Man City Blitz To Go Ahead But Benzema Paneka Gives Real A Fighting Chance

Man City Blitz To Go Ahead But Benzema Paneka Gives Real A Fighting Chance

For all Guardiola’s misgivings as City manager in the Champions League, a trophy which has eluded him since he took over as City boss and made them one of the best teams in Europe, filled with near misses, like last season against Chelsea, City looked firmly set to beat the resilient Real juggernaut and advance to the final within the first fifteen minutes of their semi-final first leg against the Madrid giants at the Etihad.

A cross from the blooming Riyad Mahrez who cut in from the flank to put in a delightful ball into the box, and a diving header from who else but City talisman Kevin De Bruyne put City 1-0 up within the first two minutes of play leaving Real shell-shocked.

City looked to build up the pressure with their high-press and possession play in true Guardiolista fashion pinning Real to their own box before Ancelotti’s men could even comprehend how to counter-attack.

The City blitz continued as De Bruyne found the resurgent Gabriel Jesus, who made a neat flick and spun around to deceive Alaba and slotted home calmly giving City a 2-0 cushion, all within the first ten minutes of play.

However, Real began to show signs of their resilience and much akin to the story of their Champions League campaign this season, like their ties against Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea, Real found themselves down with a comeback needed.

If anything, Real under Ancelotti have showed immense composure and the will to fight back and claw their way back from losing positions in all their knockout ties in the Champions League so far this season. It’s been a common theme and perhaps leaving Real’s defense circumspect and exposed which has been their Achilles heel because they’ve conceded goals at an alarming rate in all their knockout ties.

However, Real’s attack have balanced & bailed out their poor defending and defensive woes by being clinical and ruthless in front of goal with the chances they’ve created with Benzema at the heart of it.

Real found a pocket of space on the left flank and a ball in from Ferland Mendy found Benzema who swiveled and volleyed with his left beating Ederson. Although the shot lacked power, the Frenchman managed to find the corner, just close enough to the post to beat the City keeper. It was his first sight of goal in the game and he finished astutely and ruthlessly.

The 34-year-old Karim Benzema has single-handedly taken up the mantle to carry Real on his shoulders after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. He is having a staggering season despite his age and rightly wears the captain’s armband in the same way Raul did in the days of yesteryear, a striker spearheading the attack and captaining Los Blancos, something which Madridistas have been crying for out for; so it’s no mistake that Ancelotti has picked the Frenchman as his captain.

In the beginning of the second half City put one more past Thibaut Courtois in the Real goal; a goal from City’s academy starlet Phil Foden after a robust lung bursting run from City substitute Fernandinho at right back, with the young Englishman finishing the move with a header after the Brazilian’s cross, making it 3-1.

But, Real’s Vinicius had other ideas, after a brilliant bit of individual skill to dummy past Fernandinho, leaving him biting the dust & bamboozled, Real’s Brazilian winger used a burst of his natural pace to run from the half-line and finish superbly making it 3-2.

Bernardo Silva would capitalize on a smart bit & perhaps fortuitous bit of refereeing after the referee gave City an advantage instead of blowing for a foul for Toni Kroos’ challenge on Oleksander Zinchenko just outside the box, and the Portuguese schemer unleashed a vicious shot into the roof of the net which left Courtois with absolutely no chance.

However, Benzema would put his stamp on the proceedings once again. After a Toni Kroos freekick to which City’s Aymeric Laporte handballed in the box, the referee instantly blew for a penalty.

Benzema stepped up to the spot to take the penalty, after he had missed one for Real in La Liga the game just before, but the Frenchman asserted his class by running up and hitting a cheeky paneka which nestled in the center of the net with Ederson diving left.

It has been a hallmark of Real’s Champions League campaign to come back from the dead in all their knockout games, with Benzema spearheading the comeback which was again largely apparent against City. Real have been under the cosh in all their knockout ties in the Champions League this season but have somehow dug deep and emerged victorious both against PSG and Chelsea.

A bit of individual magic from Benzema & Vinicius not to mention Luka Modric’s exquisite outside of the foot pass to Rodrygo against Chelsea, and contributions from Valverde & Kroos have also helped in re-asserting Real’s chances to turn the tides from losing positions so far this campaign.

For all City’s dynamism, possession play and clinical goal scoring, Ancelotti’s men return to the Bernabeu with a fighting chance to overcome City and make it to yet another Champions League final.

Of course, only time will tell as to who progresses to the final, but the holy grail for Guardiola and City i.e. winning the Champions League by reaching another final in successive seasons, depends on an intriguing second leg in Madrid and one that is poised to test the strategies of both the Catalan boss and Carlo Ancelotti.

All eyes on the Bernabeu then.





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