Finally, Manchester City have found someone who can take a penalty. It’s Kevin De Bruyne, of course. Who else was it going to be? The Belgian succeeded where so many have failed for the club this season, and delivered a milestone victory for Pep Guardiola and UEFA’s antagonists to boot.
In doing so, he carried out the wishes of those who had travelled from Manchester to Spain for this. ‘F*** UEFA,’ they demanded and De Bruyne and City did.
Everyone knows the best way for them to do that this season. Win the trophy. A long way to go yet, obviously, but any team that can beat Real Madrid away are in with more than a puncher’s chance.
Kevin De Bruyne (right) scored the decisive goal as Manchester City came from behind to beat Real Madrid on Wednesday
City’s captain on the night scored from the penalty spot to put them 2-1 up in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie
He coolly slotted into the bottom left-hand corner of the net – sending Belgium team-mate Thibaut Courtois the wrong way
De Bruyne was duly mobbed by his team-mates as they celebrated their five-minute salvo to come from 1-0 down to lead 2-1
The Premier League side were awarded a penalty when Dani Carvajal (left) hacked down Raheem Sterling in the box
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois 6; Carvajal 4, Varane 7, Ramos 6, Mendy 6; Valverde 7, Casemiro 6.5, Modric 6 (Vasquez 84), Vinicius Jr 8 (Bale 75, 6), Benzema 6, Isco 7 (Jovic 84)
Subs not used: Areola, Militao, Kroos, Marcelo
Booked: Valverde, Modric
Red Card: Ramos
Goal: Isco 60
Manager: Zinedine Zidane 6
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Ederson 7, Walker 5.5, Otamendi 5.5, Laporte 7 (Fernandinho 33, 6), Mendy 7; Mahrez 7, Rodri 5, Gundogan 7, Jesus 8.5, De Bruyne 8, B. Silva 7 (Sterling 73, 7)
Subs not used: Bravo, Aguero, D. Silva, Cancelo, Foden
Manager: Pep Guardiola 8
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy) 5.5
Star Man: Jesus
Ratings by Jack Gaughan
City have put down a marker. Not just the win, but two away goals, a successful and pragmatic game plan, and a return leg that will not feature Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, sent off for a professional foul on the edge of the area which prevented a third, with Gabriel Jesus speeding away.
This was a tactical triumph for Guardiola, too. City were superior to Real Madrid throughout, and Zinedine Zidane’s team, out-thought, fell apart near the end. In eight minutes, they lost the lead, conceded a penalty and Ramos was dismissed.
It was a huge blow for the second leg when they will be chasing the game in front of a raucous crowd. Madrid’s captain is a huge influence; not least on referees. Daniele Orsato did the right thing here, mind.
The atmosphere when these teams meet again will be charged to say the least. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, as Joni sang, and Manchester City’s fans have decided they did quite like being in the Champions League after all, having been slung out of it.
They made their feelings known throughout – and even two goals did not dampen their enthusiasm for sticking it to the ruling body. The players were with them all the way, in that. Whatever inspired it, this was a brave victory, full of energy, determination and passion. It was as if the whole club felt it had a point to prove.
It was a win against the odds, too, given that City lost Aymeric Laporte in the first half, and were again forced to draft in Fernandinho at the back. Guardiola came with a gameplan, and this could have punched a hole in it. Instead, Fernandinho rose to the occasion, as did his team-mates, particularly De Bruyne, Jesus and Riyad Mahrez, who worked tirelessly in a forward line operating without a recognised No 9.
Madrid’s season is slowly unravelling. They have surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona, the expensive recruitment of Eden Hazard has brought scant return, and now this.
City were the better team and, once stung by going behind against the run of play, rallied magnificently. De Bruyne was the architect as ever. He made the first and scored the second and while Raheem Sterling is the name constantly linked with Real Madrid it must be De Bruyne that City most fear losing.
Real Madrid supporters unfurled a massive tifo before the game as both teams entered the Santiago Bernabeu pitch
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Real Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane share an embrace before kick-off
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos (left) plays a pass under pressure from Manchester City skipper De Bruyne early on
Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus (right) was deployed in an unusual left-wing back role during the first half
With 12 minutes left, it was his brilliant cross that set up the equaliser, going past two defenders and striking a ball that picked out Jesus using ESP (extra-sensory perception), given that he didn’t appear to look up. Jesus powered his header past Thibaut Courtois, who should have done better.
Madrid were reeling and vulnerable. Sterling, on as a substitute, went past Dani Carvajal, who panicked and brought him down. Penalty.
