Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid were profligate against a toothless Manchester City side. Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal finished goalless but the result leaves all to play for next week.
Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid failed to capitalize on a series of second-half chances against Manchester City in a Champions League semifinal that, without talismanic goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo, lacked a touch of stardust.
As the teams were announced , the news filtered through that Ronaldo - who picked up a knock to his thigh against Villareal last week - had failed to even make the bench, despite assurances from Real head coach Zinedine Zidane on Monday that he would play.
Without their star man and wearing blue rather than their traditional white, the visitors were less recognizable than usual. The remaining members of their famous attacking trio – Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale – pushed to find a way through the City defense in the early exchanges.
Backed by a vocal home crowd, City soon found a foothold in the game but neither side really threatened in the final third. Indeed, attacking quality was in short supply throughout the opening period, with only Gareth Bale and Kevin De Bruyne looking remotely dangerous.
Despite the gulf in Champions League semifinal experience (this was City’s first and Real Madrid’s sixth in a row), the teams appeared equally tense and neither goalkeeper was forced in to serious action in the first half. City were dealt a blow late in the half though, when their Spanish playmaker David Silva was forced off with an injury and replaced by 19-year-old Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who scored two in City’s previous league game.
Hart proves the hero
Relative to the first half, the second period exploded in to life when Sergio Agüero fired over the bar from just outside the box within the first minute. Bale then took a theatrical tumble at the other end, but the Welshman’s appeal for a penalty was as half-hearted as his tumble. Just minutes later the visitors withdrew Benzema – an injury doubt before the game – and brought on Jese.
Six minutes before the hour mark, the game began to warm up a little. Sergio Ramos' header was the game’s first shot on target, but despite being unmarked, Ramos headed straight at Joe Hart.
As the half wore on, Real started to show a little more attacking intent and created a host of presentable chances in the final half hour. Toni Kroos fired wide, Jese hit the bar with a header and then Bale curled wide from the edge of the box. Hart also had to react quickly to stop a point-blank chance that Pepe should have finished, as Real looked to turn the screw and grab the away goal their second-half display probably deserved.
City saved their best effort until the last minute, but Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick was tipped over the bar by Keylor Navas. On this evidence neither Bayern Munich or Atletico Madrid, who meet in tomorrow’s other semifinal, have too much to worry about. Real Madrid and Manchester City will meet again in the second leg of the tie in the Bernabeu on May 4.