A first period flown over, a second controlled, Manchester City wrote one of its most beautiful European pages by leaving the defending champion, Real Madrid, in the semi-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday (4-0, first leg 1-1).
Nobody knows what Pep Guardiola’s dreams are made of, but there’s every reason to believe that City’s first 45 minutes at the Etihad looked like it.
Rarely have we seen Real so tossed about, helpless, cornered on his goal and the statistics were there to give the measure of English hyper-dominance.
With 70% possession, never, even against much weaker opponents, had City had the ball so much in the first half of a Champions League match.
Real then only touched 10 balls in the opposing half, when City had 196.
Suffice to say that the score of 2-0 at the break was far from usurped.
It was even all the more remarkable that Erling Haaland once again remained silent in the face of a Thibaut Courtois who was the only Madrid resident to survive in this sinking.
– Bernardo Silva put City in orbit –
In the 13th and 21st, on headers at short distance, the Belgian pulled off parries which he has the secret to delaying the deadline, before breathing relief when the Norwegian, with his “bad foot”, the right , sent a powerful strike out of frame (27th).
But the strength of this City is precisely not to depend entirely on its colossus.
Scorer on the precious equalizer in the first leg, Kevin De Bruyne found Bernardo Silva with a very good pass in the box and the Portuguese took Courtois on the wrong foot to open the scoring (1-0, 23rd).
On Paris SG’s radar for next season, according to the press, Silva doubled the lead a quarter of an hour later after another blackboard-worthy attack.
Jack Grealish found Ilkay Gündogan up high in the area, before the German’s blocked shot hit Silva’s head for the 2-0 (38′).
But even at 2-0, the Etihad knew that Real, capable of the craziest upsets, were not the type to abdicate.
On their first strike of the match, the Merengues came close to equalizing when they saw the crossbar repel the distant and overpowering strike from Toni Kroos (35th).
At the start of the second half again, a floating free kick from David Alaba forced Ederson to accompany the ball over the bar to take no risk (52nd).
– A chasm between the two teams –
More combative, Madrid finally managed to approach the opposing surface, but there was always a foot, a head, an opposing body to protect the cage.
In the 71st minute, a breakthrough from Vinicius, who had dropped after pushing his ball too far, was the greatest proof of the feeling of helplessness that had gripped Karim Benzema, again transparent, and his teammates.
Courtois once again shone by deflecting on the top of the crossbar an attempt near Haaland, found by a heel from Gündogan (73rd).
But three minutes later, on a free kick from De Bruyne, deflected with a header by Manuel Akanji, Eder Militao scored against his side to increase the score (3-0, 76th).
After a few substitutions, including the exit of Haaland to bring in Julian Alvarez, the Argentinian, ideally served by Phil Foden, drove the point home (4-0, 90 + 1).
This 4-0 is a good reflection of the chasm between a Real which seemed worn out and a City which is walking on water at the end of the season.
The final on June 10 in Istanbul against Inter Milan will be a new meeting not to be missed for Manchester and its coach who have never seemed so close to a trophy that has eluded them for seven years.
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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