The UEFA Champions League is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the beautiful game – outside of international football, of course.
There are some world class teams still in the mix to make a run at reaching the final, and two of them went head to head at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie as Real Madrid played host to Manchester City.
Down but not out
The aura surrounding Real was probably more intimidating than their actual team heading into this clash, with many believing that City have the stronger of the two squads. There’s a very real chance that either could be the favorites if they’re able to qualify from this tie, and after last night’s result, it would appear as if the Champions of England are well and truly in the driving seat.
The atmosphere in Madrid seemed to add to the sense of occasion, but regardless of which way you spin it, the first half wasn’t much of a spectacle with neither team being able to stamp their authority on proceedings.
It took until 15 minutes into the second half for Madrid to make the breakthrough with Isco finishing off a nice Real move to give them the lead.
However, City weren’t about to roll over and accept defeat as they pulled themselves level with a somewhat controversial Gabriel Jesus header.
They had the home side on the ropes and they were able to take advantage of that with less than 10 minutes remaining with Raheem Sterling winning a penalty for City. Kevin de Bruyne stepped up and converted the spot kick, giving Pep Guardiola’s men the edge heading into the second leg at the Etihad. Real also had to contend with a late Sergio Ramos red card which will rule him out of the return fixture.
Speaking of Pep, the Spaniard had the following to say in the wake of the result.
Finding the answers
“We tried to come here to win the game and we did. This is just the first part. If one team can overcome this situation, it’s this club.
“When we were better, we conceded a goal. When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarter-final [against Liverpool] a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”
With all of the rumors surrounding the future of Manchester City in European football, their fans would’ve appreciated a gutsy performance that showed they aren’t going to go down without a fight.
Regardless of whether or not they wind up being unable to compete in the Champions League for the next two seasons, there’s still a strong chance that the likes of Guardiola and their top stars are going to stick by the team and focus on the domestic side of things – especially with it looking certain that Liverpool are going to claim their Premier League crown in a matter of weeks.
For now, though, all they can do is celebrate a memorable win.