Recap: For the second time in three years, it will be an all-Madrid Champions League final after an own goal from Fernando gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win in the semifinal second leg at the Bernabeu to progress by the same scoreline on aggregate. It was a second leg desperately short on thrills and quality, in sharp contrast to Atletico Madrid’s triumph over Bayern Munich in the other semifinal. Thus it was perhaps fitting that an own goal decided it, when Gareth Bale’s 20th minute cross deflected off the outstretched boot of City midfielder Fernando and flew into the top corner of the net.
While the manner of the goal was fortuitous, the victory was a deserved one for Real Madrid. While hardly hugely impressive, and certainly providing little to concern Atletico looking ahead to the final in Milan on May 28, they created the better of the opportunities over two lackluster legs. Indeed, they were the only side that created chances.
For Manchester City, in their first Champions League semifinal, this was a desperately disappointing effort. They may have lost by just a single goal and were, in theory, in with a chance right until the very end, but that spoke far more to Real Madrid’s own failings than City’s success.
Yaya Toure’s return from injury only succeeded in playing a part in an insipid performance, lacking any urgency both with or without the ball. Kevin de Bruyne, forced out to the left by Toure’s return, had what must rank among the worst games of his young career. Wasteful on the ball, he repeatedly allowed Dani Carvajal to stream forward unopposed from right-back.
And it was one of those forward runs that brought about the only goal, when Carvajal played Bale in down the right, behind a Manchester City defense that was again caught out by its insistence on holding a line on the edge of the box.
Fernandinho struck the outside of the post right before halftime, but City remarkably failed to have a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. The one time they caused Madrid any concern in the closing minutes was when Sergio Aguero, otherwise anonymous in the two legs, struck a superb shot from distance that dipped just under the bar.
Indeed, it was Real Madrid who looked far likelier to get another goal. Bale headed a corner against the bar, while Joe Hart had to save at point-blank range from Luka Modric. Had Cristiano Ronaldo been fully fit, the margin of victory would likely have been more emphatic. As it was, Real Madrid advance, but they will surely need to up their game significantly if they are to repeat their dramatic victory over Atletico in the 2014 final.
FULLTIME! Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City (1-0 on Agg.)
For the second time in three years, it will be an all-Madrid Champions League final, as Fernando's own goal, deflecting in a Gareth Bale cross takes Real Madrid through to face Atletico Madrid in the final in Milan later this month. They just about deserved it, but the quality from both teams was poor. Manchester City can have plenty of regrets about the way they performed in their first semifinal.
93 mins: Real Madrid have a chance to seal the tie on the break, but the final pass was ahead of James.
90 mins: Four minutes of injury time for City to get a chance to deny Real Madrid and take themselves through to the final. One goal and City would advance on away goals. Likely to be more time added, with Navas down receiving treatment.
89 mins: Sergio Aguero finally makes an appearance in this tie, and fires in a superb strike from distance than swerves and dips and just drops over the bar with Keylor Navas beaten. Zidane was having palpitations on the sidelines.
88 mins: Real Madrid make their final change. Mateo Kovacic comes on for fellow Croatian midfielder Luka Modric.
84 mins: De Bruyne wastes the free-kick by curling it straight into the outside of the side netting. That rather sums up his night.
83 mins: Vazquez lunges in unnecessarily and recklessly on Sterling down the left and is lucky just to get a yellow card. Dangerous free-kick for City.
82 mins: Sterling gets a chance to cross the ball from the left, but it's an awful delivery that goes behind the goal for a free-kick. For a Champions League semifinal, the quality, from both teams, but especially Manchester City, has been very poor.
77 mins: It's hard to believe how poor De Bruyne has been tonight. Again, he just tamely loses possession of the ball when in a good position. Sergio Aguero hasn't been much better for City. Their two best attacking players just have'n't performed over the course of this semifinal.
74 mins: City are finally playing with a bit more urgency since Iheanacho came on. Will it prove too little, too late?
72 mins: Fernandinho gets a yellow card for pulling down Luka Modric to stop a Madrid breakaway.
71 mins: City have gone with two men up front now, with Iheanacho joining Aguero. De Bruyne moves to the right, with Sterling on the left.
69 mins: Manchester City make their final change, bringing on Kelechi Iheanacho, who has four goals in his last two Premier League appearances, for Jesus Navas.
