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Champions League: Manchester City steamroller Real Madrid

May 17, 2023

A first-half Bernardo Silva brace saw Manchester City make short work of Real Madrid to join Inter in the final. Rarely has a Champions League semifinal been so one-sided. Rarely have Real been so thoroughly outclassed.

Champions League | Real Madrid - Manchester City
Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester City 4-0 Real Madrid (agg: 5-1)
(Silva 23' 37', Akanji 76', Alvarez 90+2')
City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester

There were two surprising things about Bernardo Silva's 23rd-minute strike.

The first was that the Portuguese midfielder was afforded so much space in the Real Madrid penalty area as he fired the ball past Thibault Courtois.

The second was that it was Manchester City's first goal of the evening and not their fourth, so utterly dominant were Pep Guardiola's team up until that point, and beyond, as they steamrollered the Spanish giants to reach the Champions League final for the second time and keep their treble dreams alive.

Silva's vicious near-post strike was already City's eighth shot of the game — to Real's none. The pinpoint pass from Kevin De Bruyne which found him was City's 197th — while Real had completed less than 50.

Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (C) scores the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
It was coming: Bernardo Silva's opening goal was thoroughly deservedImage: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

City dominance, Courtois heroics

Rarely has a Champions League semifinal been so one-sided. In 2011, a young Manuel Neuer pulled off save after save before Schalke were eventually broken down by Manchester United. Courtois played a similar role here, albeit not, with all due respect, for Schalke, but for the record 14-time and reigning European champions Real Madrid.

Perhaps it was Carlo Ancelotti's plan to have his team sit deep, soak up City's early pressure and take the sting out of the game. More likely, they were given no choice.

It took just seven minutes for Erling Haaland to round Courtois, only for the Norwegian to find the angle too narrow for a shot. Five minutes later, the 22-year-old did get a header on goal, forcing Courtois to save unconventionally with his hip. The Belgian's next save was even better, somehow twisting and stretching to tip another Haaland header around the post.

Real Madrid's Eder Militao in action with Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland
For once, Erling Haaland was not on the scoresheet - thanks to Thibault Courtois' heroicsImage: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters

Real Madrid suffocated

And it didn't stop. The sky blue waves kept coming, intense, incessant and suffocating. Real couldn't get out of their own half. Luca Modric, usually so imperious in possession, couldn't get out, forced under so much pressure in the right-back position that he backheeled the ball out of play.

David Alaba, Danny Carvajal and Toni Kroos couldn't get out. Karim Benzema was immediately closed down whenever the ball came anywhere him. And when Vinicius finally got half a chance to resume his duel with Kyle Walker, the English full-back matched him for pace and dispossessed him with ease.

Out of absolutely nothing, Kroos smashed the ball against the crossbar from distance, a literal bolt out of the sky blue before the clouds once again closed in around Real Madrid, Silva heading home on the rebound after Ilkay Gündogan's shot had been blocked.

Alaba's free-kick early in the second half may have planted a seed of doubt in Guardiola's mind, but Ederson was equal to it, tipping it expertly over the bar, before Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez ended any faint hopes of a Real comeback and sent City to Istanbul, where Inter Milan await.