Manchester City beat Real Madrid in 7-goal thriller ahead of Bernabeu trip
Manchester City have the advantage in the Champions League semi-finals after edging out Real Madrid 4-3 in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side made a stunning start, striking twice in the opening 11 minutes through Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus.
The recently crowned LaLiga champions responded with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior sandwiching Phil Foden’s header.
The hosts hit back through Bernardo Silva’s stellar strike, but Benzema’s nonchalant late penalty cut the gap to a single goal ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.
City made a flying start and took the lead courtesy of the quickest goal scored in a Champions League semi-final.
Indeed, just 94 seconds were on the clock when De Bruyne – the hero against Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals – headed home from Riyad Mahrez’s delicious cross.
De Bruyne turned provider as the hosts doubled their advantage nine minutes later; his cross ricocheting kindly for Jesus to tuck away.
Mahrez and Phil Foden squandered chances to widen the margin before Madrid pulled one back as Benzema brilliantly volleyed home from Ferland Mendy’s centre.
City regained their two-goal buffer within eight minutes of the restart, Foden ghosting in to head home Fernandinho’s cross.
Madrid responded almost immediately as Vinicius raced down the left flank from inside his own half, before slotting past Ederson.
City regained control in the 73rd minute. Referee Istvan Kovacs played a brilliant advantage after Oleksandr Zinchenko was felled by Toni Kroos, enabling Silva to fire past a perplexed Thibaut Courtois.
But Los Blancos had the final word courtesy of Benzema’s Panenka-style penalty after Aymeric Laporte handled in the box.
What does it mean? Advantage City
With that narrow victory, City are now unbeaten in their last four home games against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Should his side avoid defeat in Spain, Guardiola would become the first manager to eliminate Los Blancos from this competition on three occasions.
Another milestone from Benzema
He may have been on the losing side, but Benzema still managed to hit yet another landmark in a remarkable season.
On the day of his 600th appearance for Madrid, the France international surpassed 40 goals in a single campaign for the first time in his career.
His two goals came from three shots – a tally only bettered by Phil Foden (four) – while he also registered a game-high total of three key passes (level with Kevin De Bruyne).
Home hero Foden shines
Foden, who has been with City since the age of four, certainly rose to the occasion on the biggest stage.
The England international recorded the most shots on goal (four) and was unlucky not to add to his tally, while he also delivered the most crosses during the pulsating first leg (five).
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester City are only the third team to win three consecutive Champions League matches against Real Madrid, after Bayern Munich (four in a row, 2000-02) and Juventus (three, 2005-08).
– This is the sixth time Madrid have lost the first leg of a Champions League semi-final – they have failed to reach the final on any of the previous five occasions they have lost in the first leg
– This was only the second Champions League semi-final match to see both sides score three or more goals, after Dynamo Kyiv drew 3-3 Bayern Munich in April 1999. It is the joint-highest scoring semi-final, along with Ajax 5-2 Bayern Munich (April 1995) and Liverpool 5-2 Roma (April 2018).
– Kevin De Bruyne’s goal after 93 seconds for Manchester City was the fastest eve scored in the semi-final of a Champions League match; the previous quickest was scored by Joshua Kimmich in May 2018 for Bayern Munich versus Real Madrid (2 mins 44 seconds).
The two sides resume this epic battle at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday. Before that, Madrid host Espanyol in LaLiga on Saturday – the same day that City resume their Premier League title charge away at Leeds United.