Real Madrid 3 Man City 2: Ronaldo breaks Mancini's heart with late winner for hosts
21:06 GMT, 18 September 2012
Soemone forgot to tell these two teams that this was the first game of the first round. At least they must have done given a concluding 21 minutes as insane as any you are likely to see in the Champions League this season.
The opening goal was ludicrous. After surviving an onslaught for 69 minutes, Manchester City somehow found themselves in front thanks to a burst of acceleration from Yaya Toure and a goal from Edin Dzeko, who beat Iker Casillas in the resulting one-on-one.
They went ahead again when Aleksandar Kolarov’s deflected free-kick cancelled out an equaliser from Marcelo.
Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring for Real Madrid in the dying seconds
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo, Khedira (Modric 73), Alonso, Di Maria, Essien (Ozil 65), Ronaldo, Higuain (Benzema 73).
Subs Not Used: Adan, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Kaka.
Goals: Marcelo 76, Benzema 87, Ronaldo 90.
Man City: Hart, Maicon (Zabaleta 74), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Silva (Dzeko 63), Toure, Barry, Nasri (Kolarov 36), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Aguero, Rodwell.
Booked: Javi Garcia,Kompany,Dzeko.
Goals: Dzeko 69,Kolarov 85.
Ref: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).
Then came, in four astonishing minutes, the two goals that prompted Jose Mourinho to slide on to the pitch on his knees. The first came from Karim Benzema, the second from the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo.
It just had to be the Sad One, didn’t it.
Real’s victory may have been dramatic, but it was also deserved. The first-half statistics perfectly illustrated how their hosts dominated, Real enjoying 74 per cent of the possession, unleashing 16 attempts on goal with only one in response.
When Samir Nasri was injured, City manager Roberto Mancini actually responded by sending on Aleksandar Kolarov, creating a five-man defensive wall whenever Madrid had the ball.
Only in Yaya Toure did they have a player capable of easing the pressure on the City defence. On more than one occasion he burst forward on the counter attack, only for the move to break down before City could even begin to trouble Casillas in the Madrid goal.
Mancini will try to focus on the positives, and the mere fact they avoided anything like the controversy that marred last season’s visit to Bayern Munich is a sign of progress.
Kneesy does it: Jose Mourinho celebrates Real Madrid's late winner
But if one team looked equipped for the challenge the Champions League represents, it was Madrid. They were not just more creative. They worked relentlessly, playing the pressure game that the Spanish have perfected at club and international level and one that opposing teams find completely suffocating.
It was surprising to see Michael Essien playing in such an advanced position in the Madrid midfield, particularly when Mourinho could have deployed Luka Modric in such a role and when Essien seems better suited to more defensive duties these days. The legs are not what they used to be, even if he remains a fine player.
Gutted: The Manchester City defence are stunned by Ronaldo's late goal
The major shock for the locals, of course, was the omission of Sergio Ramos, who was clearly paying for challenging his manager’s authority at the weekend. If Madrid’s ‘captains’ think they have power and influence at this club, it seems to count for little with Mourinho (left).
One player he will probably select come what may is Ronaldo, however, and the Portuguese winger was quick to make an impression. He had already had two attempts on goal when he forced a quite brilliant save from Joe Hart in the eighth minute, skipping past Vincent Kompany before testing the Manchester City goalkeeper with a teasing right-foot shot.
Opener: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko puts his side in front against Real Madrid (above) and celebrates (below)
Exploiting the space being given to him by Maicon, who had left Kompany completely isolated on that occasion, Ronaldo would demand the best of Hart again minutes later. This time his shot took a nasty deflection off Gonzalo Higuain but Hart still somehow reacted fast enough to make the save.
City were under considerable pressure, with Alvaro Arbeloa then asking questions of Hart and further chances falling to Higuain, Ronaldo and Sami Khedira. The Spanish champions were certainly dominating this contest, with Ronaldo just terrific.
Leveller: Marcelo scored Real Madrid's first equaliser after his shot was deflected in
City, by contrast, were struggling. Maicon looked as lost here as he had against Gareth Bale for Inter Milan two seasons ago. Gael Clichy was drowning too, and a lack of possession made it difficult for Mancini’s forwards to make any kind of impression.
In fact it was only when Yaya Toure wrestled the ball off Khedira and made a marauding run upfield that City fans got even remotely excited. Frustratingly for Toure, however, Nasri drifted into an offside position and the opportunity was gone.
Strike: Manchester City's Aleksander Kolarov (centre) scored a free kick to put his side back in front
Nasri did not last much longer, injury seemingly marking the end of his night after 35 minutes. That Mancini responded by sending on Kolarov said it all; a more defensive player for a pure attacker and someone who seemed to position himself wide of Clichy to form what looked like a five-man defence when Madrid were in possession.
Toure would launch another one-man assault on the Madrid half, only to play the ball behind David Silva when the Spaniard was in a dangerous position.
In top form: Joe Hart earlier pulled off a string of brilliant saves to keep Real Madrid at bay
But Mancini would have felt a sense of relief at the sound of the half-time whistle. His side had been distinctly second best but they were still level, not least because of the saves made by Hart.
Madrid continued to dominate after the break but with Kompany starting to get the measure of Ronaldo, they were looking less dangerous. Alongside Kompany, Serbia’s Matija Nastasic also impressed on his debut.
There was a decent effort from Marcelo and Mesut Ozil replacing Essien meant more trouble for City.
Blow: Samir Nasri was forced off injured for Manchester City