With his thigh muscles tightly knotted, Real Madrid star striker Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even have the option of sitting on the benches. He watched the game like others from the sidelines with a pair of headphones tucked into his ears. Ronaldo’s replacement, Lucas Vázquez looked ineffective for most part. The Portuguese superstar came out briefly and waved a thumbs-down sign towards the Madrid supporters, who were clearly disappointed. A short summation of Madrid’s show on Tuesday night, apart from Ronaldo’s absence, was a wayward Karim Benzema, a huffing and puffing Gareth Bale, and a late surge by Pepe and Casemiro. But the City goalkeeper foiled those chances. On the other side, although Manchester City couldn’t launch any meaningful assault on Madrid goal, they did well to guard their defenses. Their goalkeeper Joe Hart was brilliant between poles and made a couple of crucial saves to be named as the Player-of-the-Match. The 0-0 score-line may look innocuous but could prove potentially dangerous in a do-or-die second-leg game. Real Madrid may feel, they have the advantage of playing the second-leg game at Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday but they have to account for the fact that Manchester City will not be mere defenders in the away game. City have come this far in UEFA Champions League and they would definitely like to progress further, whatever be the cost. The good thing for Madrid is one weeks’ time and that should be enough for CR7 to be back in the reckoning for the crunch game.
10 minutes into the kick-off on Tuesday, the game looked lively with Madrid and Manchester both keeping their supporters happy. In the 11th minute, Casemiro almost earned a yellow card, when he brought down Fernandinho but the referee gave the Real midfielder a benefit of doubt. Gareth Bale’s tight cross to Benzema in 13th minute went in vain as the Frenchman seemed to be only kicking the air with the ball going miles away. Three minutes later, it was the turn of Kevin de Bruyne, who charged into empty space from left only to be stopped by a sliding tackle by Casemiro and City lost a fine chance. For a while, both sides found half chances but nothing that could threaten their goals. 6 minutes from halftime, City suffered a setback as David Silva, who stretched fully in fouling Gareth Bale. Silva’s place was taken by Kelechi Iheanacho.
After halftime, the excitement continued but Real didn’t have Benzema and Jese came out instead. The game started with Sergio Aguero receiving a pass from Fernandinho and firing a scorching volley that sailed just over the cross bar. In any case, Real goalkeeper Navas had it well covered. In the 47th minute, Bale thought he was tripped by Otamendi and demanded a penalty but the referee merely smiled in disdain. For about 10 minutes, Real Madrid played in City’s half and there were several shots at goal but none that could claim a goal. On the stroke of 60 minutes, de Bruyne earned a corner that was wasted and a little later, when Auguro came dribbling into the City’s goal, Navas bravely grabbed the ball from his feet.
The last 30 minutes turned the game into a basketball rhythm with the ball going from one side’s goal to another in quick succession. There were several falls in between. Pepe brought down Aguero, Navas also came in Aguero’s way and the City forward fell again. With the game down to the last 15 minutes, Madrid applied pressure. Bale curled a shot into the bottom left corner but Joe Hart foiled it after flinging himself full stretch. Two minutes later, Jese found Lucas Vazquez, who went all the way into the box but went down suggesting he was struck from behind by Otamendi but the referee was nonchalant. The best chance of the night came Madrid’s way in the 82nd minute. It all started with Bale taking a swinging free kick that found Otamendi and earned a corner for Madrid. It was Bale again as he found Pepe 6 yards in front of Joe Hart. Pepe volleyed purposefully and Joe Hart became a hero by bringing out a great save. Nothing happened in the next few minutes and the match ended 0-0 to make the second-leg semifinal a decisive affair.
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