Jesus ensures stylish Manchester City sweep past blundering Real Madrid

By on August 8, 2020


Manchester City were relentless in a dazzling performance of shock-and-awe attacking that pinned back Real Madrid from kick-off to final whistle. It gave Pep Guardiola’s team – and the club – their finest Champions League result and pits them against Lyon in the quarter-finals.

Zinedine Zidane’s team were just not allowed to breathe and in Raphaël Varane had a hapless defender culpable for each City goal, while Eden Hazard was an A-list act reduced to a bit-part. Downing the record 13-times winners in this manner and handing their head coach a first knockout defeat in the competition after 12 victorious ties will surely send confidence soaring and convince City they can go on and claim the European Cup for the first time in their history.

Most pleasing for Guardiola is how his players executed his favoured blueprint of ruthless harrying and breathless forward movement and City have to be counted among the favourites when the mini-tournament in Portugal begins next week.

For their biggest game of the season Phil Foden was retained while Ilkay Gündogan and Fernandinho replaced David Silva and Eric García – the latter perhaps losing a berth because of his refusal of a new contract.

Zidane brought in Éder Militão for the suspended Sergio Ramos; Real’s record in the Champions League without their captain is dire: of his six games missed in the past two years four have been losses. On a sultry evening it was noticeable how much louder City’s support was from assembled substitutes and staff, a marker of the high stakes. Guardiola’s side were jubilant nine minutes in. Thibaut Courtois passed to Varane where the No 5 hardly wanted the ball: near goal and with Gabriel Jesus all over him. A clumsy touch and the Brazilian had possession. With Real undone Jesus found Raheem Sterling who finished for a 31st goal this season, his 100th for the club.

Zidane was dismayed and City were at Real’s throats. Phil Foden, playing as the No 9, raced down the right and pulled the trigger. The ball went to Gündogan and his shot was blocked.

There was zero let-up: City were a blue swarm their visitors could not repel. Militão this time was chief dawdler, allowing Sterling to charge him down and he was lucky to win a foul. Now Kevin De Bruyne glided into space, threaded possession to Sterling and the No 7 swivelled and unloaded at Courtois, who was relieved to see the ball dip too late.

Sterling and Foden were a double act cutting through Real at will. The latter fed the former and he zigzagged past two defenders before Casemiro’s lunging tackle saved a second.



Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring Manchester City’s opening goal. Photograph: Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Hazard and Karim Benzema, finally, gave City a warning. Concerning here was how the striker made a mug of Aymeric Laporte with a sweet turn on receiving the Belgian’s ball. The 20-yard effort was steered behind by Ederson but this was an augury of what was to come.

City were lax as a sluggish João Cancelo was slipped by, Rodrygo crossed, and Benzema headed home. This had Real’s blood up in what was an open, attacking contest summed up by Kyle Walker slaloming to near Real’s area before blasting over.

Tackles flew in, Casemiro miscontrolled, and Cancelo pummelled the ball at Courtois, who was fortunate his parry did not fall to Foden or Sterling.

Another howler from Real’s No 1 that gave De Bruyne possession was nearly – again – disastrous: Foden’s lightning swivel-and-shot missed narrowly, as did a De Bruyne corner Courtois beat away from under his bar.

City were in again early in the second half via Cancelo, who could find only a pink-shirted opponent. Sterling then forced a point-blank save from Courtois and De Bruyne’s ensuing corner won another, which he again caused the busy keeper to glove out from a direct delivery.

Real were struggling for rhythm. It was all too frantic due to City’s percussive pressing without the ball and percussive passing with it. Still, a period of Real ascendancy did unfold as pink shirts took up occupancy in blue territory.

A quick Foden break, though, and Sterling was in and Courtois had to thwart him. Despite the 400-strong contingent inside the stadium, the atmosphere was electric. De Bruyne tormented Real with a surge that claimed a corner and it was admirable how positive City continued to be despite knowing the conceding of goal would mean extra time.

Benzema twice spurned openings to score this. City, though, were soon ecstatic: Jesus made it 4-2 on aggregate with a delightful stabbed finish past the stranded Courtois following Varane’s second awful howler – a weak back-pass of a header.

“They are a top team, the best club in this competition, it’s massive,” said Jesus. His assessment is correct.



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