REAL MADRID 3, MANCHESTER CITY 2
City took the lead twice in the Bernabeu but Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid showed the hunger that he claimed they lacked in their shock defeat against Sevilla at the weekend and twice levelled the scores before former Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo struck the winner with two minutes to go.
In the so-called ‘Group of Champions’ the game could have gone either way but Real did enough to deserve the win on a night when both teams went for a win but defeat was hard to bear for City ‘keeper Joe Hart.
“It’s not on, you can’t go 2-1 up with 5 minutes to go and lose the game.” said an emotional Hart afterwards.
“They were a very good team but so are we. We dug deep and got a lead twice and we lost it. We can only blame ourselves.”
Hart’s comments didn’t go down too well with his manager Roberto Mancini who suggested that Hart stick to goalkeeping and leave comments about the performance to the manager.
Both sides have just one clean sheet between them so far this season and despite a goal-less first half in which Hart single handedly kept City in it with saves from Ronaldo and Higuain a goal always seemed to be around the corner.
Tactical reorganisations saw City switching to three at the back during the game but while their attacking instincts were always positive their defence has once again been porous. Unexpected starts for Matija Nastasic and Maicon plus a first start of the season for Gareth Barry following a summer injury seemed risky at a place like the Bernabeu but City could not have legislated for an injury to one of their key in-form attacking players.
City’s rhythm was disrupted when they lost Samir Nasri to a thigh strain during the first half and City’s reorganisation left them lop-sided with David Silva, who yesterday signed a new five year deal, on the wrong side of the pitch when the ball fell to him for an early chance which he tried to switch to his favoured left foot before he was closed down by Real Madrid defenders.
The goals finally came in the second half and they illustrated the reason why both sides had been shipping goals this season. In City’s case leaving too much space and not closing down Real’s attackers was their downfall but Real showed that they were vulnerable on the break and at set pieces.
Yaya Toure’s breakaway in the 68th minute saw substitute Edin Dzeko as his only option. The Ivorian found the Bosnian who opened the scoring with a goal that Iker Casillas could have done better with.
Real levelled matters shortly after with a Marcelo equaliser. The Brazilian had already tested Hart with a couple of early sighters before he was allowed to come inside and level matters with his weaker right foot.
Pablo Zabaleta could have extended the lead when presented with a golden opportunity before Aleksandar Kolarov’s free kick went in unchallenged and put City 2-1 up with 5 minutes to go.
Real were not about to be beaten at home, however, and Karim Benzema scored fort eh first time since May 13 when he was given space to turn in the area and fire another equaliser past Hart.
With seconds ticking away a draw looking increasingly on the cards for City, Cristiano Ronaldo skipped inside off the left flank and was once again unchallenged as he picked his spot and beat both Kompany and Hart with a speculative shot.
It was a goal that seemed to bring the joy back to the young Portuguese striker and his manager struck a familiar pose as he slid across the turf in celebration of a massive win with which to kick-start their season.