Watching Pep Guardiola watch this Champions League semi-final thriller, in which a wholesome first-leg lead appeared on for his Manchester City group at numerous factors, was to witness a supervisor in the grip of agony.

He was incandescent when Riyad Mahrez lashed into the side-netting with Phil Foden on for the sq. go in entrance of aim. That may have been 3-0 for City after 26 minutes.

Guardiola appeared as if he needed to curve up right into a ball when Rúben Dias surrendered possession shortly afterwards and allowed Vinícius Júnior to run by means of, though the Real ahead couldn’t end. City’s defending was unusually unfastened.

And what concerning the second on 54 minutes, shortly after Foden had made it 3-1? Guardiola had anticipated a throwi-in for his group just for it to go the opposite method. He reacted by chasing after the fourth official to earn a yellow card. Vinícius would make it 3-2 nearly instantly.

This is what City’s quest for a primary Champions League does to the person who desires it, perhaps wants it, greater than anybody else. And, maybe, additionally it is what enjoying in opposition to this Real group does to opponents. Facing them is like strolling in a park with a lion on the unfastened. Fine, even fairly satisfying, thrilling. Then out of the blue not tremendous. When Gabriel Jesus made it 2-0 in the 11th minute, it appeared ridiculously straightforward for City. They may have been 4-0 up contained in the opening half-hour. And but at half-time the benefit was solely 2-1, Karim Benzema having popped as much as present his deadly edge.

Karim Benzema dinks the ball over Ederson to throw Real Madrid yet another lifeline.
Karim Benzema dinks the ball over Ederson to throw Real Madrid yet one more lifeline. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

City pushed once more after the Vinícius aim. When Oleksandr Zinchenko was fouled by Toni Kroos, everyone appeared to cease – definitely Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Carvajal did. Bernardo Silva didn’t. With the referee, Istvan Kovacs, enjoying a wise benefit, the City midfielder arrowed a shot into the close to, high nook and Guardiola may lose himself in delight.

It wouldn’t final, Real catching a break to rally once more. Leaping for a excessive ball, Aymeric Laporte nodded it into his outstretched arm. Penalty. Nobody doubted that Benzema would convert but the Panenka, dinked up the center, the disguise good, was audacity and composure from one other airplane. Benzema is the competitors’s main scorer with 14 whereas he has 41 targets in 41 appearances for Real this season. Guardiola slumped down on to a drinks cooler.

Real had been second greatest for lengthy spells of the last-16 and quarter-final ties in opposition to Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Yet they discovered a method to get by means of – partly because of Benzema’s targets, partly due to their historical past, who they’re. The 13-times winners refuse to lose in this competitors. And they’re nonetheless alive in this version.

Kevin De Bruyne heads in the opening goal inside two minutes.
Kevin De Bruyne heads in the opening aim inside two minutes. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The last act had Dias stretching at Real’s far put up to fulfill a cross solely to fail to stretch sufficient. Guardiola went by means of his final set of contortions. In the warmth of the second it was attainable to overlook that City had really overwhelmed Spain’s champions-elect, outplaying them for lengthy spells. They ought to have scored extra targets. It is rarely a superb factor to permit this opponent to combat one other day.

It was City’s third European Cup semi-final whereas for Real it was quantity 31. Just take pleasure in it, Guardiola had advised his gamers, and City did precisely that on the outset, drawing first blood after 93 seconds. Mahrez lower right into a seam of area, jinking away from Luka Modric earlier than selecting out the late-breaking run of Kevin De Bruyne, who threw himself into the header with Carvajal – after which Thibaut Courtois – flailing.

The Etihad had been a surprisingly subdued place counting all the way down to kick-off. Now it stirred and, when the second aim got here, there was pleasure, even disbelief. Foden acquired away up the left and, when he discovered De Bruyne, the cross was whipped into the realm. David Alaba tried to nip in entrance of Jesus to pinch possession, which felt dangerous, and he acquired all of it incorrect. When Jesus spun, the ball was nonetheless there at his ft. The end was easy.

Real’s defenders have been uncomfortable, particularly on the ball when City pressed. The guests have been there for the taking and it felt as if City have been about to inflict grievous harm. Mahrez needed to go to Foden solely to tackle the shot – a foul resolution – whereas Foden dragged huge of the far put up after a fluent counterattack. Foden’s fast ft and velvet contact have been an attention-grabbing function.

The defensive jitters, although, weren’t unique to Real. The City goalkeeper, Ederson, performed a few poor passes in the primary half, inviting stress, whereas Dias was caught on the ball greater than as soon as. Vinícius flickered, Alaba rose to flash a header huge after which Benzema scored with a managed volley from Ferland Mendy’s cross.

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Guardiola needed to substitute the injured John Stones, who crammed in at right-back in the absence of Kyle Walker and João Cancelo, with Fernandinho. It was the 36-year-old who crossed for Foden’s aim – moments after Éder Militão had allowed Mahrez to run by means of to curve in opposition to the far put up. From the rebound Foden shot and Carvajal blocked.

But it was Fernandinho who was overwhelmed and outpaced by Vinícius for 3-2, City’s defensive cowl nowhere to be seen. Laporte and Mahrez missed large probabilities both aspect of Silva’s aim but the final phrase would go to Benzema.

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