67 mins: Real Madrid make their second substitution, replcacing Isco with James Rodriguez. That's slightly surprising given James' attacking instincts.
64 mins: Bale heads against the bar! So close to another goal as Bale got up well above Mangala from a corner and beat Hart, only to be denied by the woodwork. The ball then gets put back into the danger zone and Ronaldo plays a big of volleyball to get the ball into the net, but he escapes a booking because he was in an offside position.
63 mins: Hearts briefly in mouth for Manchester City as Ronaldo's shot deflects off the boot of Gael Clichy, But unlike Ronaldo's cross in the first half, this flies wide.
62 mins: Finally it appears that Pellegrini has awoken from his slumber and made what has seemed a necessary change for much of the match, taking Toure off and bringing Raheem Sterling on. That allows De Bruyne to go into his favored No. 10 role.
59 mins: But it's Real Madrid who look far more likely to get a goal right now. Ronaldo, who has now moved through the middle, strikes an early shot from the edge of the box and Hart has to get down well to keep it out at his near post.
57 mins: Real Madrid have made their first substitution, bringing on the more defensively disciplined Lucas Vazquez for Jese. It's a reminder that as poor as City have been, and continue to be, one goal would send them through to the final.
55 mins: Another chance for Real Madrid, and another chance that originates down Manchester City's left flank. Carvajal again gets free and sends in a cross, Ronaldo gets underneath it but can't get enough pace or direction on the header and Hart makes a smart save.
52 mins: Huge chance for Real Madrid to make it 2-0. Bale this time gets free on the right and crosses in for Modric, who was played onside by City's again errant defensive line. But the midfielder seemed almost surprised to be onside and hesitated before hitting a shot that hart closed down and blocked wide.
51 mins: De Bruyne is now drifting more and more infield, leaving even more space down the left flank for Real Madrid to exploit. They nearly do so again with a Jese shot flying just off target. Pellegrini surely has to change this.
50 mins: Bale picks out Ronaldo with a fabulous ball over the top, but Ronaldo fails to make clean contact with a left-footed volley.
48 mins: A dreadful pass from Toure allowed Jese to break forward and skip past the poor challenge from Otamendi. But having got into a dangerous position he should have done much better than to cross straight at Hart.
46 mins: No changes for Manchester City at halftime, but he must surely have considered moving De Bruyne into the No. 10 role and taking out Toure, given how suspect the Belgian has been defensively down the left and how much more dangerous he looked when drifting into the middle.
Second half kickoff: Real Madrid get the second leg back underway, leading 1-0.
3:45 p.m. EDT: While we wait for the start of the second half, here's the closest Manchester City came to a goal, when Fernandinho struck the outside of the post:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 4, 2016
HALFTIME: Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City (1-0 on Agg.)
There was an element of fortune in Real Madrid's goal as Gareth Bale's cross deflected in off the Outstretched boot of Fernando, but there is nothing fortuitous about the fact that Madrid are on top. Manchester City have been dreadfully passive, to such a degree that you could be forgiven for wondering if they've forgotten that this is a Champions League semifinal. Real Madrid haven't been at their best, and Cristiano Ronaldo certainly doesn't look fully fit, but they haven't had to be so far. Unless City dramatically improve in the second half, it'll be an all-Madrid Champions League final.
45 mins: Just a quick note that UEFA have officially credited the opening goal as an own goal to Fernando. Correct decision.
45 mins: City hit the post! De Bruyne drifts into the middle for the first time and instantly makes something happen, picking out Fernandinho on the edge of the box, who drilled a low shot that clipped the outside of the post. That's by far the best moment City have produced so far.
43 mins: Gareth Bale tries his luck from distance, but Hart gets down to hold onto it fairly comfortably.
42 mins: Clichy has just caused two attacking moves to break down in a matter of seconds, first failing to take a Toure pass into his path in the box and then over-hitting a pass toward De Bruyne.
39 mins: It's just far too easy for Real Madrid. Modric is able to create ample space 25 yards from goal, before prodding a pass through to Marcelo, whose cross sails dangerously across the face of goal.
36 mins: Real Madrid think they have a second goal after Pepe turns in a deep free-kick from Toni Kroos at the second attempt, but the flag had already gone up for offside.
33 mins: City are just showing signs of perhaps getting going. A low cross from the right almost reached Aguero before being cut out for a corner.
