Last night the Bernabeu witnessed a familiar tale unfold as the hosts Real Madrid snatched all three points from Manchester City on the Champion’s League’s opening night.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 90th minute winner stole the show in what had been a very close encounter. Despite whispers of discontented players, Mourinho’s side looked united in their desire to win – Ronaldo giving City keeper Joe Hart plenty to think about in the first half, rampaging down the right of the pitch, along with teammate Angel Di Maria who impressed on the opposite flank.
City broke the deadlock in the 69th minute – Eden Dzeko’s strike came against the run of play and somewhat stunned the home side into a reply. A flustered Mourinho brought on both Benzema and Luka Modric and, after a sustained spell of Madrid pressure, the equalizer came from Marcelo on 76 minutes – the ball deflecting off Javi Garcia and past the powerless Hart.
Real Madrid resumed control of the game as they had in the first half – City began to look weary until substitute Kolarov’s shot from distance, earned the visitors their second lead of the night. On 85 minutes, City looked sure to be the unlikely winners in a game they had spent on the back foot – a famous victory for Mancini’s men.
But it wasn’t to be as the Spaniards marched forward – Real Madrid have never lost their opening game in the Champion’s League – as Benzema’s low strike put the teams level and once again, on 87 minutes, the home-side looked dangerous in their dominance.
Sure enough, in the 90th minute Cristiano Ronaldo’s curling shot from just inside the area stole all the three points for his team.
This narrative may have caught City unawares as they embark on only their second Champion’s League campaign. Real Madrid, and Jose Mourinho alike, have been dominating this competition for years and, unfortunately for City, they’re inexperience and vulnerability was exposed – not just in the cruel late goal on 90 minutes but over the course of the 89 that had come before it.
Real Madrid are one of the top seeds in this competition and they’ve been here before – the club has won this trophy 9 times. They’ve also been splashing cash and buying the best players in the world for decades. Mancini’s ‘new money’ side now has the depth and quality in their ranks to be title contenders but, if they don’t learn their lessons from last night, they’ll be punished on the continent by the ‘group of death’.
image: © Jan S0L0