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Five Things Learned: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (Agg: 4-4, Penalties: 3-4)



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Manchester City’s quest to defend their Champions League title ends at the quarter-final stage after losing in a penalty shoot-out with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

An early Real Madrid goal kicked Manchester City into another gear, taking full control of the match with Kevin De Bruyne’s second-half strike propelling the contest into extra-time. However, it was to be the visitors’ Andriy Lunin who would make two key saves in the shoot-out to pull off victory for Los Blancos.

Rodrygo grabbed the opening goal in the 12th minute of regulation time, when the Brazilian scored off his own rebound. Despite conceding early, City fought back. Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne each had chances to equalise, but where unable to capitalise on their efforts.

Manchester City looked even better in the second-half, taking control of the match and forcing Real Madrid into their own box for the entire 45 minutes. Kevin De Bruyne’s equaliser came in the 76th minute when Jeremy Doku’s deflected cross landed at his fellow countryman’s feet, and after a short pause for composure, the midfielder fired above Lunin to make it 1-1.

Extra-time looked identical to the previous 45 minutes, only with even more exhausted players out on show. Haaland and De Bruyne in particular signalled to Pep Guardiola that they needed to be replaced and in came Julian Alvarez and Mateo Kovacic for the shoot-out.

That was a roller-coaster of emotions. Alvarez went first and converted, before Luka Modric’s poor effort was saved by Ederson. However, both Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic’s attempts were saved, putting the match in Real Madrid hands. Antonio Rudiger converted the fifth and final penalty to secure victory for the Spanish giants. 

Manchester City will now travel to Wembley Stadium this weekend to face Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday evening. But before then, here are Five Things We Learned from the match at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

Manchester City are still the best team in Europe

Manchester City forced Real Madrid to spend almost every second of the second-half and extra-time deep in their own zone. The 14-time Champions League winners were held to just 30% possession, and were outshot 33 to 8, with eight of those shots coming in the opening 45 minutes.

With just one shot attempted by Real Madrid in the second half, and one in each extra-time period, as well as their first – and only – corner kick coming in the first period of extra time, this was total domination from last season’s winners of the competition.

This isn’t to say Real Madrid didn’t deserve to win. They did. However, if this tie is played 10 times over, it’s hard to imagine them winning again. But that’s the beauty of the sport, that’s why the games are played. This wasn’t like the losses to AS Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham, or Lyon of previous campaigns. Manchester City just simply couldn’t find a way.

Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne can, and should, play together in midfield

After six months of debate and demands, Manchester City fans finally got to see what a midfield pairing of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden looked like. And it worked!

Bernardo Silva started the match in midfield, and eventually swapped places with Foden in the second-half. Similarly to the first-leg in Madrid, the Sky Blues looked much better when the aforementioned England international was deployed in a central role, especially with Madrid playing in such a low block.

Kyle Walker was not the problem

Yes, he made a pair of errors for the first goal by allowing Vinicius Jr to be onside and unable to stop the cross to Rodrygo. However, the entire right side of Manchester City’s defence was on lockdown for all 210 minutes of Wednesday night’s game.

Vinicius had a few opportunities to attempt a foot-race and Kyle Walker either fought him off, or caught up to him each and every time in a remarkable battle between the pair once again, and perhaps as expected.

Manchester City’s captain does not need to feature in every game for the club, and there are times when Manuel Akanji is the better option on the right side of defence, but games like this prove exactly why he is needed.

The Ederson rumours were true

For years we have heard about Ederson’s ability as a penalty taker, rumours that suggested the Brazilian was actually the best shooter from the spot in the entire Manchester City squad, with some stating that not a single effort from him in training can be stopped.

The fact that Ederson was the fifth and final penalty taker for Manchester City in a UEFA Champions League match against Real Madrid is a truly fascinating thing to think about, and even more so when it was City’s best penalty of the evening.

Manuel Akanji can inconsistently play in the ‘John Stones role’

To use the most cliche statement of all-time, it was a real “tale of two halves” for Manuel Akanji.

The Swiss international defender wasn’t poor in the first-half, and was involved in a few decent passages of play, but there were plenty of times when the ball was lost by him in tight spaces. 

After the first-half, it looked like Akanji should not be used in that role against top sides again. However, after his second-half performance, it almost makes it an even harder decision to not utilise him there.

He was objectively good, borderline great in the second-half. Which makes his first-half performance more frustrating. It’s hard to imagine John Stones being injury-free for the rest of his Manchester City career, and until Josko Gvardiol is ready to take his place, Manuel Akanji may have to suffice.