A list of all the City players that have missed from the spot this season would take too long to detail, so let’s just say that on recent form it almost felt like 50-50 from the spot. Up stepped De Bruyne. His last penalty was five years ago against Everton, and was saved. Not this time. He sent Courtois the wrong way and City led.
It only remained for Jesus to break looking for a third for City’s night to be complete. Ramos made contact just outside the area, Jesus tumbled and the captain was gone. The famous Bernabeu was silent now save for City’s little ditty about UEFA. The boys in the suits must have loved that.
Of course, if there is a warning for the second leg it is what can happen with even a moment’s loss of focus against Real Madrid.
Riyad Mahrez (left) fends off a challenge from Carvajal as City look to attack the 13-time European champions
Vinicius Junior (right) tries to fly past City’s holding midfielder Rodri as the Brazilian looks to run at the visitors
As the first half wore on Courtois (right) became the busier goalkeeper and was forced into this fine save from Jesus
The visitors’ strong first-half showing hit a snag on 33 minutes when Aymeric Laporte was forced off due to injury
Luka Modric (left) and Ilkay Gundogan were involved in a crunching tackle as the pair battled for midfield dominance
Rodri was the main culprit for the home team’s goal, giving the ball away in a dangerous area; but Nicolas Otamendi did not help matters and then Kyle Walker missed his opportunity to shut down Vinicius Junior, when he broke with the ball. Instead the young man took it past him, and squared for Isco, quiet until then but now with a lovely sight of goal. He made no mistake, slotting it past Ederson as City despaired. Not least because they had done so well to that point, too.
The argument runs that, since leaving Barcelona and the knowledge he had the stronger team in just about every game, Guardiola has developed a tendency to overthink his biggest matches in Europe. Maverick team selections, a focus on the opposition and how to counter them, it is a side of Guardiola we rarely saw at Nou Camp.
And when the team sheet dropped pre-match here, we thought we were seeing it again. No Sterling, no Sergio Aguero but, most incredibly of all, no Fernandinho in the starting line-up. This was a City team set up to do a specific job, obviously, but why those three did not fit Guardiola’s grand plan, who knows?
Once the game started, the strategy hardly became clearer. Jesus was not the central striker but deployed wide on the left, frequently covering for Benjamin Mendy, and tirelessly too. Bernardo Silva was often the most forward in a central role, sometimes switching with Mahrez.
It is well known that Guardiola loves a midfielder, but here he played six of them in front of four defenders, without a bona fide No 9. Yet for long periods it worked like a charm.
Real Madrid playmaker wheels away in celebration after giving them the lead against Manchester City on Wednesday night
The 27-year-old found himself with only City goalkeeper Ederson to beat after the visitors made an error in defence
Real’s No 22 kept his cool though to slot home past the Brazil international and put his side in front on 60 minutes
Isco was duly mobbed by his team-mates as they took the lead in this Champions League last-16 first leg encounter
Real’s lead didn’t last long though thanks to Jesus – who cancelled out Isco’s opener just 18 minutes later
The Brazil international beat Ramos in the air to head home De Bruyne’s brilliant cross past Courtois
Courtois could only look on in anguish as he failed to deal with Jesus’ header into the ground that then evaded him
City players were quick to congratulate Jesus after the 22-year-old scored a crucial away goal in the Spanish capital
Not simply by creating good counter-attacking chances for Manchester City, but by limiting Real Madrid.
There were over 30 minutes gone before Zidane’s men created a decent goalscoring opportunity – a header from Karim Benzema superbly saved by Ederson. Yet while this was conservative by Guardiola’s standards, it was City who had the best chances. Jesus and De Bruyne close in the first-half, Mahrez after the break. Ramos was also lucky not to turn one into his own net.
Aside from Laporte’s injury — and Guardiola lists his absence as one of the main reasons the club has fallen so far behind Liverpool in the league table — the biggest negative for City came with the booking of Mendy for a foul on Luka Modric. It will keep him out of the second leg, and left him on tenterhooks for the rest of the game.
Yet City stuck to their plan and made it work. Real Madrid were limited to just three shots in the first-half – their poorest return in this competition in the Bernabeu since the visit of Galatasaray at the group stage in November 2013.
Whatever the future holds for the City in the Champions League, from the courts to the pitch they are going down fighting.
Things went from bad to worse for Real when captain Ramos was shown a straight red card with just minutes left
The central defender was given his marching orders for this foul on Jesus as the last man, bar Courtois, for Real
Zidane will now be without Ramos for the daunting Champions League last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 17