erling Haaland all forced saves from Thibaut Courtois in the opening 15 minutes, but the Player of the Match in the 2022 final was equal to everything the visitors could muster.
The reigning champions found it difficult to get any attacking rhythm going but the visiting defence still had to be alert to the dangers of Karim Benzema and company, with Rúben Dias’ last-ditch intervention preventing Vinícius Júnior’s low cross from reaching last season’s leading scorer, who was lurking at the far post for a tap-in.
Such was the Cityzens’ superiority in terms of possession, it took until the 36th minute for the hosts to have their first shot of the evening, but it was worth the wait.
Eduardo Camavinga exchanged passes with Luka Modrić midway in the Real Madrid half before cutting in from the left and racing deep into City territory. He nudged the ball into the path of Vinícius Júnior, who took it in his stride before unleashing a thumping effort from outside the area which flew past his fellow Brazilian Ederson.
City sought a response and ten minutes after the interval, De Bruyne tested his compatriot Courtois from the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s low, curling effort was too close to the home goalkeeper.
City’s playmaker would not be denied, however, levelling in spectacular fashion midway through the second period. İlkay Gündoğan could not find a way into the Real Madrid penalty area so laid the ball back to midfield colleague De Bruyne, who blasted a powerful low drive into the bottom corner from a similar position to the opening goal.
Both teams pushed for a winner in the closing minutes in an engaging finish. The holders seemed most likely to snatch a late advantage, but Ederson was at his sharpest to stop Benzema’s header from squeezing in at his near post before pulling off an impressive one-handed save to prevent Aurélien Tchouameni’s thumping strike from flying in.
Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid goalkeeper: “It’s a good draw. There’s everything to play for next week. It will be like a final and I hope we can put that in our minds. Although it’s away, we are quite good in finals so I hope we can visualise it like that, even though it’s City. It will be tough.”
Pep Guardiola, Man City manager: “We defended our box well, the effort was incredible. Now it’s like a play-off. We can defend better in some departments, maybe we can attack a little differently. Alaba and Rüdiger were so close to Erling, so there were very few spaces to find. Maybe we can adjust a couple of things for next week.”
Rodri, Man City midfielder: “In the first 25 to 30 minutes we controlled the game and then [with the] first chance they had, they scored an incredible goal. But we kept in the game, even though it was difficult. Lots of concentration is needed because when you lose the ball, it is tough to regain.”
Courtesy: UEFA Champions League