My 3 Thoughts on Man City-Real Madrid
That Wild Id of a Game Will Have Me Buzzing the Whole Night
Manchester City beat Real Madrid 4-3 in the wild opening leg of their men’s UEFA Champions League semifinal on Tuesday. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• That game was the fire emoji. Maybe it’s because I’ve been bodied into submission by Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid—I actually love Simeone, who’s a certain kind of soccer identity—but it was so liberating to watch this wild id of a game in which caution was thrown to the wind. The peak moment of that insanity was Karim Benzema’s Panenka to pull Real Madrid within 4-3, and not just because Benzema had failed to convert two penalties in his last game against Osasuna, but also because Benz has had such an incredible Champions League tournament that you were wondering what else he might do that would blow you out of your chair in amazement. Seriously, I screamed like a falsetto madman when that Panenka happened. When you watch a lot of soccer games, you accept the fact that a number of these games are going to be disappointing. But you always know that there’s the possibility of seeing a game like this one, and that’s what keeps you coming back. I’m exhausted. I’m exhilarated. I’m in love.
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• Man City should be annoyed at itself, and Real Madrid keeps being Real Madrid. Despite Man City’s two early goals, Pep Guardiola’s group really should have put this game away in the first half with all the opportunities that it created. And you somehow knew when that didn’t happen, Madrid would find a way to stick around. Fernandinho, a first-half sub for the injured John Stones, managed to conjure a work-of-art cross to Phil Foden that made it 3-1 City early in the second half—when did that pass enter Fernandinho’s skillset?—and then literally a minute later got absolutely worked by Vinicius Jr., who dummied him and then went all the way (what was Aymeric Laporte doing?) to finish for 3-2. More than any other Champions League tournament, this one has convinced me that there is such a thing as a club’s “Champions League culture” that helps it do remarkable things. No club has this culture in a positive way more than Real Madrid, and no clubs have this culture in a negative way more than Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. We saw it in Real Madrid-PSG, and we saw it a bit today as well.
• It feels wild to say this, but Advantage: Real Madrid. I know they’re down a goal heading back to the Bernabéu, and Man City is a fabulous team that may well win the Premier League title, but being able to hang with City’s best shot and be only a goal down heading home feels like a victory for Real Madrid. I don’t think this is a classic Real Madrid team, and on paper it’s certainly not the best team in Europe, but there is this ineffable winning culture surrounding Benzema and Luka Modric in particular that makes me feel like this is Real Madrid’s tie to win in the return leg. If that’s the case, next week will be one of the great challenges of Guardiola’s career, because his team should be good enough to win it, and far too much time has passed since Guardiola’s last Champions League title (11 seasons ago with Barcelona) given the talent his teams have had. But here’s what I do know: I will be glued to the television, because Man City-Real Madrid is first-rate entertainment, and I’m going to be buzzing for the next few hours after watching this magnificent game.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
CITY WILL WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Pep Guardiola’s group really should have put this game away in the first half with all the opportunities that it created“
Completely agree. This should’ve been 4-1 at the half.
How much more difficult would this tie be for City if away goals still mattered?