Real Madrid vs Manchester City: Talking points from Madrid’s miraculous Champions League comeback

Real Madrid produced another magical night in the Champions League 2021/22. Against Paris-Saint Germain and Chelsea it looked like they were dead and out, the La Liga champions never gave up and the Bernabeu once again witnessed a magical evening. What looked to be an easy chase for Manchester City proved to be a ghastly end for them as they finally succumbed to the pressure of Real Madrid. Mahrez put City in front in Madrid and the English club’s aggregate went to two. Super substitution by Ancelotti in Rodrigo, however, spoiled the party for City as he conceded two very late goals to take the game into extra time. An inevitable Karim Benzema goal ensured Madrid’s place in the final. Let’s have a look at the popular points of this thrilling game.

READ MORE: The crazy four minutes that put Pep Guardiola’s side into the UCL final

The Santiago Bernabeu is a special place

There is a famous saying in Europe that ’90 minutes at the Bernabeu is an eternity’. PSG, Chelsea and City would all agree to that. Seemingly the favorites in their respective ties, all three teams disintegrated under the atmosphere generated by the Bernabeu. Real Madrid does not have a very strong squad this season and no one considered themselves favorites in this season’s Champions League. But here he is one step away from his 14th Champions League title. The Santiago Bernabeu, which hasn’t seen European football in over a year, has come to life every time Real Madrid watch it.

Bernabeu has exploded in all the three knockout matches so far and no team has been able to stand under it. The players as well as the fans display the history of their club and this has allowed them to function as 12th man for his team. When the team is not doing well, the Bernabeu will start booing and the players will take it as motivation to play better. As soon as Rodrygo scored his first goal, once again the belief was born and City could not deal with the wave of positive energy and encouragement provided by the Bernabeu.

Guardiola’s replacement proved costly for City

Guardiola’s side looked strong and with the final in sight, he made some bold moves by subbing out goalscorer Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus for Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho and Jack Grealish. While these changes gave the impression that the Spaniard wanted his team to see the game by providing more defensive stability and control, it ultimately backfired for him. It was very clear that City were not playing their normal game in the last 15 minutes.

As the Premier League leaders were chasing the game into extra time, their lack of attacking options on the pitch cost them dearly as they were never really a threat to Madrid’s goal in those 30 minutes. Players such as Kevin De Bruyne, who did not have his best game, could still have an impact on the match in the extra period, when it was necessary for City to have a goal to restore parity. While the thought behind those changes was to absorb pressure from Madrid, it proved to be detrimental to Guardiola and his side.

Casemiro is vital for Real Madrid

Real Madrid were heavily criticized for their defensive performance in the first leg against Manchester City. One reason for this was the absence of Casemiro. Over the years, Casemiro has played a huge role in Los Blancos’ success by doing the ‘dirty’ work for his team and providing defensive cover when needed. Real Madrid really missed it all in Manchester. A lot of credit goes to the Brazilian player for the success he tasted in the second leg.

Toni Kroos said after the match that Carlo Ancelotti changed the system to two holding midfielders in order to neutralize the threat from City’s attacking midfielders, and that Casemiro played his role perfectly. Luckily saved from a potential sending-off, Casemiro shielded Madrid’s defensive line as he often does and ensured City did not run away with the tie. Many experts believed that his presence in the second leg would play a vital role if Madrid were to reverse their fortunes from the first leg, and it did.

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