Recap: In the first leg of their first Champions League semifinal, Manchester City kept Real Madrid at bay but have reason to rue a missed opportunity after a goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium.
City had begun impressively against the 10-time champions, but failed to carve out any real opportunities. Against a Real Madrid side missing Cristiano Ronaldo from the start and Karim Benzema after halftime, because of injury, City appeared to have a golden chance to grab a lead to take to the Bernabeu. But, with City’s early intensity fading in the second half, it was Real Madrid that gained the ascendency and it was a only a point-blank save from Joe Hart and the width of a crossbar that prevented Zinedine Zidane’s side from grabbing an away goal.
A goalless first leg leaves the tie intriguingly poised, and it is to an extent a dangerous scoreline for Real Madrid, given City now have the opportunity to get an away goal that would leave them needing to get a win. However, given the circumstances, with Madrid missing two of their famed front three and having been so much stronger at home under Zidane, they will surely be confident of progressing.
In arguably the biggest occasion in the club’s history, City began encouragingly. Without the injured Yaya Toure, the midfield was full of industry, with Fernandinho particularly influential in closing down and frustrating Real Madrid. All that was missing was an attacking threat. With Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne below their best, City failed to test Keylor Navas.
The loss of David Silva to injury didn’t help matters either. His departure saw Kelechi Iheanacho come on and a tactical shift that meant De Bruyne being moved over to the left. That alteration, along with a drop in energy levels, meant City allowed Real Madrid to increasingly take control.
The visitors grew in confidence, too, with Gareth Bale becoming a growing attacking threat. And Madrid certainly came the closest to scoring. Sergio Ramos headed straight into Hart’s hands, while Jese Rodriguez headed against the crossbar. And the best chance saw Pepe strike straight at Hart from the center of the six-yard box.
Manchester City are far from out of the tie, but, particularly after Real Madrid overcame a 2-0 deficit to Wolfsburg in the last round, they could be left to regret failing to get a positive result.
There weren't many highlights from this first leg, but here'a collection of the best bits:
FULLTIME: Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid
The corner comes to nothing, and the sides remain all square heading to Madrid for the second leg next Wednesday. Manchester City started very well, but failed to create any real chances. In the second half, City's early intensity faded badly and Madrid took control. It was only a couple of big saves from Joe Hart that kept Madrid from taking a strong grip of the semifinal. Still, having been without Ronaldo from the start and Benzema from halftime, they will doubtless be the happier of the two sides.
90+2 mins: De Bruyne whips in the free-kick and it's a good one, but Navas tips over the bar.
90+2 mins: Carvajal pulls back De Bruyne just outside the box after the Belgian got past him. He gets a yellow card but he'll consider that a price worth paying.
90 mins: There was an opportunity for Sterling. Aguero found the former Liverpool man with a clear run through the middle, but his first touch was dreadful and Pepe easily got across to cut out the danger. Two minutes of injury time to be played.
90 mins: Real Madrid make what could be seen as a positivie substitution, replacing Toni Kroos with the inventive Isco.
89 mins: City certainly don't appear willing to risk anything in search of a winning goal. Pellegrini's side were happy just to stroke the ball along the backline moments ago. The danger of conceding an away goal appears to outweigh the reward of getting a goal themselves.
87 mins: It's certainly Madrid looking the side most likely to get a goal before the end, with Bale looking particularly dangerous. City have faded badly in this second half.
82 mins: Joe Hart comes to the rescue for City. From the resulting corner, Bale got a header on and the ball fell to Pepe right in the center of the six-yard box. He looked certain to score, but Hart managed to get himself in the way of the shot. That could be a big save.
81 mins: Another moment of danger for Real Madrid. Fernando brought Marcelo down for a free-kick right on the egde of the box, but Bale's free-kick came off the top of the wall and behind for a corner.
80 mins: Big chance for Real Madrid. Casemiro gets up strongly to meet a corner, and Hart does well to block to safety. Madrid are getting increasingly confident that they cannot only shut out Manchester City but come away with a victory and an away goal.
79 mins: Bale gets a chance to open his legs running through the middle. Kompany gets across to halt his progress, leaving Bale to appeal for a free-kick, but the referee doesn't oblige.
77 mins: Manchester City make their second substitution, and it's a like-for-like swap with Jesus Navas replacing Raheem Sterling.
