The most enjoyable thing for Guardiola is the way his players executed his favorite plan of ruthless and ruthless forward movement and City are to be counted among the favorites when the mini-tournament in Portugal begins next week.For their biggest game of the season, Phil Foden was selected while Ilkay Gündogan and Fernandinho replaced David Silva and Eric Garcia – the latter possibly losing a place for his refusal of a new contract.
Zidane brought in Eder Militão for suspended Sergio Ramos, Real’s Champions League record without his captain is terrible: of his six missed matches in the past two years, four have been defeats. On one sultry night, it was noticed how much stronger City support was from the assembled substitutes and staff, a marker of the high stakes. Guardiola’s team rejoiced at nine minutes. Thibaut Courtois went to Varane where the n ° 5 hardly wanted him: close to the goal and with Gabriel Jesus all over him. An awkward touch and the Brazilian got the ball. From there, Real were in a nightmare when Jesus reunited with Raheem Sterling who finished 31st this season and 100th for the club.
Zidane was dismayed and City were at Real’s throat. Phil Foden, playing the role of “No 9”, ran to the right and pulled the trigger. The ball went to Gündogan and his shot was blocked.
There was no pause: the city was a blue swarm their visitors couldn’t fend off. Militão this time around was the dawdler leader, allowing Sterling to charge him up and he was lucky to win a foul. Now Kevin De Bruyne slipped into space, gave possession to Sterling and the No.7 pivoted and discharged at Courtois, relieved to see the ball dive too late.
Sterling and Foden were a double act cutting off Real at will. The latter fed the former and he zigzagged past two defenders before Casemiro’s tackle saved a second.
Hazard and Karim Benzema eventually gave City a warning. Regarding here, it was the way the striker made a cup of Aymeric Laporte with a soft turn when receiving the ball from the Belgian. The 20-yard effort was led by Ederson, but it was a sign of what was to come.
City were lax as a lazy João Cancelo passed, Rodrygo crossed and Benzema returned home. This brought Real’s blood up to what was an open, offensive contest summed up by Kyle Walker slaloming near Real’s zone before exploding.
The tackles flew, Casemiro poorly controlled and Cancelo kicked the ball to Courtois, who was lucky his save didn’t fall on either Foden or Sterling.
Another Real No 1 howler who gave De Bruyne possession was almost – once again – disastrous: Foden’s pivot and shot narrowly missed, as did a corner De Bruyne Courtois beaten under his bar .
City were again at the start of the second half via Cancelo who could only find an opponent in a pink shirt. Then Sterling forced a point-blank save from Courtois and De Bruyne’s next corner won another, which he again forced the busy keeper to glove a drop-delivery.
The real ones were fighting for the rhythm. It was too frantic because of City’s percussive pressing without a ball and the percussive passes with it. Yet a period of real ancestry unfolded when the Pink Shirts took possession of the Blue Territory.
A quick break from Foden, however, and Sterling was in and Courtois had to thwart him. Despite the contingent of 400 inside the stadium, the atmosphere was electric. De Bruyne tormented Real with a push that took a corner and it was admirable to see how positive City continued to be positive, even though he knew that conceding the goal meant extra time.
Benzema – twice – rejected openings to mark this. City, however, were soon ecstatic: Jesus made it 4-2 on aggregate with a delightful stabbing finish past Courtois stranded after Varane’s terrible second howler – a weak pass back from a header.
“They are a top-level team, the best club in this competition, it’s huge,” said Jesus. His assessment is correct.