Real Madrid's story in this 2022 Champions League continues: no team in this competition can match their ability to stay alive despite being vastly outplayed.
Carlo Ancelotti went out with a surprisingly proactive XI, choosing not to play with four midfielders and Valverde at the right-wing, and instead going for Rodrygo in the RW role and Toni Kroos as the defensive midfielder.
Essentially every defensive thing that could have gone wrong in the initial 15 mins went wrong: Real Madrid did not press nor defend deep in a compact shape, center backs got dragged all over the pitch and leaving gaps for City runs, mistakes in the box, you name it.
Alaba and Militão had their worst performances of the season at the worst time. But it was partly a system issue too: Real’s midfield was transparent and Kroos had to cover an impossible amount of space, so both defenders were forced to step forward and away from the defensive line.
City was 2-0 in the first 10 mins and we all assumed the worst, but with Benzema, Real Madrid always has an extra life. In the 33rd minute, he managed to get to the end of a Mendy cross, getting a goal out of an incredibly complicated shot position.
In the second half, Real Madrid changed little other than substituting Alaba (likely still suffering injury problems) with Nacho. Another round of poor defending in the box led Foden to score in the 55th minute from a Fernandinho cross. However, what Fernadinho giveth, Fernandinho taketh away. A minute after City's goal, Vinicius made it past Fernandinho, running in a straight line towards Ederson and getting a cool finish in to make the game 3-2.
The tempo of the game slowed down in the last twenty minutes, with Camavinga giving Real Madrid a bit more balance in defense. However, a stunning left-footed strike from Bernardo Silva in the 74th minute (after a good advantage call from the referee) once again put City two goals ahead. However, Benzema would show up once again to reduce the difference. After a Laporte handball in the box led to a penalty kick, a confident Benzema decided to banish the ghosts of his prior PK misses against Osasuna by scoring via a beautiful Panenka.
Real Madrid somehow made it very much alive from the Etihad, and City will certainly rue all the missed chances to bury Los Blancos. The second leg will likely be a far more difficult game for them. Stay tuned for the upcoming podcast, player ratings, and more!