75 mins: Bale wriggles free of Kompany outside the box and cuts back onto hgis left foot to try and open space for a shot, but he set the curling effort too far wide of the far post. City need to find something here in the last 15 minutes.
71 mins: Jese hits the bar! The young forward climbs above Fernando in the box and gets a header in that didn't looked too threatning but looped up above Hart and struck the crossbar. That's the closest the game has been to a goal so far and an indication that Real Madrid are now getting on top. The early intensity from City has faded in this second half.
69 mins: City work a good short corner between De Bruyne and Navas that gets the Belgian in a good position for a cross, but Keylor Navas is able to come and claim the ball down low at his near post. De Bruyne has been in sparkling form since coming back from injury for the quarterfinal with Paris Saint-Germain, but he hasn't had his best game tonight and looks a little leggy right now.
67 mins: A very ambitious effort from Kroos, unleashing a shot from close to 30 yards out, but scuffing it a long way wide of Hart's goal.
65 mins: The Manchester City fans are frustrated at Jesus Navas being called for a foul after trying to get free down the right. It was hard to argue with the decision, however. City's wait for a first effort on target goes on.
61 mins: Right now it's Bale playing through the middle for Madrid, with Vazquez on the right and Jese on the left. You just get the feeling the game might be starting to open up. It has definitely been more stretched in the last couple of minutes.
59 mins: Aguero looks to cause havoc in the box, after being fed by Sagana following a half-cleared tackle. The Argentine's first touch was a good one, but he was just unable to get round Dani Carvajal and ended up being penalized for a foul on the Real Madrid defender. It has been a quiet night for Aguero so far.
57 mins: Zinedine Zidane, such an elegant player, appears to be finding managing far tougher work and has torn his pants on thge sidelines. I kid you not.
54 mins: The game finally gets its first effort on target, but arguably it should have had its first goal. Sergio Ramos, having escaped the attentions of Kompany, found himself completely free from a corner, but headed straight into the arms of Joe Hart.
52 mins: City have done well so far, but with Ronaldo and Benzema both off the pitch, they've surely got to make the most of this opportunity in the remaining 40 minutes or so to take a lead to Madrid.
48 mins: Gareth Bale goes down on the left side of the box appealing for a penalty, but while the defending of Otamendi was clumsy, there was very little contact.
46 mins: Aguero, fed by Fernandinho, has some space on the edge of the box but drives a left-footed effort over the bar. Positive start to the second half from Manchester City.
Second half kickoff: Real Madrid get the match back underway, and they have made a change at halftime, with Benzema, who had been an injury doubt before the game, replaced by Jese Rodriguez. Real Madrid now down to just one memeber of their "BBC" attacking trio.
HALFTIME: Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid
It's been an engrossing opening 45 minutes, certainly from a tactical point of view, although very light on goal-mouth action. Manchester City have had the better of it, pressing Real Madrid very well in midfield, but they've failed to convert that into any opportunities. And the end of the period saw David Silva go off injured, and just signs that Real Madrid were becoming more of a threat.
45 mins: Benzema gets his first sight of goal of the evening, receiving the ball in the box after a pull back from the right, but shooting high into the stands. Still no shot on target from either side.
41 mins: Iheanacho is now on. The 19-year-old Nigerian scored twice in the weekend win over Stoke, and gets the nod over big-money signing Raheem Sterling.
39 mins: It looks like Silva has suffered a double blow from that challenge. The Spaniard has pulled up, and immediately Kelechi Iheanacho is getting ready to replace him.
37 mins: David Silva becomes the first Manchester City player to get a booking, diving in to stop Bale from running away from him after De Bruyne gave the ball away. It looks as though De Bruyne has now switched to the left, with Iheanacho playing off Aguero through the middle.
34 mins: To City's credit, Bale has had precious little impact on the game so far. Even just a monet ago, when getting space around the box for the first time, Fernandinho flung himself in front of the ball to block the Welshman's strike from distance.
31 mins: With the intensity with which City have played with and without the ball, particualrly in midfield, you can't help but think that in the big games they are a better team without Yaya Toure. As talented as the Ivorian is, he's languid style makes him a luxury in matches of this type.
29 mins: The crowd is very encouraged by what they're seeing now. City are applying some good pressure, with De Bruyne having a powerful drive blocked by Casemiro.