30 mins: De Bruyne is continuing to have a very poor game. With one of Manchester City's better attacks, Toure found him with a chance to get in behind down the right of the box, but he failed to control the ball. Then compounding the disappointment the Belgian brought down Marcelo to earn a yellow card. City require far more from their record signing.
Here's that goal from Bale to put Real Madrid ahead:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 4, 2016
24 mins: The goal just compounds what has been a really poor start from Manchester City. They've been far too passive and have failed to solve the issue of Carvajal running forward with De Bruyne not tracking back.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City (Bale, 20)
Little surprise in the goal or in the manner of it. Carvajal again left unchecked down the right, passes it in behind a City defense that again tried to hold its line on the edge of the box. Bale was clearly onside as he was allowed to run in behind by Fernando and what looked like a cross from the right of the box deflected off the boot of the Brazilian and flew into the top far corner beyond Joe Hart.
18 mins: Real Madrid are controlling the possession so far, with Manchester City lacking the urgency with which they began the first leg. Carvajal is causing a particular problem coming forward from right-back.
13 mins: Dani Carvajal is given too much time on the right and delivers a cross toward Ronaldo, but the Portuguese gets underneath the header and sends it high over the bar. That's a warning for Manchester City, though, who are going to have to close down far better than that.
10 mins: Indeed Kompany, who has been beset by muscle problems in recent times, is forced to go off. Mangala is on and City have lost their defensive leader 10 minutes into the biggest game in their history. Big night for Managala now, alongside Nicolas Otamendi.
8 mins: A huge early blow for Manchester City. Captain Vincent Kompany has gone down clutching his right thigh and looks like he's going to have to come off. Eliaquim Mangala already warming up.
5 mins: Real Madrid win the first corner of the game and Pepe looked for a second like he was underneath it, but he was unable to make clean contact.
4 mins: Spain international Jesus Navas skips past a challenge from Isco on the right and puts in a cross, but Keylor Navas palms it to safety. That side could be one for City to exploit tonight, with Ronaldo nor Isco renowned for their defensive work and Marcelo also happier going forward.
3 mins: For Real Madrid, Jese is taking the central striker role, with Ronaldo on the left and BAle on the right. As expected, Kroos is the deepest lying of the midfielders.
2 mins: Early signs are that it's going to be a 4-1-4-1 for Manchester City, with Fernando in front of the back four, Toure and Fernandinho further forward, De Bruyne on the left and Navas on the right.
KICKOFF! Manchester City get the second leg underway.
2:08 p.m. EDT: As expected, Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Real Madrid side for the second leg. Their other changes from the first leg see injured duo Casemiro and Karim Benzema replaced by Isco and Jese Rodriguez. Manchester City’s only change from last week is that Yaya Toure returns in place of the injured David Silva.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 4, 2016
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) May 4, 2016
Preview: There is nothing to separate Real Madrid and Manchester City as they prepare to face off for the prize of joining Atlético Madrid in the final of the Champions League. Atlético booked their place in Milan on May 28 with victory over Bayern Munich on Tuesday. And there could yet be a repeat of the 2014 final, when Real Madrid defeated their city rivals in dramatic circumstances.
But first they must get past Manchester City. The sides remain all square after last week’s goalless result in Manchester, when City goalkeeper Joe Hart came up with some big second-half saves to avoid the concession of an away goal.
Real Madrid will be boosted for the second leg at the Bernabeu by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner missed the first leg with a thigh problem, but has been declared 100 percent fit for Wednesday by manager Zinedine Zidane. There is also less positive news for Zidane, however, with striker Karim Benzema and defensive midfielder Casemiro both ruled out through injury.
It is similarly mixed news on the fitness front for Manchester City. Yaya Toure is back in contention to start, but David Silva, who limped out of the first leg, and right-back Pablo Zabaleta haven’t made the trip to Madrid.
For Manchester City, the quest to make the Champions League final for the first time has taken priority over the Premier League, at least in the past week. Manager Manuel Pellegrini, who was dismissed after a single season in charge of Real Madrid six years ago, made eight changes to his lineup for Sunday’s match against Southampton and they went down to a 4-2 defeat to leave them just about holding onto fourth place.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, survived a tough road test Saturday against Real Sociedad to win 1-0 and remain just a point behind Barcelona and Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga.
The match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET. IB Times will provide play-by-play analysis and up-to-the-minute coverage of the match along with video highlights of every goal.