Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: A Retrospective
September 19, 2012 in Europe
That music. That graphic. That terrible ITV coverage.
It’s back, and even if this year it’ll be like watching your worst enemy going out with the girl you like (DAMMIT, ARJEN ROBBEN!), the feeling remains: the Champions’ League is the pinnacle. Or at least it would be if the World Cup rolled around more often.
And what a way to start it off.
In the white corner, the Spanish winners; conquerors of a side many consider to be the best ever, all while breaking the all-time record for points amassed in their league.
In the black corner, the English titleholders; a side that waited until the last 30 seconds of their campaign to seal their victory by a single goal.
Both are participants in Group D, or what many are calling the “Group of Death”. Original.
Onto the match itself.
The tone was set after eight minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo found himself one-on-one against City captain Vincent Kompany. A duel worthy of a match of this stature, their battles on the night were sure to be epic.
Naturally, Ronaldo skipped past the defender, cut inside and shot in the inside left channel for what must have been the gazillionth time. Joe Hart was equal to it.
Although the World’s Greatest Player (maybe) was not afforded that much space again, he did spend the rest of his half terrorising Maicon, who still looks haunted by monkey-faced wingers, and generally piling the pressure on the City goal. Higuain squandered a headed chance. Khedira managed to miss from three yards (German Tom Cleverley). And to make things worse, Samir Nasri limped off to be replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov.
But there were positives. Namely, Yaya Toure whenever he ran.
Starting in a more advanced role than usual, watching Michael Essien bounce off him as he powered forward was like a metaphorical baton passed: here was a player with the attributes, class and form to ruin any opposing manager’s day. And though his forays forward rendered Xabi Alonso about as useful as Jordan Henderson, they were few and far between. Still, a warning.
Still, City held on. Half-time.
The second half kicked off, and seemed to continue in much the same vein. Real pressed forward with menace, testing every faucet of Joe Hart’s goalkeeping game, as he swept up and stopped all that came before him. Meanwhile, Kolarov found his feet as City occasionally threatened on the break, and the ineffectual David Silva was hauled off for Dzeko, proving he does deserve that lucrative new contract.
Marcelo’s first shot fizzed just wide.
Michael Essien, former Captain Ghana and a shadow of his former self, was hauled off for Mesut Ozil. Not a bad substitution to make, but City continued to grow into the game, using Kolarov as an outlet for their counter attacks.
Marcelo’s second shot was always rising.
And then, with 20 minutes to go, Yaya Toure picked up the ball in his own half, took a third of Madrid team out with a drop of the shoulder, took the second third out with a burst of powerful acceleration and got rid of the stragglers with a slide rule pass to Dzeko, who rarely makes mistakes from within 18 yards.
1-0. Shit was about to get Real.
They piled on the pressure, pushing their full-backs right up the pitch, throwing on Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. City, for the most part stood firm, even after switching to three at the back, and almost got a second when Yaya burst through the opposition defence and hit the side netting.
Marcelo’s third shot came after woeful marking and was deflected into the net by Javi Garcia.
The game had now decayed into a slugfest, one attack followed by another in the other direction. Substitute Zabaleta missed a tap in at the near post. Luka Modric shot straight at Joe Hart. Benzema fouled a City player in a wide right position.
Over trotted Kolarov, who somehow managed to bounce the ball into Iker Casillas’ bottom corner. 2-1 with five minutes to go. Surely they could hold on for a famous victory?
A minute later, Karim Benzema took advantage of the space his marker gave him; he turned and shot at the edge of the area, his shot placed perfectly by Joe Hart’s far post. It was his first goal since May 13th: what a time to get it.
Nastasic was having such an impressive debut too.
And in the last minute of normal time, Ronaldo skipped past Zabaleta, cut inside and shot from the inside-left channel for the gazillion-and-first time. It rose high enough for Kompany to duck under it, then dipped low enough that Joe Hart’s hand could not be equal to it: 3-2, and the game belonged to the home side.
Jose Mourinho, of course, reacted in the unassuming way we have come to expect from the “Special One”.
So Real Madrid will go into their next game with their “DNA back” (like it could be misplaced or something). Manchester City, on the other hand, go into this weekend pointing fingers at each other, about to face an Arsenal side that actually seem to be backing up Arsene Wenger’s claims of “mental strength”.
Should be fun. For the neutral.