26 mins: Pepe's center-back partner Sergio Ramos now dives in poorly, on Fernandinho, and is lucky not to get himself a booking. It's another indication of how rash Real Madrid's center-backs can be.
24 mins: Perhaps no surprise that Pepe is the first player to enter the referee's book. A poor, unecessary challenge from the Portuguese takes down De Bruyne down the right wing. It leads to a dangerous free-kick, but Vincent Kompany is penalized for climbing over Casmiro in the box.
23 mins: Real Madrid have had better possession in the last few minutes, but Aguero has just had his first sniff inside the box. He just couldn't shake off the attentions of a defender on this occasion and his shot was a tame one.
21 mins: Almost a costly blunder in defense for Manchester City. Both Gael Clichy and Otamendi left the ball thinking the other would intervene, allowing Bale to run clear down the right. This time Bale's cross was cleared, but those are exactly thw kind of blunders City can't afford tonight.
20 mins: The Manchester City fans have often seemed less than enthused by Champions League action, but they're creating a fine atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium tonight.
17 mins: De Bruyne, who has been a pivotal figure since returning from injury, just launched into one of his trademark bursts forward on the counter-attack, but this time was halted by a sliding challenge from Casemiro. Plenty of early signs, though, that City can hurt Madrid in transition.
15 mins: Interesting that Bale is still playing down the right, despite Ronaldo's absence. It's a big night for the Welshman in the absence of the man who casts such a big shadow over this Real Madrid team.
12 mins: Real Madrid are getting swamped in midfield right now. Toni Kroos has just been robbed by Fernandinho, a sign of the work being put in by the City man and his fellow Brazilian Fernando.
9 mins: De Bruyne finds Jesus Navas in space down the right, but, while the Spaniard's cross has a good shape about it, it fails to find a teammate in the middle. Good early signs for the home side, though.
7 mins: It's noticebale early on that both teams are staying very compact, leaving little space between the lines. City have impressed particularly so far with their willingness to press Real Madrid high up the pitch. Madrid struggling to play out of the back.
4 mins: Nicolas Otemndi is lucky not to get an early booking after being beaten easily for pace by Karim Benzema and lunging in from behind. The Argentine escapes with just a warning this time.
2 mins: It's a carnival-like atmosphere in the Etihad stands, with flags and beach balls going around. Real Madrid have the first attack, though, with Vincent Kompany forced to head behind for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
Kickoff: Manchester City get their first Champions League semifinal underway.
2 p.m. EDT: There is some major team news, with Cristiano Ronaldo having apparently failed a late fitness test and left out of the match-day squad. Lucas Vazquez takes the Portuguese’ place, alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front. With Yaya Toure already ruled out, Manchester City’s major selection decision is to opt for Jesus Navas ahead of Raheem Sterling.
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) April 26, 2016
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) April 26, 2016
Preview: Manchester City will play host to the biggest occasion in their history on Tuesday when hosting 10-time European Cup winners in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal. Prior to this season, City had never been beyond the last 16 of the competition. But, after knockout wins over Dynamo Kiev and Paris Saint-Germain, they are now just one round away from the final and realizing the ambitions of Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan whose Abu Dhabi United Group has invested huge sums of money in attempting to transform the club into a major European force.
Now standing in their way from a final against either Atletico Madrid or Bayern Munich are the most successful club in the history of the competition. It has not, though, been plain sailing through to this point for Real Madrid. In the quarterfinals, Madrid suffered a shock 2-0 first-leg loss to Wolfsburg, at which point their season was on the verge of petering out in bitter disappointment.
But the transformation since has been extreme. As well as closing the gap at the top of La Liga to just a single point, Madrid mounted a roaring comeback in the second leg of their quarterfinal to progress 3-2 on aggregate, thanks to a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo.
And, after missing Saturday’s win over Rayo Vallecano with a thigh injury, Ronaldo, along with fellow fitness doubt Karim Benzema, is set to be fit for Tuesday’s encounter at the Etihad. Manchester City have similarly received a fitness boost, with Vincent Kompany set to feature. However, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have lost midfielder Yaya Toure after he suffered a muscle injury in Saturday’s 4-0 triumph over Stoke City.
Check back here from 2:45 p.m. EDT for live updates and video highlights from the first leg of the Champions League semifinal.