Real Madrid teach Man City a harsh Champions League lesson

05 May 2022 01:50

Manchester City's quest for a first Champions League title will extend into another season after they were taught a harsh lesson by the very best in the business on Tuesday night.

Real Madrid will take their place in the final against Liverpool after Rodrygo's two-minute brace at the death forced extra time at the Bernabeu. Remarkably, City had led 5-3 on aggregate in the 90th minute, but the inevitable Karim Benzema won and netted the winner from the penalty spot in the additional period.

Obviously there is not a known formula for success in European football. In fact, you can often succeed when no-one really expects you to (See: Chelsea 2012 and 2021).

But while City have reached the level where they can be considered genuine contenders for the continent's premier club competition over the past few seasons, they looked further from winning it than they have in some time at the final whistle in the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

Although they hadn't necessarily controlled the match, Pep Guardiola's side appeared to be battling towards a place in the final in a scrappy contest with Real. Their hosts were out of sorts and had hardly laid a glove on the Premier League champions.

But Los Blancos were able to call upon reserves of that certain Champions League je ne sais quoi - the same intangible propellant that helped Manchester United snatch an implausible victory against Bayern Munich in 1999, that powered Liverpool to a miracle in Istanbul in 2005 and past Barcelona in 2019, that fuelled Barça's remontada against Paris Saint-Germain, that guided Chelsea to glory in Bayern's back yard and that fired Tottenham to back-to-back unthinkable comebacks in 2019.

It is not something you can coach or anticipate, and you can often be on the wrong side of it - just as so many of those aforementioned European giants have been in the past themselves.

In the Champions League you cannot rely solely upon being the better team or mere tactics. City's methodical approach almost contravenes its unwritten laws; you cannot simply be the best team with arguably the best manager and expect that to be enough.

The belief Real Madrid showed to keep going to the very death and turn a match of such significance on it's head in the very last minute is built on a foundation of decades of lived experience - a knowledge that anything can be possible before that last blast of the whistle and that less experienced opponents are liable to make the naive errors to provide you with an opportunity.

That is what City did in three key moments: failing to defend their penalty area twice at the death and Ruben Dias' ill-judged challenge on Benzema for the tie-deciding strike.

There is almost an inevitability about City's impending moment in the European sun, but history dictates that they will really know when they have earned it. This was Real Madrid's night, and the nature of the turnaround suggests it may well be their year once again.

Source: 90min